(1) RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES.—The Legislature, recognizing the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as being specifically authorized by the State Constitution under s. 9, Art. IV, grants rights and privileges to the commission, as contemplated by s. 6, Art. IV of the State Constitution. These rights and privileges are equal to those of departments established under this chapter while preserving the commission’s constitutional designation and title.
(2) HEAD OF THE COMMISSION.—The head of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is the commission, with commissioners appointed by the Governor as provided for in s. 9, Art. IV of the State Constitution.
(3) EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR.— (a) To aid the commission in the implementation of its constitutional and statutory responsibilities, the Legislature authorizes the commission to appoint and fix the salary of a person who is not a member of the commission to serve as the executive director and to remove such person at its pleasure. The executive director shall supervise, direct, coordinate, and administer all activities necessary to fulfill the commission’s constitutional and statutory responsibilities. The executive director shall be reimbursed for per diem and travel expenses incurred in the discharge of official duties as provided in s. 112.061. The executive director shall maintain headquarters in and reside in Tallahassee.
(b) Each executive director must be confirmed by the Senate during the regular legislative session immediately following his or her appointment by the commission.
(4) PROGRAM AND RESEARCH SERVICES.—Within the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the principal unit for program services is a “division” headed by a “director.” The principal subunit of the division is a “section” headed by a “leader.” The principal subunit of the section is a “subsection” headed by an “administrator.” (a) The following divisions and section are created within the commission:
1. Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management.
2. Division of Habitat and Species Conservation.
3. Division of Hunting and Game Management.
4. Division of Law Enforcement. There is created within the division the Boating and Waterways Section with duties and responsibilities as provided in paragraph (7)(e).
5. Division of Marine Fisheries Management.
(b) The principal unit for research services within the commission is the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, which shall be headed by a director.
(5) ADMINISTRATIVE AND SUPPORT SERVICES.—The principal unit for administrative and support services is the Office of Executive Direction and Administrative Support Services, headed by the executive director of the commission. Each office within this principal unit shall be headed by a “director”. The following administrative and support offices are created within the Office of Executive Direction and Administrative Support Services:
(a) Finance and Budget.
(b) Human Resources.
(c) Information Technology.
(d) Inspector General.
(f) Regional Operations. Within the Regional Operations office, the executive director may establish regional offices for each of the administrative regions established by the commission. Each regional office shall be headed by a “director.”
(6) GENERAL PROVISIONS.— (a) Section leader positions are classified at a level equal to bureau chiefs, and subsection administrator positions are classified at a level equal to section administrators, as established in s. 20.04. At the discretion of the executive director, director positions shall be classified at a level equal to division directors, bureau chiefs, or section administrators, as established in s. 20.04.
(b) Unless specifically authorized by law, the commission may not reallocate duties and functions assigned by law to a specific unit of the commission. Functions assigned generally to the commission without specific designation to a unit of the commission may be allocated at the discretion of the commission.
(c) Divisions, sections, and offices created by this act may be abolished only by general law. Additional divisions in the commission may only be established by general law. New sections, subsections, and offices of the commission may be initiated by the commission and established as recommended by the Department of Management Services and approved by the Executive Office of the Governor, or may be established by general law.
(7) ASSIGNMENT OF DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES.—The commission, and the Legislature as provided in s. 9, Art. IV of the State Constitution, shall assign to the: (a) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute such powers, duties, responsibilities, and functions as are necessary to accomplish its mission, which is to:
1. Serve as the primary source of research and technical information and expertise on the status of marine life, freshwater aquatic life, and wild animal life resources in this state;
2. Monitor the status and health of marine life, freshwater aquatic life, and wild animal life species and their habitat;
3. Develop restoration and management techniques for habitat and enhancement of plant and animal populations;
4. Respond to and provide critical technical support for catastrophes including oil spills, ship groundings, major species die-offs, hazardous spills, and natural disasters;
5. Identify and monitor harmful algal blooms including red tides, evaluate their impacts, and provide technical support concerning state and local public health concerns; and
6. Provide state and local governments with technical information and research results concerning fish and wild animal life.
(b) Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management such powers, duties, responsibilities, and functions as are necessary to facilitate the responsible and sustained use of freshwater aquatic life resources. The division shall provide expertise on freshwater fish populations or other aspects of freshwater fisheries needed for recreational and commercial use management decisions. The division also shall assess impacts of decisions made by others to ensure quality fisheries and fishing in lakes, fish management areas, rivers, and streams in this state.
(c) Division of Habitat and Species Conservation such powers, duties, responsibilities, and functions as are necessary to protect and conserve the state’s diverse and unique fish and wild animal life. Powers, duties, responsibilities, and functions of the division must be focused at the ecosystem or landscape level and must include the management of public lands, habitat restoration on public lands, development and implementation of nongame species management plans, development and implementation of imperiled species recovery plans, providing scientific support and assistance on habitat-related issues to public and private landowners, aquatic habitat restoration, habitat management assistance, land acquisition, and exotic species coordination focused on measures that prevent and control the introduction of exotic species. The division shall utilize scientific data to develop resource management plans that maintain stable or increasing populations of fish and wild animal life.
(d) Division of Hunting and Game Management such powers, duties, responsibilities, and functions as are necessary to facilitate the responsible and sustained use of wild animal life resources. The division must develop scientifically based recommendations that support effective regulation and sound management of game wild animal life resources. The division must also coordinate the development and management of public hunting opportunities and provide hunter safety training and certification.
(e) Division of Law Enforcement such powers, duties, responsibilities, and functions as are necessary to ensure enforcement of laws and rules governing the management, protection, conservation, improvement, and expansion of wild animal life, freshwater aquatic life, and marine life resources. In performance of their duties as sworn law enforcement officers for the State of Florida, the division’s officers also shall enforce all laws relating to boating, provide public safety services for citizens on lands and waters of the state particularly in remote areas, provide search-and-rescue and disaster response services when necessary, assist in the enforcement of all general laws, and coordinate with local, state, and federal entities on law enforcement issues.
1. The Boating and Waterways Section such powers, duties, responsibilities, and functions as are necessary to manage and promote the use of state waterways for safe and enjoyable boating. Duties and responsibilities of the section include oversight and coordination of waterway markers on state waters, providing boating education and boating safety programs, improving boating access, coordinating the removal of derelict vessels from state waters, implementing economic development initiatives to promote boating in the state, and coordinating the submission of state comments on marine events.
(f) Division of Marine Fisheries Management such powers, duties, responsibilities, and functions as are necessary to facilitate the responsible and sustained use of marine life resources. The division shall develop recommendations for managing and enhancing commercial and recreational saltwater fisheries resources, implement marine fisheries management programs, and assist in the development and monitoring of artificial reefs in state waters.
(8) LEGISLATIVE AUTHORITY.—The constitutional power granted to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission does not include any authority over marine life retained by the Legislature or vested in any agency other than the Marine Fisheries Commission on March 1, 1998, or any authority over marine aquaculture retained by the Legislature and vested in any other agency as of July 1, 1999.
(9) ADEQUATE DUE PROCESS PROCEDURES.— (a) The commission shall adopt a rule establishing due process procedures to be accorded to any party, as defined in s. 120.52, whose substantial interests are affected by any action of the commission in the performance of its constitutional duties or responsibilities, and the adequate due process procedures adopted by rule shall be published in the Florida Administrative Code. (b) The Legislature encourages the commission to incorporate into its process the provisions of s. 120.54(3)(c) when adopting rules in the performance of its constitutional duties or responsibilities. (c) The commission shall follow the provisions of chapter 120 when adopting rules in the performance of its statutory duties or responsibilities. The commission’s statutory duties or responsibilities include, but are not limited to:
1. Research and management responsibilities for marine species listed as endangered or threatened, including manatees and marine turtles.
2. Establishment and enforcement of boating safety regulations.
3. Land acquisition.
4. Enforcement and collection of fees for all commercial and recreational hunting or fishing licenses or permits.
5. Aquatic plant removal using fish as a biological control agent.
6. Enforcement of penalties for violations of commission rules and state laws, including, but not limited to, the seizure and forfeiture of vessels and other equipment used to commit those violations.
7. Establishment of free fishing days.
8. Regulation of off-road vehicles on state lands.
9. Establishment and coordination of a statewide hunter safety course.
10. Establishment of programs and activities to develop and distribute public education materials.
11. Police powers of sworn law enforcement officers.
12. Establishment of citizen support organizations to provide assistance, funding, and promotional support for programs of the commission.
13. Creation of the voluntary authorized hunter identification program.
14. Regulation of required clothing of persons hunting deer.
(10) PERMIT COMMENTING AUTHORITY.—Comments submitted by the commission to a permitting agency regarding applications for permits, licenses, or authorizations affecting the commission’s jurisdiction must be based on credible, factual scientific data, and must be received by the permitting agency within the time specified by applicable statutes or rules, or within 30 days, whichever is sooner. Comments provided by the commission are not binding on any permitting agency. Comments by the commission shall be considered for consistency with the Florida Coastal Management Program and ss. 373.428 and 380.23. If the commission comments are used by a permitting agency as a condition of denial, approval, or modification of a proposed permit, license, or authorization, any party to an administrative proceeding involving such proposed action may require the commission to join as a party in determining the validity of the condition. In any action in which the commission is joined as a party, the commission shall bear only the actual cost of defending the validity of the credible, factual scientific data used as a basis for comments.
(11) LAND ACQUISITION AUTHORITY.—The commission shall acquire, in the name of the state, lands and waters suitable for the protection, improvement, and restoration of the state’s wild animal life, freshwater aquatic life, and marine life resources. Lands may be acquired by purchase, lease, gift, or otherwise, using state, federal, or other sources of funding. Lands acquired under this section shall be managed for recreational and other multiple-use activities that do not impede the commission’s ability to perform its constitutional and statutory duties and responsibilities.
(12) EMPLOYEE BONDS.—The commission may require any commission employee to give a bond for the faithful performance of duties. The commission may determine the amount of the bond and must approve the bond. In determining the amount of the bond, the commission may consider the amount of money or property likely to be in the custody of the officer or employee at any one time. The premium for the bond must be paid out of the funds of the commission, and the bond must be payable to the Governor of the state and the Governor’s successors in office.
1Note.—Section 1, ch. 2019-141, provides that:
“(1) The primary powers and duties of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission relating to the investigation of certain environmental crimes and the enforcement of related laws, as specified in the new memorandum of agreement developed as required under subsection (2), are transferred to the Division of Law Enforcement within the Department of Environmental Protection. The commission retains law enforcement authority over the patrol of state-owned lands managed by the department and shall coordinate with the department in that regard.
“(2) A new memorandum of agreement must be developed between the commission and the department detailing their respective responsibilities regarding, at minimum, the following:
“(a) Support and response for oil spills, hazardous spills, and natural disasters.
“(b) Law enforcement patrol and investigative services for all state-owned lands managed by the department.
“(c) Law enforcement services, including investigative services, for all criminal law violations of chapters 161, 258, 373, 376, 377, 378, and 403, Florida Statutes.
“(d) Enforcement services for civil violations of department administrative rules related to all of the following program areas:
“1. The Division of Recreation and Parks.
“2. The Office of Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas.
“3. The Office of Greenways and Trails.
“(e) Current and future funding, training, or other support for positions and equipment being transferred from the commission to the department which are funded through any trust fund.”