ENROLLED 2021 Legislature CS for CS for SB 976 2021976er 1 2 An act relating to the protection of ecological 3 systems; creating s. 259.1055, F.S.; providing a short 4 title; providing legislative findings and a purpose 5 for the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act; defining terms; 6 requiring the Department of Environmental Protection 7 to take certain actions to support the Florida 8 wildlife corridor; providing construction; requiring 9 the St. Johns River Water Management District, in 10 consultation with the Department of Environmental 11 Protection, Seminole County, the Fish and Wildlife 12 Conservation Commission, and the Department of 13 Transportation, to issue a report that includes 14 information and updates regarding the implementation 15 of recommendations from the Little Wekiva Watershed 16 Management Plan Final Report dated November 2005 by a 17 specified date; requiring the Department of 18 Environmental Protection and the water management 19 district to review certain permits along the Little 20 Wekiva River; requiring certain enforcement actions to 21 be taken against noncompliant permittees; providing an 22 effective date. 23 24 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 25 26 Section 1. Section 259.1055, Florida Statutes, is created 27 to read: 28 259.1055 Florida wildlife corridor.— 29 (1) SHORT TITLE.—This section may be cited as the “Florida 30 Wildlife Corridor Act.” 31 (2) LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS.—The Legislature finds that this 32 state’s population is growing rapidly and that lands and waters 33 that provide this state’s green infrastructure and vital habitat 34 for wide-ranging wildlife, such as the Florida panther, need to 35 be preserved and protected. The Legislature further finds that 36 the Florida wildlife corridor is an existing physical, 37 geographically defined area consisting of more than 18 million 38 acres of land, 10 million of which are conservation lands. 39 (3) PURPOSE.—The purpose of this act, and of the Florida 40 wildlife corridor itself, is to create incentives for 41 conservation and sustainable development while sustaining and 42 conserving the green infrastructure that is the foundation of 43 this state’s economy and quality of life by doing all of the 44 following: 45 (a) Maintaining wildlife access to the habitats needed to 46 allow for migration of and genetic exchange amongst regional 47 wildlife populations. 48 (b) Preventing fragmentation of wildlife habitats. 49 (c) Protecting the headwaters of major watersheds, 50 including the Everglades and the St. Johns River. 51 (d) Providing ecological connectivity of the lands needed 52 for flood and sea-level rise resiliency and large-scale 53 ecosystem functions, such as water management and prescribed 54 burns essential for land management and restoration. 55 (e) Preserving and protecting land and waters that are not 56 only vital to wildlife but are critical to this state’s 57 groundwater recharge and that serve as watersheds that provide 58 drinking water to most Floridians and help maintain the health 59 of downstream coastal estuaries. 60 (f) Providing for wildlife crossings for the protection and 61 safety of wildlife and the traveling public. 62 (g) Helping to sustain this state’s working ranches, farms, 63 and forests that provide compatible wildlife habitats while 64 sustaining rural prosperity and agricultural production. 65 (4) DEFINITIONS.—As used in this section, the term: 66 (a) “Conserved lands” means federal, state, or local lands 67 owned or managed for conservation purposes, including, but not 68 limited to, federal, state, and local parks; federal and state 69 forests; wildlife management areas; wildlife refuges; military 70 bases and airports with conservation lands; properties owned by 71 land trusts and managed for conservation; and privately owned 72 land with a conservation easement, including, but not limited 73 to, ranches, forestry operations, and groves. 74 (b) “Department” means the Department of Environmental 75 Protection. 76 (c) “Florida Ecological Greenways Network” is a 77 periodically updated model developed to delineate large 78 connected areas of statewide ecological significance. 79 (d) “Florida wildlife corridor” means the conserved lands 80 and opportunity areas defined by the department as priority one, 81 two, and three categories of the Florida Ecological Greenways 82 Network. 83 (e) “Opportunity area” means those lands and waters within 84 the Florida wildlife corridor which are not conserved lands and 85 the green spaces within the Florida wildlife corridor which lack 86 conservation status, are contiguous to or between conserved 87 lands, and provide an opportunity to develop the Florida 88 wildlife corridor into a statewide conservation network. 89 (f) “Wildlife” has the same meaning as in Article II of the 90 Wildlife Violator Compact Act, s. 379.2255. 91 (g) “Wildlife corridor” means a network of connected 92 wildlife habitats required for the long-term survival of and 93 genetic exchange amongst regional wildlife populations which 94 serves to prevent fragmentation by providing ecological 95 connectivity of the lands needed to furnish adequate habitats 96 and allow safe movement and dispersal. 97 (h) “Wildlife crossing” means a landscape design element 98 that connects two or more patches of wildlife habitat and that 99 is meant to function as a safe conduit for wildlife over or 100 beneath roads, waters, and other barriers to wildlife movement 101 and that is designed to protect Florida panther and other 102 critical wildlife habitat corridor connections and to reduce 103 motor vehicle collisions with wildlife, to reduce the likelihood 104 of injuries and mortalities to humans and wildlife from such 105 collisions, and to reduce the potential for damage to motor 106 vehicles from such collisions. 107 (5) DUTIES OF THE DEPARTMENT.—The department shall: 108 (a) Encourage all state, regional, and local agencies that 109 acquire lands, including, but not limited to, the Fish and 110 Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Department of 111 Transportation, to include in their land-buying efforts the 112 acquisition of sufficient legal interest in opportunity areas to 113 ensure the continued viability of the Florida wildlife corridor. 114 (b) Encourage investment in conservation easements 115 voluntarily entered into by private landowners to conserve 116 opportunity areas. 117 (c) Encourage state land-buying agencies and state land 118 management agencies to consider the conservation of opportunity 119 areas as a multiphased project for the purpose of listing, 120 acquisition, and management. 121 (d) Consider the inclusion of private funds to supplement 122 the state’s contribution in its efforts to acquire a fee or 123 less-than-fee interest in lands that contain recognized 124 opportunity areas and conserved lands in the Florida wildlife 125 corridor. 126 (e) Seek opportunities to attract new sources of federal 127 funding and to strengthen existing programs to protect and 128 conserve the Florida wildlife corridor. 129 (f) Encourage private landowners, through existing and 130 future incentives and liability protections, to continue to 131 allow their private property to be used for the preservation and 132 enhancement of the Florida wildlife corridor. 133 (g) Encourage new approaches and novel financing mechanisms 134 for long-term protection of the Florida wildlife corridor, 135 including, but not limited to, public-private partnerships; 136 payments for ecosystem services; blended financing for growth, 137 resilience, and green infrastructure; and support for the 138 sustainable growth of agriculture. 139 (h) Encourage state and local agencies with economic and 140 ecotourism development responsibilities to recognize the 141 importance of the Florida wildlife corridor in encouraging 142 public access to wildlife areas and bringing nature-based 143 tourism to local communities and to support acquisition and 144 development activities for preservation and enhancement of the 145 Florida wildlife corridor. 146 (i) Encourage private investment in ecotourism focused on 147 the Florida wildlife corridor. 148 (j) Encourage the protection, preservation, and enhancement 149 of the natural value of the Florida wildlife corridor for 150 current and future residents of this state. 151 (6) CONSTRUCTION.—This section may not be construed to 152 authorize or affect the use of private property. 153 Section 2. (1) The St. Johns River Water Management 154 District, in consultation with the Department of Environmental 155 Protection, Seminole County, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation 156 Commission, and the Department of Transportation, shall issue a 157 report by December 31, 2021, that includes information and 158 updates regarding the implementation of recommendations from the 159 Little Wekiva Watershed Management Plan Final Report dated 160 November 2005. The report must include, but not be limited to, 161 the following information: a description of all projects or 162 recommendations included in the report that have been 163 implemented and their completion dates, an analysis of how the 164 projects or recommendations achieved the results included in the 165 report, an analysis of costs for ongoing operation and 166 maintenance of the constructed projects completed, a list of 167 permit violations which may have contributed to sediment buildup 168 north of S.R. 436, an analysis of any new projects that may 169 benefit the watershed, and recommendations and cost estimates 170 for future studies or projects that may be necessary to identify 171 new or potentially significant contributors of sediment 172 accumulation in the Little Wekiva River. 173 (2)(a) The Department of Environmental Protection and the 174 water management district shall immediately review, with the 175 goal of identifying significant contributors of sediment 176 accumulation, any permits which the water management district 177 has determined may have contributed to sediment buildup north of 178 S.R. 436 to assess whether the permittee is in violation of any 179 permit conditions. Appropriate action to resolve compliance 180 issues shall be undertaken pursuant to chapter 373, Florida 181 Statutes, if the department or the water management district 182 discovers a violation of any permit condition. 183 (b) As part of the review, the Department of Environmental 184 Protection and the water management district shall review known 185 violations of such permits since 2018 and attempt to determine, 186 using existing information, what effects such violations may 187 have had on sediment accumulation in the Little Wekiva River. 188 Section 3. This act shall take effect July 1, 2021.