DeSantis signs bill that eases acquisition of land for conservation purposes

(The Center Square) — Legislation signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday will make it easier for the state to purchase land for conservation purposes.

DeSantis signed Senate Bill 1638, which provides that 96% of revenues from the 2021 gaming compact between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the state be deposited in the Indian Gaming Revenue Fund to acquire and manage conservation land.

“This is really a landmark piece of legislation, and it’s one in a series of landmark efforts that we’ve done over these last five-plus years to conserve Florida’s natural resources and to restore some of the great treasures that this state has, such as our Florida Everglades,” DeSantis said during a news conference held Thursday.

DeSantis stated that during his first term, he promised that his administration would take conservation efforts seriously, allocating around $3.3 billion for conservation preservation and water quality improvements.

DeSantis noted that the current year’s budget has $1.7 billion and that his administration is way ahead of schedule on keeping those promises worth $3.5 billion over the next four years.

“We have now either completed or started more than 65 Everglades-related projects since January of 2019,” DeSantis said. “We broke ground and completed the old Tamiami Road bed removal project six months ahead of schedule and completed the raising of the Tamiami Trail, that [has] allowed more water to flow south into Everglades National Park.”

DeSantis pointed out that the C-44 reservoir and stormwater treatment area have been completed, allowing fresh water into the Indian River Lagoon in the St. Lucie estuary. The C-43 reservoir is on its way to completion.

“We’ve also made major progress on the crown jewel of Everglades restoration , the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir. We broke ground on the treatment wetland portion of the EAA project a full year ahead of schedule,” DeSantis said.

Marcellus Osceola Jr., the elected chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, spoke in support of the projects and thanked the efforts of the legislature to make them a reality.

“Without your efforts and your tirelessness towards the efforts of cleaning up the water, cleaning up the Everglades, not only just for us but for all native Floridians…we all have to do our part…so do your best and educate everybody else around, because without that what do we have? That’s our greatest natural resource,” Osceola said.