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Will money proposed for Florida environmental projects be enough? That remains to be seen

Amy Green
A blue-green algae bloom resulted in fish kills at Indian River Lagoon.

The year that was 2021 wasn't a bad year for environmental initiatives in Tallahassee. More money could be forthcoming this year from Tallahassee, but some worry even that won't be enough.

During 2021, lawmakers approved $400 million for land conservation projects, with most of that coming from federal American Rescue Plan money. And $100 million was set aside for Florida Forever, the state's main land-buying program.

Next year, Gov. Ron DeSantis has requested $600 million for Everglades projects, $300 million for water projects, and another $100 million for land conservation.

slide of Gov. DeSantis' environmental proposals
1,000 Friends of Florida
Gov. DeSantis' environmental proposals for 2022

But even that is merely a drop in the green bucket, says Paul Owens, president of the smart-growth advocacy group 1,000 Friends of Florida.

"State agencies and water management districts have identified millions of acres, worth billions of dollars, that need to be preserved and protected," he said.

Last year, the state's chief economist estimated it would take 370 years at recent funding levels to protect all the land in Florida identified for conservation.

The group's landmark Florida 2070 study took a long look at land use projections and determined that in 50 years, one-third of the state would be paved over without more aggressive land conservation.

You can hear more about the some of the biggest issues lawmakers are expected to tackle during Florida Matters, Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m.

1,000 Friends of Florida

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.