Gov. Rick Scott on Friday wanted you to know that he likes Florida panthers and likes the environment — to the tune of $3 billion for environmental spending requested in fiscal year 2015-16.
With the House and Senate this week having delivered blows to the hopes of Amendment 1 land-buying supporters, Scott proclaimed Saturday to be Florida Panther Day. His office and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection also promoted his request of $150 million for land management and acquisition.
“Florida is home to an abundance of natural resources that have brought people to our state for generations,” Scott said, according to a news release.
“This year, we are recommending an investment of $150 million toward land acquisition and management which will focus on protecting land for the Florida panther,” he said. “This historic funding into Florida’s ecosystem ensures that species such as the Florida panther are protected and our Everglades remain preserved for generations to come.”
The governor signed the proclamation on Thursday but it wasn’t publicized until Friday, after student climate activists delivered thousands of petition signatures to the Governor’s Office. They want the DEP inspector general to investigate reports there was an unwritten ban in the department on using terms such as climate change.
However, some environmental group lobbyists at the Capitol now are left hoping the House and Senate will move toward the governor’s recommendation for land-buying under Amendment 1.
Scott showed little interest in the environment early in his first term. In January, he announced his environmental budget request in Miami while promoting the need to protect panther habitat.
Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, saw that announcement as a step forward for the governor.
“What was positive about the governor’s message on land acquisition is he related it to protection of the Florida panther,” Draper said at the time. “It shows for this governor the first time there is a wildlife connection to the Florida Forever (land-buying program), that we need to protect the land for this creature.”
Bruce Ritchie (@bruceritchie) covers environment, energy and growth management in Tallahassee.