(1) This section may be cited as the “Florida Forever Act.”
(2)(a) The Legislature finds and declares that:
1. Land acquisition programs have provided tremendous financial resources for purchasing environmentally significant lands to protect those lands from imminent development or alteration, thereby ensuring present and future generations’ access to important waterways, open spaces, and recreation and conservation lands.
2. The continued alteration and development of the state’s natural and rural areas to accommodate the state’s growing population have contributed to the degradation of water resources, the fragmentation and destruction of wildlife habitats, the loss of outdoor recreation space, and the diminishment of wetlands, forests, working landscapes, and coastal open space.
3. The potential development of the state’s remaining natural areas and escalation of land values require government efforts to restore, bring under public protection, or acquire lands and water areas to preserve the state’s essential ecological functions and invaluable quality of life.
4. It is essential to protect the state’s ecosystems by promoting a more efficient use of land, to ensure opportunities for viable agricultural activities on working lands, and to promote vital rural and urban communities that support and produce development patterns consistent with natural resource protection.
5. The state’s groundwater, surface waters, and springs are under tremendous pressure due to population growth and economic expansion and require special protection and restoration efforts, including the protection of uplands and springsheds that provide vital recharge to aquifer systems and are critical to the protection of water quality and water quantity of the aquifers and springs. To ensure that sufficient quantities of water are available to meet the current and future needs of the natural systems and citizens of the state, and assist in achieving the planning goals of the department and the water management districts, water resource development projects on public lands, if compatible with the resource values of and management objectives for the lands, are appropriate.
6. The needs of urban, suburban, and small communities in the state for high-quality outdoor recreational opportunities, greenways, trails, and open space have not been fully met by previous acquisition programs. Through such programs as the Florida Communities Trust and the Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program, the state shall place additional emphasis on acquiring, protecting, preserving, and restoring open space, ecological greenways, and recreation properties within urban, suburban, and rural areas where pristine natural communities or water bodies no longer exist because of the proximity of developed property.
7. Many of the state’s unique ecosystems, such as the Florida Everglades, are facing ecological collapse due to the state’s burgeoning population growth and other economic activities. To preserve these valuable ecosystems for future generations, essential parcels of land must be acquired to facilitate ecosystem restoration.
8. Access to public lands to support a broad range of outdoor recreational opportunities and the development of necessary infrastructure, if compatible with the resource values of and management objectives for such lands, promotes an appreciation for the state’s natural assets and improves the quality of life.
9. Acquisition of lands, in fee simple, less than fee interest, or other techniques shall be based on a comprehensive science-based assessment of the state’s natural resources which targets essential conservation lands by prioritizing all current and future acquisitions based on a uniform set of data and planned so as to protect the integrity and function of ecological systems and working landscapes, and provide multiple benefits, including preservation of fish and wildlife habitat, recreation space for urban and rural areas, and the restoration of natural water storage, flow, and recharge.
10. The state has embraced performance-based program budgeting as a tool to evaluate the achievements of publicly funded agencies, build in accountability, and reward those agencies which are able to consistently achieve quantifiable goals. While previous and existing state environmental programs have achieved varying degrees of success, few of these programs can be evaluated as to the extent of their achievements, primarily because performance measures, standards, outcomes, and goals were not established at the outset. Therefore, the Florida Forever program shall be developed and implemented in the context of measurable state goals and objectives.
11. The state must play a major role in the recovery and management of its imperiled species through the acquisition, restoration, enhancement, and management of ecosystems that can support the major life functions of such species. It is the intent of the Legislature to support local, state, and federal programs that result in net benefit to imperiled species habitat by providing public and private land owners meaningful incentives for acquiring, restoring, managing, and repopulating habitats for imperiled species. It is the further intent of the Legislature that public lands, both existing and to be acquired, identified by the lead land managing agency, in consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for animals or the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for plants, as habitat or potentially restorable habitat for imperiled species, be restored, enhanced, managed, and repopulated as habitat for such species to advance the goals and objectives of imperiled species management for conservation, recreation, or both, consistent with the land management plan without restricting other uses identified in the management plan. It is also the intent of the Legislature that of the proceeds distributed pursuant to subsection (3), additional consideration be given to acquisitions that achieve a combination of conservation goals, including the restoration, enhancement, management, or repopulation of habitat for imperiled species. The council, in addition to the criteria in subsection (9), shall give weight to projects that include acquisition, restoration, management, or repopulation of habitat for imperiled species. The term “imperiled species” as used in this chapter and chapter 253, means plants and animals that are federally listed under the Endangered Species Act, or state-listed by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission or the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. As part of the state’s role, all state lands that have imperiled species habitat shall include as a consideration in management plan development the restoration, enhancement, management, and repopulation of such habitats. In addition, the lead land managing agency of such state lands may use fees received from public or private entities for projects to offset adverse impacts to imperiled species or their habitat in order to restore, enhance, manage, repopulate, or acquire land and to implement land management plans developed under s. 253.034 or a land management prospectus developed and implemented under this chapter. Such fees shall be deposited into a foundation or fund created by each land management agency under s. 379.223, s. 589.012, or s. 259.032(9)(c), to be used solely to restore, manage, enhance, repopulate, or acquire imperiled species habitat.
12. There is a need to change the focus and direction of the state’s major land acquisition programs and to extend funding and bonding capabilities, so that future generations may enjoy the natural resources of this state.
(b) The Legislature recognizes that acquisition of lands in fee simple is only one way to achieve the aforementioned goals and encourages the use of less-than-fee interests, other techniques, and the development of creative partnerships between governmental agencies and private landowners. Such partnerships may include those that advance the restoration, enhancement, management, or repopulation of imperiled species habitat on state lands as provided for in subparagraph (a)11. Easements acquired pursuant to s. 570.71(2)(a) and (b), land protection agreements, and nonstate funded tools such as rural land stewardship areas, sector planning, and mitigation should be used, where appropriate, to bring environmentally sensitive tracts under an acceptable level of protection at a lower financial cost to the public, and to provide private landowners with the opportunity to enjoy and benefit from their property.
(c) Public agencies or other entities that receive funds under this section shall coordinate their expenditures so that project acquisitions, when combined with acquisitions under Florida Forever, Preservation 2000, Save Our Rivers, the Florida Communities Trust, other public land acquisition programs, and the techniques, partnerships, and tools referenced in subparagraph (a)11. and paragraph (b), are used to form more complete patterns of protection for natural areas, ecological greenways, and functioning ecosystems, to better accomplish the intent of this section.
(d) A long-term financial commitment to restoring, enhancing, and managing Florida’s public lands in order to implement land management plans developed under s. 253.034 or a land management prospectus developed and implemented under this chapter must accompany any land acquisition program to ensure that the natural resource values of such lands are restored, enhanced, managed, and protected; that the public enjoys the lands to their fullest potential; and that the state achieves the full benefits of its investment of public dollars. Innovative strategies such as public-private partnerships and interagency planning and sharing of resources shall be used to achieve the state’s management goals.
(e) With limited dollars available for restoration, enhancement, management, and acquisition of land and water areas and for providing long-term management and capital improvements, a competitive selection process shall select those projects best able to meet the goals of Florida Forever and maximize the efficient use of the program’s funding.
(f) To ensure success and provide accountability to the citizens of this state, it is the intent of the Legislature that any cash or bond proceeds used pursuant to this section be used to implement the goals and objectives recommended by a comprehensive science-based assessment and approved by the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund and the Legislature.
(g) As it has with previous land acquisition programs, the Legislature recognizes the desires of the residents of this state to prosper through economic development and to preserve, restore, and manage the state’s natural areas and recreational open space. The Legislature further recognizes the urgency of restoring the natural functions, including wildlife and imperiled species habitat functions, of public lands or water bodies before they are degraded to a point where recovery may never occur, yet acknowledges the difficulty of ensuring adequate funding for restoration, enhancement, and management efforts in light of other equally critical financial needs of the state. It is the Legislature’s desire and intent to fund the implementation of this section and to do so in a fiscally responsible manner, by issuing bonds to be repaid with documentary stamp tax or other revenue sources, including those identified in subparagraph (a)11.
(h) The Legislature further recognizes the important role that many of our state and federal military installations contribute to protecting and preserving Florida’s natural resources as well as our economic prosperity. Where the state’s land conservation plans overlap with the military’s need to protect lands, waters, and habitat to ensure the sustainability of military missions, it is the Legislature’s intent that agencies receiving funds under this program cooperate with our military partners to protect and buffer military installations and military airspace, by:
1. Protecting habitat on nonmilitary land for any species found on military land that is designated as threatened or endangered, or is a candidate for such designation under the Endangered Species Act or any Florida statute;
2. Protecting areas underlying low-level military air corridors or operating areas;
3. Protecting areas identified as clear zones, accident potential zones, and air installation compatible use buffer zones delineated by our military partners; and
4. Providing the military with technical assistance to restore, enhance, and manage military land as habitat for imperiled species or species designated as threatened or endangered, or a candidate for such designation, and for the recovery or reestablishment of such species.
(3) Less the costs of issuing and the costs of funding reserve accounts and other costs associated with bonds, the proceeds of cash payments or bonds issued pursuant to this section shall be deposited into the Florida Forever Trust Fund created by s. 259.1051. The proceeds shall be distributed by the Department of Environmental Protection in the following manner: (a) Thirty percent to the Department of Environmental Protection for the acquisition of lands and capital project expenditures necessary to implement the water management districts’ priority lists developed pursuant to s. 373.199. The funds are to be distributed to the water management districts as provided in subsection (11). A minimum of 50 percent of the total funds provided over the life of the Florida Forever program pursuant to this paragraph shall be used for the acquisition of lands. (b) Thirty-five percent to the Department of Environmental Protection for the acquisition of lands and capital project expenditures described in this section. Of the proceeds distributed pursuant to this paragraph, it is the intent of the Legislature that an increased priority be given to those acquisitions which achieve a combination of conservation goals, including protecting Florida’s water resources and natural groundwater recharge. At a minimum, 3 percent, and no more than 10 percent, of the funds allocated pursuant to this paragraph shall be spent on capital project expenditures identified during the time of acquisition which meet land management planning activities necessary for public access. Beginning in the 2017-2018 fiscal year and continuing through the 2026-2027 fiscal year, at least $5 million of the funds allocated pursuant to this paragraph shall be spent on land acquisition within the Florida Keys Area of Critical State Concern as authorized pursuant to s. 259.045.
(c) Twenty-one percent to the Department of Environmental Protection for use by the Florida Communities Trust for the purposes of part III of chapter 380, as described and limited by this subsection, and grants to local governments or nonprofit environmental organizations that are tax-exempt under s. 501(c)(3) of the United States Internal Revenue Code for the acquisition of community-based projects, urban open spaces, parks, and greenways to implement local government comprehensive plans. From funds available to the trust and used for land acquisition, 75 percent shall be matched by local governments on a dollar-for-dollar basis. The Legislature intends that the Florida Communities Trust emphasize funding projects in low-income or otherwise disadvantaged communities and projects that provide areas for direct water access and water-dependent facilities that are open to the public and offer public access by vessels to waters of the state, including boat ramps and associated parking and other support facilities. At least 30 percent of the total allocation provided to the trust shall be used in Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas, but one-half of that amount shall be used in localities in which the project site is located in built-up commercial, industrial, or mixed-use areas and functions to intersperse open spaces within congested urban core areas. From funds allocated to the trust, no less than 5 percent shall be used to acquire lands for recreational trail systems, provided that in the event these funds are not needed for such projects, they will be available for other trust projects. Local governments may use federal grants or loans, private donations, or environmental mitigation funds for any part or all of any local match required for acquisitions funded through the Florida Communities Trust. Any lands purchased by nonprofit organizations using funds allocated under this paragraph must provide for such lands to remain permanently in public use through a reversion of title to local or state government, conservation easement, or other appropriate mechanism. Projects funded with funds allocated to the trust shall be selected in a competitive process measured against criteria adopted in rule by the trust.
(d) Two percent to the Department of Environmental Protection for grants pursuant to s. 375.075.
(e) One and five-tenths percent to the Department of Environmental Protection for the purchase of inholdings and additions to state parks and for capital project expenditures as described in this section. At a minimum, 1 percent, and no more than 10 percent, of the funds allocated pursuant to this paragraph shall be spent on capital project expenditures identified during the time of acquisition which meet land management planning activities necessary for public access. For the purposes of this paragraph, “state park” means any real property in the state which is under the jurisdiction of the Division of Recreation and Parks of the department, or which may come under its jurisdiction.
(f) One and five-tenths percent to the Florida Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to fund the acquisition of state forest inholdings and additions pursuant to s. 589.07, the implementation of reforestation plans or sustainable forestry management practices, and for capital project expenditures as described in this section. At a minimum, 1 percent, and no more than 10 percent, of the funds allocated for the acquisition of inholdings and additions pursuant to this paragraph shall be spent on capital project expenditures identified during the time of acquisition which meet land management planning activities necessary for public access.
(g) One and five-tenths percent to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to fund the acquisition of inholdings and additions to lands managed by the commission which are important to the conservation of fish and wildlife and for capital project expenditures as described in this section. At a minimum, 1 percent, and no more than 10 percent, of the funds allocated pursuant to this paragraph shall be spent on capital project expenditures identified during the time of acquisition which meet land management planning activities necessary for public access.
(h) One and five-tenths percent to the Department of Environmental Protection for the Florida Greenways and Trails Program, to acquire greenways and trails or greenways and trail systems pursuant to chapter 260, including, but not limited to, abandoned railroad rights-of-way and the Florida National Scenic Trail and for capital project expenditures as described in this section. At a minimum, 1 percent, and no more than 10 percent, of the funds allocated pursuant to this paragraph shall be spent on capital project expenditures identified during the time of acquisition which meet land management planning activities necessary for public access.
(i) Three and five-tenths percent to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for the acquisition of agricultural lands, through perpetual conservation easements and other perpetual less than fee techniques, which will achieve the objectives of Florida Forever and s. 570.71. Rules concerning the application, acquisition, and priority ranking process for such easements shall be developed pursuant to s. 570.71(10) and as provided by this paragraph. The board shall ensure that such rules are consistent with the acquisition process provided for in s. 570.715. The rules developed pursuant to s. 570.71(10), shall also provide for the following: 1. An annual priority list shall be developed pursuant to s. 570.71(10), submitted to the council for review, and approved by the board pursuant to s. 259.04.
2. Terms of easements and acquisitions proposed pursuant to this paragraph shall be approved by the board and may not be delegated by the board to any other entity receiving funds under this section.
3. All acquisitions pursuant to this paragraph shall contain a clear statement that they are subject to legislative appropriation.
Funds provided under this paragraph may not be expended until final adoption of rules by the board pursuant to s. 570.71.
(j) Two and five-tenths percent to the Department of Environmental Protection for the acquisition of land and capital project expenditures necessary to implement the Stan Mayfield Working Waterfronts Program within the Florida Communities Trust pursuant to s. 380.5105.
(k) It is the intent of the Legislature that cash payments or proceeds of Florida Forever bonds distributed under this section shall be expended in an efficient and fiscally responsible manner. An agency that receives proceeds from Florida Forever bonds under this section may not maintain a balance of unencumbered funds in its Florida Forever subaccount beyond 3 fiscal years from the date of deposit of funds from each bond issue. Any funds that have not been expended or encumbered after 3 fiscal years from the date of deposit shall be distributed by the Legislature at its next regular session for use in the Florida Forever program.
(l) For the purposes of paragraphs (e), (f), (g), and (h), the agencies that receive the funds shall develop their individual acquisition or restoration lists in accordance with specific criteria and numeric performance measures developed pursuant to s. 259.035(4). Proposed additions may be acquired if they are identified within the original project boundary, the management plan required pursuant to s. 253.034(5), or the management prospectus required pursuant to s. 259.032(7)(c). Proposed additions not meeting the requirements of this paragraph shall be submitted to the council for approval. The council may only approve the proposed addition if it meets two or more of the following criteria: serves as a link or corridor to other publicly owned property; enhances the protection or management of the property; would add a desirable resource to the property; would create a more manageable boundary configuration; has a high resource value that otherwise would be unprotected; or can be acquired at less than fair market value. 1(m) Notwithstanding paragraphs (a)-(j) and for the 2016-2017 fiscal year only:
1. The amount of $15,156,206 to only the Division of State Lands within the Department of Environmental Protection for the Board of Trustees Florida Forever Priority List land acquisition projects.
2. Thirty-five million dollars to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for the acquisition of agricultural lands through perpetual conservation easements and other perpetual less-than-fee techniques, which will achieve the objectives of Florida Forever and s. 570.71.
3.a. Notwithstanding any allocation required pursuant to paragraph (c), $10 million shall be allocated to the Florida Communities Trust for projects acquiring conservation or recreation lands to enhance recreational opportunities for individuals with unique abilities.
b. The Department of Environmental Protection may waive the local government matching fund requirement of paragraph (c) for projects acquiring conservation or recreation lands to enhance recreational opportunities for individuals with unique abilities.
c. Notwithstanding sub-subparagraphs a. and b., any funds required to be used to acquire conservation or recreation lands to enhance recreational opportunities for individuals with unique abilities which have not been awarded for those purposes by May 1, 2017, may be awarded to redevelop or renew outdoor recreational facilities on public lands, including recreational trails, parks, and urban open spaces, together with improvements required to enhance recreational enjoyment and public access to public lands, if such redevelopment and renewal is primarily geared toward enhancing recreational opportunities for individuals with unique abilities. The department may waive the local matching requirement of paragraph (c) for such redevelopment and renewal projects.
This paragraph expires July 1, 2017.
(4) It is the intent of the Legislature that projects or acquisitions funded pursuant to paragraphs (3)(a) and (b) contribute to the achievement of the following goals, which shall be evaluated in accordance with specific criteria and numeric performance measures developed pursuant to s. 259.035(4): (a) Enhance the coordination and completion of land acquisition projects, as measured by:
1. The number of acres acquired through the state’s land acquisition programs that contribute to the enhancement of essential natural resources, ecosystem service parcels, and connecting linkage corridors as identified and developed by the best available scientific analysis;
2. The number of acres protected through the use of alternatives to fee simple acquisition; or
3. The number of shared acquisition projects among Florida Forever funding partners and partners with other funding sources, including local governments and the Federal Government.
(b) Increase the protection of Florida’s biodiversity at the species, natural community, and landscape levels, as measured by:
1. The number of acres acquired of significant strategic habitat conservation areas;
2. The number of acres acquired of highest priority conservation areas for Florida’s rarest species;
3. The number of acres acquired of significant landscapes, landscape linkages, and conservation corridors, giving priority to completing linkages;
4. The number of acres acquired of underrepresented native ecosystems;
5. The number of landscape-sized protection areas of at least 50,000 acres that exhibit a mosaic of predominantly intact or restorable natural communities established through new acquisition projects or augmentations to previous projects; or
6. The percentage increase in the number of occurrences of imperiled species on publicly managed conservation areas.
(c) Protect, restore, and maintain the quality and natural functions of land, water, and wetland systems of the state, as measured by:
1. The number of acres of publicly owned land identified as needing restoration, enhancement, and management, acres undergoing restoration or enhancement, acres with restoration activities completed, and acres managed to maintain such restored or enhanced conditions; the number of acres which represent actual or potential imperiled species habitat; the number of acres which are available pursuant to a management plan to restore, enhance, repopulate, and manage imperiled species habitat; and the number of acres of imperiled species habitat managed, restored, enhanced, repopulated, or acquired;
2. The percentage of water segments that fully meet, partially meet, or do not meet their designated uses as reported in the Department of Environmental Protection’s State Water Quality Assessment 305(b) Report;
3. The percentage completion of targeted capital improvements in surface water improvement and management plans created under s. 373.453(2), regional or master stormwater management system plans, or other adopted restoration plans;
4. The number of acres acquired that protect natural floodplain functions;
5. The number of acres acquired that protect surface waters of the state;
6. The number of acres identified for acquisition to minimize damage from flooding and the percentage of those acres acquired;
7. The number of acres acquired that protect fragile coastal resources;
8. The number of acres of functional wetland systems protected;
9. The percentage of miles of critically eroding beaches contiguous with public lands that are restored or protected from further erosion;
10. The percentage of public lakes and rivers in which invasive, nonnative aquatic plants are under maintenance control; or
11. The number of acres of public conservation lands in which upland invasive, exotic plants are under maintenance control.
(d) Ensure that sufficient quantities of water are available to meet the current and future needs of natural systems and the citizens of the state, as measured by:
1. The number of acres acquired which provide retention and storage of surface water in naturally occurring storage areas, such as lakes and wetlands, consistent with the maintenance of water resources or water supplies and consistent with district water supply plans;
2. The quantity of water made available through the water resource development component of a district water supply plan for which a water management district is responsible; or
3. The number of acres acquired of groundwater recharge areas critical to springs, sinks, aquifers, other natural systems, or water supply.
(e) Increase natural resource-based public recreational and educational opportunities, as measured by:
1. The number of acres acquired that are available for natural resource-based public recreation or education;
2. The miles of trails that are available for public recreation, giving priority to those that provide significant connections including those that will assist in completing the Florida National Scenic Trail; or
3. The number of new resource-based recreation facilities, by type, made available on public land.
(f) Preserve significant archaeological or historic sites, as measured by:
1. The increase in the number of and percentage of historic and archaeological properties listed in the Florida Master Site File or National Register of Historic Places which are protected or preserved for public use; or
2. The increase in the number and percentage of historic and archaeological properties that are in state ownership.
(g) Increase the amount of forestland available for sustainable management of natural resources, as measured by:
1. The number of acres acquired that are available for sustainable forest management;
2. The number of acres of state-owned forestland managed for economic return in accordance with current best management practices;
3. The number of acres of forestland acquired that will serve to maintain natural groundwater recharge functions; or
4. The percentage and number of acres identified for restoration actually restored by reforestation.
(h) Increase the amount of open space available in urban areas, as measured by:
1. The percentage of local governments that participate in land acquisition programs and acquire open space in urban cores; or
2. The percentage and number of acres of purchases of open space within urban service areas.
Florida Forever projects and acquisitions funded pursuant to paragraph (3)(c) shall be measured by goals developed by rule by the Florida Communities Trust Governing Board created in s. 380.504.
(5)(a) All lands acquired pursuant to this section shall be managed for multiple-use purposes, where compatible with the resource values of and management objectives for such lands. As used in this section, “multiple-use” includes, but is not limited to, outdoor recreational activities as described in ss. 253.034 and 259.032(7)(b), water resource development projects, sustainable forestry management, carbon sequestration, carbon mitigation, or carbon offsets. (b) Upon a decision by the entity in which title to lands acquired pursuant to this section has vested, such lands may be designated single use as defined in s. 253.034(2)(b).
(c) For purposes of this section, the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund shall adopt rules that pertain to the use of state lands for carbon sequestration, carbon mitigation, or carbon offsets and that provide for climate-change-related benefits.
(6) As provided in this section, a water resource or water supply development project may be allowed only if the following conditions are met: minimum flows and levels have been established for those waters, if any, which may reasonably be expected to experience significant harm to water resources as a result of the project; the project complies with all applicable permitting requirements; and the project is consistent with the regional water supply plan, if any, of the water management district and with relevant recovery or prevention strategies if required pursuant to s. 373.0421(2).
(7)(a) Beginning no later than July 1, 2001, and every year thereafter, the Acquisition and Restoration Council shall accept applications from state agencies, local governments, nonprofit and for-profit organizations, private land trusts, and individuals for project proposals eligible for funding pursuant to paragraph (3)(b). The council shall evaluate the proposals received pursuant to this subsection to ensure that they meet at least one of the criteria under subsection (9).
(b) Project applications shall contain, at a minimum, the following:
1. A minimum of two numeric performance measures that directly relate to the overall goals adopted by the council. Each performance measure shall include a baseline measurement, which is the current situation; a performance standard which the project sponsor anticipates the project will achieve; and the performance measurement itself, which should reflect the incremental improvements the project accomplishes towards achieving the performance standard.
2. Proof that property owners within any proposed acquisition have been notified of their inclusion in the proposed project. Any property owner may request the removal of such property from further consideration by submitting a request to the project sponsor or the Acquisition and Restoration Council by certified mail. Upon receiving this request, the council shall delete the property from the proposed project; however, the board of trustees, at the time it votes to approve the proposed project lists pursuant to subsection (16), may add the property back on to the project lists if it determines by a super majority of its members that such property is critical to achieve the purposes of the project.
(c) The title to lands acquired under this section shall vest in the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, except that title to lands acquired by a water management district shall vest in the name of that district and lands acquired by a local government shall vest in the name of the purchasing local government.
(8) The Acquisition and Restoration Council shall develop a project list that shall represent those projects submitted pursuant to subsection (7).
(9) The Acquisition and Restoration Council shall recommend rules for adoption by the board of trustees to competitively evaluate, select, and rank projects eligible for Florida Forever funds pursuant to paragraph (3)(b). In developing these proposed rules, the Acquisition and Restoration Council shall give weight to the following criteria:
(a) The project meets multiple goals described in subsection (4).
(b) The project is part of an ongoing governmental effort to restore, protect, or develop land areas or water resources.
(c) The project enhances or facilitates management of properties already under public ownership.
(d) The project has significant archaeological or historic value.
(e) The project has funding sources that are identified and assured through at least the first 2 years of the project.
(f) The project contributes to the solution of water resource problems on a regional basis.
(g) The project has a significant portion of its land area in imminent danger of development, in imminent danger of losing its significant natural attributes or recreational open space, or in imminent danger of subdivision which would result in multiple ownership and make acquisition of the project costly or less likely to be accomplished.
(h) The project implements an element from a plan developed by an ecosystem management team.
(i) The project is one of the components of the Everglades restoration effort.
(j) The project may be purchased at 80 percent of appraised value.
(k) The project may be acquired, in whole or in part, using alternatives to fee simple, including but not limited to, tax incentives, mitigation funds, or other revenues; the purchase of development rights, hunting rights, agricultural or silvicultural rights, or mineral rights; or obtaining conservation easements or flowage easements.
(l) The project is a joint acquisition, either among public agencies, nonprofit organizations, or private entities, or by a public-private partnership.
(10) The council shall give increased priority to:
(a) Projects for which matching funds are available.
(b) Project elements previously identified on an acquisition list pursuant to this section that can be acquired at 80 percent or less of appraised value.
(c) Projects that can be acquired in less than fee ownership, such as a permanent conservation easement.
(d) Projects that contribute to improving the quality and quantity of surface water and groundwater.
(e) Projects that contribute to improving the water quality and flow of springs.
(f) Projects for which the state’s land conservation plans overlap with the military’s need to protect lands, water, and habitat to ensure the sustainability of military missions including:
1. Protecting habitat on nonmilitary land for any species found on military land that is designated as threatened or endangered, or is a candidate for such designation under the Endangered Species Act or any Florida statute;
2. Protecting areas underlying low-level military air corridors or operating areas; and
3. Protecting areas identified as clear zones, accident potential zones, and air installation compatible use buffer zones delineated by our military partners, and for which federal or other funding is available to assist with the project.
(11) For the purposes of funding projects pursuant to paragraph (3)(a), the Secretary of Environmental Protection shall ensure that each water management district receives the following percentage of funds annually: (a) Thirty-five percent to the South Florida Water Management District, of which amount $25 million for 2 years beginning in fiscal year 2000-2001 shall be transferred by the Department of Environmental Protection into the Save Our Everglades Trust Fund and shall be used exclusively to implement the comprehensive plan under s. 373.470.
(b) Twenty-five percent to the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
(c) Twenty-five percent to the St. Johns River Water Management District.
(d) Seven and one-half percent to the Suwannee River Water Management District.
(e) Seven and one-half percent to the Northwest Florida Water Management District.
(12) It is the intent of the Legislature that in developing the list of projects for funding pursuant to paragraph (3)(a), that these funds not be used to abrogate the financial responsibility of those point and nonpoint sources that have contributed to the degradation of water or land areas. Therefore, an increased priority shall be given by the water management district governing boards to those projects that have secured a cost-sharing agreement allocating responsibility for the cleanup of point and nonpoint sources.
(13) An affirmative vote of at least five members of the council shall be required in order to place a project submitted pursuant to subsection (7) on the proposed project list developed pursuant to subsection (8). Any member of the council who by family or a business relationship has a connection with any project proposed to be ranked shall declare such interest before voting for a project’s inclusion on the list.
(14) Each year that cash disbursements or bonds are to be issued pursuant to this section, the Acquisition and Restoration Council shall review the most current approved project list and shall, by the first board meeting in May, present to the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund for approval a listing of projects developed pursuant to subsection (8). The board of trustees may remove projects from the list developed pursuant to this subsection, but may not add projects or rearrange project rankings.
(15) The council shall submit to the board, with its list of projects, a report that includes, but need not be limited to, the following information for each project listed:
(a) The stated purpose for inclusion.
(b) Projected costs to achieve the project goals.
(c) An interim management budget that includes all costs associated with immediate public access.
(d) Specific performance measures.
(e) Plans for public access.
(f) An identification of the essential parcel or parcels within the project without which the project cannot be properly managed.
(g) Where applicable, an identification of those projects or parcels within projects which should be acquired in fee simple or in less than fee simple.
(h) An identification of those lands being purchased for conservation purposes.
(i) A management policy statement for the project and a management prospectus pursuant to s. 259.032(7)(c).
(j) An estimate of land value based on county tax assessed values.
(k) A map delineating project boundaries.
(l) An assessment of the project’s ecological value, outdoor recreational value, forest resources, wildlife resources, ownership pattern, utilization, and location.
(m) A discussion of whether alternative uses are proposed for the property and what those uses are.
(n) A designation of the management agency or agencies.
(16) All proposals for projects pursuant to paragraph (3)(b) shall be implemented only if adopted by the Acquisition and Restoration Council and approved by the board of trustees. The council shall consider and evaluate in writing the merits and demerits of each project that is proposed for Florida Forever funding. The council shall ensure that each proposed project will meet a stated public purpose for the restoration, conservation, or preservation of environmentally sensitive lands and water areas or for providing outdoor recreational opportunities. The council also shall determine whether the project or addition conforms, where applicable, with the comprehensive plan developed pursuant to s. 259.04(1)(a), the comprehensive multipurpose outdoor recreation plan developed pursuant to s. 375.021, the state lands management plan adopted pursuant to s. 253.03(7), the water resources work plans developed pursuant to s. 373.199, and the provisions of this section. (17) On an annual basis, the Division of State Lands shall prepare an annual work plan that prioritizes projects on the Florida Forever list and sets forth the funding available in the fiscal year for land acquisition. The work plan shall consider the following categories of expenditure for land conservation projects already selected for the Florida Forever list pursuant to subsection (8):
(a) A critical natural lands category, including functional landscape-scale natural systems, intact large hydrological systems, lands that have significant imperiled natural communities, and corridors linking large landscapes, as identified and developed by the best available scientific analysis.
(b) A partnerships or regional incentive category, including:
1. Projects where local and regional cost-share agreements provide a lower cost and greater conservation benefit to the people of the state. Additional consideration shall be provided under this category where parcels are identified as part of a local or regional visioning process and are supported by scientific analysis; and
2. Bargain and shared projects where the state will receive a significant reduction in price for public ownership of land as a result of the removal of development rights or other interests in lands or receives alternative or matching funds.
(c) A substantially complete category of projects where mainly inholdings, additions, and linkages between preserved areas will be acquired and where 85 percent of the project is complete.
(d) A climate-change category list of lands where acquisition or other conservation measures will address the challenges of global climate change, such as through protection, restoration, mitigation, and strengthening of Florida’s land, water, and coastal resources. This category includes lands that provide opportunities to sequester carbon, provide habitat, protect coastal lands or barrier islands, and otherwise mitigate and help adapt to the effects of sea-level rise and meet other objectives of the program.
(e) A less-than-fee category for working agricultural lands that significantly contribute to resource protection through conservation easements and other less-than-fee techniques, tax incentives, life estates, landowner agreements, and other partnerships, including conservation easements acquired in partnership with federal conservation programs, which will achieve the objectives of Florida Forever while allowing the continuation of compatible agricultural uses on the land. Terms of easements proposed for acquisition under this category shall be developed by the Division of State Lands in coordination with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Projects within each category shall be ranked by order of priority. The work plan shall be adopted by the Acquisition and Restoration Council after at least one public hearing. A copy of the work plan shall be provided to the board of trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund no later than October 1 of each year.
(18)(a) The Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, or, in the case of water management district lands, the owning water management district, may authorize the granting of a lease, easement, or license for the use of certain lands acquired pursuant to this section, for certain uses that are determined by the appropriate board to be compatible with the resource values of and management objectives for such lands.
(b) Any existing lease, easement, or license acquired for incidental public or private use on, under, or across any lands acquired pursuant to this section shall be presumed to be compatible with the purposes for which such lands were acquired.
(c) Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (a), no such lease, easement, or license shall be entered into by the Department of Environmental Protection or other appropriate state agency if the granting of such lease, easement, or license would adversely affect the exclusion of the interest on any revenue bonds issued to fund the acquisition of the affected lands from gross income for federal income tax purposes, pursuant to Internal Revenue Service regulations.
(19) The council shall recommend adoption of rules by the board necessary to implement this section relating to solicitation, scoring, selecting, and ranking of Florida Forever project proposals; disposing of or leasing lands or water areas selected for funding through the Florida Forever program; and the process of reviewing and recommending for approval or rejection the land management plans associated with publicly owned properties.
(20) Lands listed as projects for acquisition under the Florida Forever program may be managed for conservation pursuant to s. 259.032, on an interim basis by a private party in anticipation of a state purchase in accordance with a contractual arrangement between the acquiring agency and the private party that may include management service contracts, leases, cost-share arrangements, or resource conservation agreements. Lands designated as eligible under this subsection shall be managed to maintain or enhance the resources the state is seeking to protect by acquiring the land and to accelerate public access to the lands as soon as practicable. Funding for these contractual arrangements may originate from the documentary stamp tax revenue deposited into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund. No more than $6.2 million may be expended from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund for this purpose.