Natural Resources and the Environment
I am proud to represent a district that’s made real progress because of, not in spite of, the successful cooperation among ranchers, farmers, conservation groups and state and local governments and their willingness to share responsibility with the federal government to complete one of the largest ecosystem restoration projects in the world. As a Member of the Appropriations Committee, in addition to working to ensure Florida gets its fair share of funding for important environmental projects, I have introduced legislation to address the need to expedite repairs and construction of the Herbert Hoover Dike as well as fund Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program projects. As a constitutional and fiscal conservative, I disagree with proposals that advocate for a sweeping, incredibly costly federal land grab that disrupts my constituents’ ability to willingly enter into contracts to sell or lease their land. Rather than relinquishing more local control to the executive branch at a significant cost to the taxpayer, my efforts have focused on securing funding in the annual spending bills that already fund the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, the Herbert Hoover Dike and the Kissimmee River Restoration Project.
There are several authorized Corps projects in Florida’s 17th district that need more funding than the Administration is willing to expend, even though these projects have willing local partners ready to chip in their fair share. There are projects the Corps underfunded or didn’t fund, but unfortunately, the earmark ban prevents all Members from increasing the budgets for specific projects like the Herbert Hoover Dike which are urgently-needed. For these reasons, I introduced H. Res. 813, a bipartisan bill which would amend the House Rules to exclude provisions relating to existing or proposed water resources development projects of the Army Corps of Engineers from the definition of congressional earmark in order to restore Congress’ authority to direct funds to state and local projects. The latest bill providing the Corps’ funding for this year, which passed in December 2015 with my support, provided $125 million for flood control, $24 million for dam safety and $8 million for ecosystem restoration, respectively, hopefully breathing new life into construction efforts stalled by the Administration.
Farmers and ranchers in the center of the state know too well the threat that urban sprawl poses to their industries, and we can all appreciate the environmental features that make our state unique. Just south of Orlando, for example, the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area joins local landowners with state and federal agencies to ensure that the Everglades watershed is able to support the critical habitat for a diverse array of native species. By partnering with local landowners, federal and state agencies ensure that these working lands meet conservation targets – preserving Florida’s natural heritage for years to come. Last December, I was proud to support legislation (now Public Law 114-113) that reauthorized the LWCF through September 2018 and provided $450 million for programs in 2016, of which 50 percent was prioritized for state and local recreation and conservation programs. This May, the House of Representatives passed an appropriations bill that will provide $136 million for federal land acquisition programs in 2017, of which $24 million is directed to recreational access projects that will improve access to existing public lands for hunting, fishing, and other recreational activities.