Florida ‘Wetland Mitigation’ law protects natural resources and promotes development

A new law will protect Florida’s natural resources while still allowing the state to prosper and welcome new residents.

Gov. Ron DeSantis approved HB 521: Wetland Mitigation in June, and it took effect July 1. It directly allows local governments to allow wetland restoration on government-owned lands under certain circumstances.

“The first thing they have to do is to look for federal or state mitigation banks within the near area to be able to make up for the damage that they’re doing,” said Win Everham, FGCU professor of marine and ecological science.

This helps with the continued population growth in the state.

“The motivation here is to make sure that we’re prepared for the growth that’s coming to the state,” said Shelton Weeks, FGCU chair of Department of Economics and Finance.

It’s also looking to protect wetlands while supporting growth.

“It’s looking at what is the ecological impact of this wetland,”  Everham said. “And if you’re going to fill it in, how would you make up for that someplace else?”

Weeks explains how versatile the new law will be for local governments.

“This bill is going to allow municipalities to utilize land that’s already in place,” Weeks said. “That’s being protected to give another pathway for mitigating the impacts of development.”

It’s sort of like a land swap to be used for both purposes — development and preservation or restoration.

“And can get some resources in to be able to manage and restore those preserved lands,” Everham said.

In the long run, the law could make more land available for conservation management and restoration while trying to offset the influx of people wanting to live in a slice of paradise.

RELATED: New Florida laws take effect July 1

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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