Florida’s so-called “Conservation of Wildlife” bill is set to be signed or vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott at some point in the near future, and despite the fact that the bill received overwhelming bipartisan support in the Florida Legislature, environmentalists have urged Scott to veto the measure.

H.B. 1117 would allow private zoos and aquariums to lease state conservation lands in order to construct and operate breeding facilities for exotic wildlife — including large hooved animals like zebras and rhinoceroses.

The Florida Wildlife Federation and Audubon of Florida both penned letters to the governor urging him to veto the bill earlier this month.

“Florida’s conservation lands were acquired with public dollars to protect native imperiled wildlife; this bill’s proposed use could supplant threatened and iconic Florida species with exotic,” says Julie Wraithmell, Audubon Florida’s director of wildlife conservation, in a statement. “The opportunity for zoos to lease state lands, likely for less than a private landowner would negotiate, is an example of government competing with and undercutting the private sector.”

The TC Palm editorial board has also urged Scott to veto the bill, writing that it could have a host of unintended consequences.

From the piece:

If there is a public benefit to this policy, it is difficult to ascertain. The potential drawbacks, however, are considerable.

Putting exotic animals in areas where native animals live and should be especially protected is wrong when private land is available for the exotics. The governor should veto this legislation so it does not take effect and bring about the potential unwanted consequences.

Scott has till April 14 to either approve or reject the measure.

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