On Thursday, legislators learned that Florida could face a $2.25 billion shortfall in 2012, leading Gov. Rick Scott and other legislative leaders to direct state agencies to identify ways to shave 10 percent off their budgets for fiscal year 2012-13. For the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, those cuts could mean eliminating law enforcement positions and reducing the amount of invasive species control.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in September identified $19.2 million in spending cuts including $2.4 million in general revenue and $16.8 million from trust funds.
The proposed reductions include eliminating the 130 law enforcement positions to save $6.2 million. Of the agency’s $24.7 million in general revenue, $23 million is dedicated to law enforcement.
“These are difficult choices to put on the table,” Sandra Wilson, the agency’s chief financial officer, told the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.
“We are not asking you to take these as cuts,” she said. “We are simply providing them as a list of ideas you can select from to meet the goals you’ve got to balance the budget.”
Fish and Wildlife officers play an important role in protecting Florida habitats: They enforce state and federal wildlife laws. Fewer of them would likely mean less enforcement of crucial rules that aim to protect the state’s threatened and endangered wildlife and ecosystems.
According to the Fish and Wildlife website, the duties of its officers include “educating the public and enforcing state and federal fisheries and wildlife laws; protecting threatened and endangered species and habitats; managing captive and nonnative wildlife; investigating fish and wildlife crimes; and participating in youth projects to develop the next generation that cares about conservation.” Fish and Wildlife officers also enforce boating regulations and respond to natural and manmade disasters and search and rescue missions.