Legislation being pushed by Big Agribusiness could convert some 500,000 acres of publicly-owned shoreline into private ownership.
These “land grab” bills—HB 1103 by Rep. Tom Goodson, R-Rockledge, and SB 1362 by Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla—propose to change the public-private boundary lines of lakes, rivers and streams from the “ordinary high water line” to the “low water line.” This is not a small matter—it covers about a half-million acres. Public land in Florida now extends to the ordinary high water line, which means anyone can legally step out of a canoe on the shore of a water body, because it belongs to us—the public. These shorelines have been owned by the public since Florida’s frontier days, when rivers, bays and streams were the only "highways."
Under this ridiculous scheme, the now-public shores of Florida’s rivers and lakes would turn into private property, and someday soon, when you go to your favorite waters, you could be faced with a barbed wire fence and "No Trespassing" sign blocking your way. You could be arrested for getting out of your boat and stepping on the shore. You could get arrested for taking your boat past the low water line during the high water season, just for standing on the shore fishing or picnicking.
If you hunt, you could get arrested for hunting in marshes that are dry. Hunters and others who are otherwise lawfully carrying a firearm could be charged with “felony trespass” under the Florida law which makes trespassing while in possession of a firearm a felony.
“Every governor in the past 30 years has stopped similar efforts to give away the state’s shorelines,” said Earthjustice attorney David Guest. “This latest land grab needs to be stopped, too.”
Where the bills are:
- HB 1103 passed the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Jan. 17. (View vote.) It is now in the House Criminal Justice Committee, but is not yet on the calendar.
- SB 1362 has not been heard yet, it has been referred to the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee, as well as the Budget Committee.
Earthjustice Attorney David Guest has extensive background on this issue, and is available for interviews at (850) 681-0031.