Bill signed by Florida Governor Rick Scott increases liability protection for landowners offering public recreation
May 10, 2012
The following article was published in The Florida Current on May 10, 2012:
Bill signed by Scott increases liability protection for landowners offering public recreation
By Bruce Ritchie
A bill signed last week by Gov. Rick Scott with near unanimous support in the Legislature would broaden liability protection for landowners who provide public outdoor recreation on their land.
State law already extends liability protection to landowners who enter into a lease with the state to provide public hunting and fishing. HB 313 extends the protection to those who sign written agreements with the state for special events or agree to allow public wildlife viewing, according to a House staff analysis.
Supporters say the bill will encourage landowners to allow youth hunting events on their property. The bill was a priority for the Florida Wildlife Federation and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The agency, along with the Wildlife Foundation of Florida, has established the Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network to reconnect children with traditional outdoor activities.
“Our society is becoming more and more of one that folks don’t get outside into the natural world,” said Preston Robertson of the Florida Wildlife Federation. “Anything that can allow people to more easily access the environment, we are for.”
The bill also represents a victory for hunting and fishing groups who are trying to maintain the land available for public hunting and fishing, said Lane Stephens, executive director of Allied Sportsmen’s Associations of Florida.
In 2006, the Legislature passed HB 265, which requires the agency to maintain at least the 3.3 million acres of land that was available for public hunting at that time. Hunting and fishing groups have raised concerns about declines in sales of hunting and fishing licenses in recent decades and lack of areas to hunt.
State law already extends liability protection to landowners who enter into a lease with the state to provide public hunting and fishing. HB 313 extends the protection to those who enter into written agreements for special events or agree to allow public wildlife viewing.
“Anything that could do that (increase outdoor recreation) we support,” Stephens said “We saw this bill as a mechanism to do that.”
HB 313 passed the House 116-0 and passed the Senate 38-1. Sen Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, voted against the bill and could not be reached for comment this week.
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