Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law Tuesday a measure that will shift 19 law enforcement officers focused on environmental crimes from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to the Department of Environmental Protection.
The bill (HB 5401) is part of a series of environmental proposals DeSantis rolled out in January, including increased funding for Everglades restoration and water projects. DeSantis said during a bill-signing ceremony Tuesday at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center in Stuart that shifting the law-enforcement officers should make enforcement of environmental laws more effective.
The creation of the Division of Law Enforcement within the Department of Environmental Protection will take effect Monday. DeSantis noted that it was pitched by his transition team as he took office in January. Currently, the Department of Environmental Protection reimburses the commission for law enforcement services, which totaled about $16 million from three trust funds in the past year, according to a House analysis.
The two agencies will have to update agreements on the responsibilities of the new division about responses to oil spills, hazardous spills and natural disasters, as well as investigations on state-owned land managed by the department. The commission, which has more than 800 sworn officers, will continue to have law enforcement authority, such as patrolling, on state-owned land managed by the department.