(1) The Legislature finds that the conservation of natural areas is vital to the state’s economy and ecology. The Legislature further finds that rapid increases in population and development throughout Florida threaten the integrity of the environment and limit opportunities for citizens and visitors to enjoy the state’s natural areas. The Legislature further finds that inappropriate and poorly planned land uses overburden natural resources and disrupt the state’s ecology. Finally, the Legislature finds that the quality of life, environmental quality, as well as the viability and vitality of the urban areas of this state are directly linked to urban open space and greenways. The creation of greenways; expansion of green spaces; enhancement of recreation areas; preservation of working waterfronts; and protection and restoration of urban lakes, rivers, and watersheds in the urban areas of this state are necessary to link populated areas with natural areas, preserve unique cultural and heritage sites, provide land for recreational opportunities to enhance the health and well-being of the urban residents of this state, improve water quality, reduce the level of urban crime and violence, and build confidence and self-esteem among the urban youth of this state.
(2) The Legislature recognizes that the primary responsibility for establishing well-planned land use rests at the local government level through the implementation of comprehensive plans. The Legislature also recognizes that many of the goals and objectives of these comprehensive plans will not be met through regulation, but require creative and innovative action to ensure their accomplishment.
(3) It is the intent of the Legislature to establish a nonregulatory agency that will assist local governments in bringing local comprehensive plans into compliance and implementing the goals, objectives, and policies of the conservation, recreation and open space, and coastal elements of local comprehensive plans, or in conserving natural resources and resolving land use conflicts by:
(a) Responding promptly and creatively to opportunities to correct undesirable development patterns, restore degraded natural areas, enhance resource values, restore deteriorated or deteriorating urban waterfronts, preserve working waterfronts, reserve lands for later purchase, participate in and promote the use of innovative land acquisition methods, and provide public access to surface waters.
(b) Providing financial and technical assistance to local governments, state agencies, and nonprofit organizations to carry out projects and activities and to develop programs authorized by this part.
(c) Involving local governments and private interests in voluntarily resolving land use conflicts and issues.