By Natalie Strom
Volunteers for the Florida Water and Land Legacy campaign have worked tirelessly over the last two years gathering signatures for their cause — dedicating funds to acquire and restore Florida conservation and recreation lands. In mid-January, the goal was reached: a required 683,149 valid petitions signed by Floridians in at least 14 congressional districts. It’s official. The Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment will be on the November 2014 ballot.
Picking up the broken pieces of the suddenly stunted Florida Forever program, The Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment would allocate money back into environmental, historical and recreational land acquisition.
Florida Forever began in 2001, following in the footsteps of Preservation 2000. A history of the funding provided by the Nature Conservancy states that Florida Forever would “provide $3 billion for conservation over 10 years. Florida Forever was reauthorized in 2008 for $300 million annually for another 10 years.”
Today, the budget for Florida Forever has been cut by nearly 100 percent by past and present governors and legislatures. Florida Forever funding came through the documentary stamp tax revenue which is paid when real estate is sold. This tax has been collected since the early 1900s and does not affect the Florida tax payer’s pocketbook.
The Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment would amend the state’s constitution to, in summary, “fund the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to acquire, restore, improve, and manage conservation lands including wetlands and forests; fish and wildlife habitat; lands protecting water resources and drinking water sources, including the Everglades, and the water quality of rivers, lakes, and streams; beaches and shores; outdoor recreational lands; working farms and ranches; and historic or geologic sites, by dedicating 33 percent of net revenues from the existing excise tax on documents for 20 years.”
This measure allows Floridians to decide if they want to control the amount of money given towards land acquisition and management or if they want the governor and legislature to decide. It is a change in the Florida Constitution, and it is a very important issue. Be sure to educate yourself before you vote.
To learn more about the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment, visit floridawaterlandlegacy.org.