Laurie MacDonald, Florida Program Director
Here in Florida, we’re on our way to making history with a grassroots constitutional amendment campaign to save the state’s wild and wonderful places. Defenders and a growing list of partners are striving to secure funding for state land acquisition, restoration and management programs for Florida’s future!
In late September, the Florida Supreme Court approved the language of the proposed constitutional amendment, Florida’s Water and Land Legacy. The next milestone is big but within our grasp – we’re more than halfway there and we now need 300,000 more petition signatures within the next two months to reach the 680,000 that qualifies the measure to be placed on the November 2014 ballot.
So exactly what is it that we’re working to get on the ballot? The amendment would decree that one-third of Florida’s existing documentary stamp tax revenues, which are paid when real estate is sold, will be used for conservation purposes. Florida is home to a fascinating and unique array of wildlife but ranks among the states with the highest number of endangered species. Rampant development, road building and conversions to intensive agriculture are leaving less and less space for these species to call home. This amendment would provide more than $5 billion for water and land conservation in Florida over the next ten years! And all from an existing revenue source without any tax increase.
Here are some of the ways in which the funding would be used:
- Continuing the stellar Florida Forever public land acquisition program
- Serving as the major source of funding for protecting wildlife habitat throughout the state
- Restoring America’s Everglades, including clean water for people and natural systems
- Establishing conservation easements with landowners
- Protecting historical, cultural and archeological sites
- Providing recreation areas for Floridians, their families and visitors
These programs save the habitat of wide-ranging Florida panthers; river corridors and springs for manatees, sturgeon, and wading birds; ancient scrub for the gopher tortoise and the many species that share their burrows; and the globally important nesting beaches of the sea turtles that depend on our Florida coasts.
We’re proud to be part of the effort to move this amendment forward to protect some of our nation’s most unique and biologically diverse ecosystems and the rare and imperiled creatures that live there. Defenders and our partners are looking forward to November 2014, and working towards a landmark victory for Florida’s wildlife and wild places.