Vote Yes on Amendment 1

The President’s Hoot
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
November 2014

How can any Floridian oppose the Water and Land Conservation Amendment 1? Florida’s special natural habitats and recreational lands are disappearing at an alarming rate- hundreds of acres a day.  Lands lost to development are gone forever, yet those lands provide our drinking water and recreation and protect us from flooding. 

Past leaders showed great foresight by sponsoring two programs that have made Florida the leading state in conserving water and environmental lands:  Gov. Bob Martinez in 1990 signed the 10-year Preservation 2000 program, in which $3 billion was spent to purchase over 900,000 acres of sensitive lands.  Gov. Jeb Bush in 2000 signed the 10-year Florida Forever program, also at $3 billion, which used the sale of bonds to save our water sources and purchase conservation lands. Funds were generated from Documentary (Doc) Stamps from real-estate transactions and land sales. Those lands protected with those bonds will pass the benefits of lands protected forever to Florida’s future generations. 

As we continue to develop our landscape, we must save some areas for water and conservation!

Unfortunately, the Legislature diverted funds for purchasing any additional lands. Our current governor even tried to sell some conserved lands.

The Treasure Coast, and especially Indian River County, took advantage of both programs and matched them with two local bond issues to buy land. Matching state and local funds, Indian River County spent $136 million to purchase 9,703 acres for conservation (see map). Martin County did better and acquired 22,867 acres.

Amendment 1 opponents are hard to find. Nearly one million people signed the petitions to place the Water and Land Conservation Amendment on Florida’s November 4 ballot. People agree that Florida should invest in keeping water supplies clean and available. We need to preserve lands for parks, beaches, rivers, lagoon, and places to hunt and fish. 
What bothers Amendment 1 opponents enough to object? They feel state funding to protect water and land does not belong in Florida’s constitution despite the fact that state spending for schools and approval for spending certain taxes are in the constitution. If Amendment 1 is passed, our Florida Constitution will protect our water and land forever.

Why is Amendment 1 important to protect water and land?  

Amendment 1 dedicates one-third of the existing excise tax on documents for twenty years to “acquire, restore, improve, and manage conservation lands including wetlands and forests; fish and wildlife habitat; lands protecting water resources and drinking water sources, and the water quality of rivers, lakes, and streams; beaches and shores; outdoor recreational lands; working farms and ranches; and historic or geologic sites.”

Conserving lands where rainfall recharges aquifers and floodplains to protect water supplies is far cheaper than exploiting new water sources.  We must protect land to protect water.
Under the present economic conditions, many ranches are being sold to developers. Buying development rights on ranchlands helps protect the recharge to our aquifers and wetlands.

Our forests, wetlands, citrus groves and ranches will continue to produce ecosystem services, food and other products, and attract tourists benefiting our economy and society.

Clean water is only one of the many Amendment 1 benefits. As the Treasure Coast grows, we need access to our beaches, lagoon and rivers. Regrettably and lately government has been stingy with funds for public parks and recreation areas. Amendment 1 helps guarantee that our children and families will enjoy and have access to Florida’s natural beauty.

People are drawn to live in Florida because of its natural beauty and climate.  Help keep it that way: Vote Yes for Amendment 1.

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