Land and Water Conservation Amendment Lawsuit Update

Bulow Woods, Flagler County
Photo by Douglas J. Eng

December 6th, 2016

After a judicial hearing yesterday, the two lawsuits challenging how the state is spending money in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund will be combined. Environmental groups claim that the funds must be used for preserving land and water per voters’ intent with the Land and Water Legacy Amendment in 2014.

One lawsuit was against the Florida legislature; the other was against state agencies including the Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Voters overwhelmingly approved the Land and Water Legacy Amendment in 2014 which dedicates 33% of existing document stamp tax to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund for the acquisition and management of conservation lands. In the current year budget, that amount was $920 million.

Several environmental groups, including the Florida Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, and Defenders of the Environment, contend that lawmakers should have allocated more money for land acquisition instead of using it for general operating expenses for the agencies.

The North Florida Land Trust hopes the lawsuit will result in more state funding for land preservation. We ask citizens to encourage their legislators to preserve special natural, historic and agricultural lands.

The suit is being heard by Circuit Judge Charles W. Dodson in Tallahassee. The plaintiffs will merge their complaints into one suit by Jan. 6.

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