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Remember the 2014 Land and Water Conservation Amendment?

Ballot Title – Dedicated funds to acquire and restore Florida conservation and recreation lands.

Ballot Summary – Funds 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.

The amendment was approved by 75% of Florida’s voters but legislators are not following voters’ intent!

Of the $902 Million in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund in the current state budget, legislators allocated $215M to The Everglades, $50M to springs restoration, $35M to the Rural and Family Lands Program, and only $25M to the Florida Forever and Florida Communities Trust land acquisition programs.

Is this what you voted for???

A History of Land Preservation – Florida Forever and Florida Communities Trust

Florida Forever and Florida Communities Trust are long standing land acquisition programs that have preserved natural places in northeast Florida such as St. Mary’s Shoals (Baker County); Camp Chowenwaw Park (Clay County); Castaway Island Preserve, and Walter Jones Historical Park (Duval County); Palm Coast Greenway and Princess Place Preserve (Flagler County); Egans Creek Greenway (Nassau); Melrose Park (Putnam County); and Alpine Groves Park and Fort Mose (St. Johns County).

The Land Acquisition Trust Fund money should acquire properties that:

Protect wildlife, biodiversity, timber resources and recreation. Protect water quality, aquifer and springs. Protect wildlife corridors.

 

Here are just three local properties on the Florida Forever acquisition list, just waiting for funding:

Northeast Florida Blueway – would protect wetlands and marshes along the Intracoastal Waterway, the Tolomato and Matanzas rivers in St. Johns County. It would connect existing conservation areas to form an important wildlife corridor for black bear, manatee and roseate spoonbill. This area is also a vital connection in the state network of trails, providing outdoor recreation to residents and tourists.

Volusia Conservation Corridor – would protect wildlife habitat and wetlands stretching from Tiger Bay State Forest to the marshes of the St. Johns River in Flagler and Volusia Counties, critical for the region’s drinking water needs. The corridor provides outdoor recreation; cycling, freshwater fishing and hunting.

Northeast Florida Timberlands and Watershed Reserve – would preserve a contiguous forest stretching from the Osceola to the Ocala National Forest through Clay, Duval and Nassau Counties. The restoration of the wetlands, cypress and hardwood swamps, and sandhills would help protect water supply and preserve wildlife habitat. Nearly 90,000 acres of the 150,000-acre project remain unprotected.

A Call to Action – Visit your state senator and representative to let them know:

Why do you care about Florida’s natural areas?

How have the parks and recreation lands have affected you personally?

Are you worried about your children/grandchildren’s future access to natural lands?

Which projects/parks should be funded in your area and why.

A visit with the legislator (or aide) is preferred over a phone call. A visit has greater impact since a phone call only records whether the caller is for or against an issue. Use icebreakers to make personal connections about your local area. Be friendly, not combative. Ask what s/he cares about in terms of the outdoors: Boating? Hiking or paddling? Birdwatching?

Find your state senator and representative at http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/myrepresentative.aspx

How to Deal with Opposition

Q – Haven’t we spent enough money already on conservation land?

A – This is not a question of money. The real question is whether we will achieve clean water and healthy natural environments for our growing population.

Q – Legislators used the money for management of existing lands and this is permissible.

A – Sometimes, acquisition is the solution to the management issue, e.g. when development surrounds a protected area. Also, there is sufficient money in the fund ($900M in 2016-17) for both management and acquisitions. We would like to see at least $300M in acquisitions.

Q – Should we spend more money on land instead of jobs?

  1. Florida conservation areas and wildlife draw tourism, which provides many jobs and has a big impact on our economy. Florida State Parks alone brought more than 20.4 million visitors. Towns like Fernandina Beach and St. Augustine depend on their historic and natural beach resources for tourism. Timberland provides jobs as well as recreation.

For more information, contact Andrea Conover, Conservation Advocate, North Florida Land Trust, at aconover@northfloridalandtrust.org or 904-859-8993.