Episode 8: 75%

Aliki Moncrief remembers the shock she felt on election night in 2014 when she heard that Florida voters had passed Amendment 1 by a sweeping 75%. 

“We thought we were going to be up till midnight,” Moncrief says. “It was a such a resounding victory. It was such a resounding statement that voters were making, that we at 8:00 in the evening learned that we had won.”

Moncrief is Executive Director of Florida’s Water and Land Legacy, a coalition that campaigned for Amendment 1, the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment. In 2009, the state eliminated Florida Forever, the esteemed $300 million a year land-buying program. Moncrief says that Amendment 1 would revive Florida Forever, and thus address a gap between how Floridians felt about conservation and what the legislature was funding. 

 Amendment 1 campaign materials at Florida's Water and Land Legacy. Photo by Daniel Ward.

Amendment 1 campaign materials at Florida's Water and Land Legacy. Photo by Daniel Ward.

“What the conservation community did—they researched,” she says. “How did Florida voters feel about this issue? Is there a disconnect between how everyday citizens think about water and land conservation and how our legislators are funding water and land conservation? They found an egregious disconnect.”

Amendment 1 would restore Florida Forever’s funding for the purchase and management of conservation lands for 20 years. For the upcoming budget year, the mandate is expected to generate more than $700 million from an existing tax on property exchanges.

Though Florida voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 1, the fight for the amendment is not over. Its fate rests with lawmakers in Tallahassee, who have thus far allocated scant funding for conservation and land acquisition. Last Thursday, the Senate passed a budget with $35 million for Florida Forever and $20 million for restoration of the Kissimmee River. And as of last Wednesday, the House was proposing just $10 million for land acquisition. Both are paltry compared to Florida Forever’s historic $300 million annual budget.

Conservation advocates worry that lawmakers aren’t honoring the will of the voters, and say that they’ll consider legal action if the legislature veers too far from the amendment’s intent. 

Citizens want new parks. They want to protect wildlife habitat. They want to make sure that we’re protecting the lands that keep our rivers clean and keep our springs clean. Floridians intimately understand the connection between protecting our undisturbed natural areas and protecting our waters.
— Aliki Moncrief, Executive Director, Florida's Water and Land Legacy

shorter version of this story aired on WJCT on April 3rd, 2015.

When we have over 90% of our waters polluted, when we don’t have habitat corridors for some of our species like the Florida panther, when we have black bears that we’re going to have to hunt because they don’t have enough land to live on—the evidence that we don’t own enough conservation land is everywhere. I don’t see any evidence to say that we have enough.
— Ryan Smart, President, One Thousand Friends of Florida

Listen to this episode via the SoundCloud player at the top of the page. Subscribe to Watershed via iTunes. Listen to us via SoundCloud. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.