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.
“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.
A shorter version of this story aired on WJCT on April 3rd, 2015.
- Want to read Amendment 1 for yourself? Take a gander—how would you interpret it?
- The Tampa Tribune hopes Gov. Scott will talk some sense into an obstinate legislature.
- The Gainesville Sun debates the futility of constitutional amendments.
- The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition team advocates conservation funding with some serious experiential street cred (so jealous).
- The ever-vigilant Bruce Ritchie lays out the specifics of the legislative budget proposals.
- Estus Whitfield defends the voters' will and the vision for Amendment 1.
- Curious about what we can do with conservation funding? Check out the details on Florida Forever, the first land-buying program IN THE COUNTRY (read: be proud, Florida!).
- Take action through Florida's Water & Land Legacy's 'Take Action' tab. Call and tweet your representatives!