Several environmental groups along with state leaders, like Former Governor Bob Graham and former Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Colleen Castille, are working together on an effort to get billions of dollars in funding solely for water and land conservation efforts. The campaign, called the Florida Water and Land Legacy Campaign, needs close to a million signatures to get the constitutional amendment on the 2014 ballot.
Graham says the effort to get a dedicated funding source for water and land conservation and restoration is an important one. If a campaign he’s part of is successful, it could mean more than five-billion dollars could go toward restoring and conserving Florida’s drinking water, protecting the Florida Everglades, and managing fish and wildlife habitats over the next ten years.
But, to get the funds, the “Florida Water and Land Legacy Campaign” is hoping to get a constitutional amendment placed on the 2014 ballot that would dip into money collected mainly from real estate transactions, also known as the state’s documentary stamp tax revenues.
Graham says breathing new life into the state’s land buying program, which helps to preserve and protect Florida’s resources, is very critical, especially during a time when it’s been repeatedly cut.
“Now, the question is do we discontinue or do we discontinue our efforts at preserving land, or do we continue this long tradition," Graham asked. "Large parts of the flood plain of the St. Johns and Apalachicola and Suwannee rivers, much of the Everglades, and the Cypress are all examples of lands that have been acquired.”
Colleen Castille served as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary under former Republican Governor Jeb Bush. She’s part of the campaign as well, and Castille says the effort to get a Citizens-based amendment passed is a bi-partisan one. She points to Florida’s past politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, who have led the charge to make sure the state’s conservation programs are funded:
“Governor’s Graham, Governor Martinez, Governor Chiles, Governor Bush, and Governor Crist all continued the funding program for Florida Forever and under Preservation 2000," said Castille. "Under their leadership, Florida purchased more than 2-million acres of land that is in conservation.”
Environmental groups who are also part of the campaign include Audubon Florida, the Sierra Club, and 1000 Friends of Florida. Former Gainesville Mayor and Conservation advocate Pegeen Hanrahan is the campaign’s manager. She says as many as 2,000 campaign volunteers are expected to be outside polling places around the state on Election Day. The campaign has to get close to a million signatures by January 2014.
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