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Legislative Scramble Begins for Amendment 1

A legislative scramble to carve up some $700 million dollars tied to Amendment 1 has begun. Months before the start of the annual session, a Senate committee on Wednesday began debating how to spend money generated by a wildly popular voter mandate to protect the environment, Jim Ash reports.

It was standing room only for the first discussion of Amendment 1 by the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee. Chairman Charlie Dean, a Republican from Inverness, says there’s no shortage of suggestions about where the money should go.                           

“Everybody that has called me has already wanted to talk about programs.”

Sponsors of the amendment unveiled a wish list of programs, including $150 million dollars for Florida Forever, the land buying program that once spent three times that each year to protect thousands of wilderness acres from the bulldozer.

Also on the list:  another $150 million dollars for Everglades restoration and associated projects, $50 million dollars for springs protection and $20 million dollars for beach management.

Eric Draper, head of a coalition of environmental groups that drafted the amendment, said the priority list was reached by consensus.

“And that takes care of the Everglades, the estuaries, the Florida Forever program, springs. We basically have thought it all through.”

Another item on the list, $90 million dollars for land management, should smooth the feathers of conservative opponents of land buying programs who complain that state doesn’t take care of the land already set aside.

But that won’t end the food fight by any means.

Ken Bryan, a director for the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy, didn’t see the 10 percent set-aside he has been lobbying for.

“Rails to trails conservancy trails may be the furthest from that consensus, but we’re committed to trying to get there.”

Bryan’s group wants to spend the money to eventually complete a 3,000-mile cycling trail from Pensacola to Key West.