Amendment 1 intent in jeopardy, backers say

Published originally by Jeff Burlew, Tallahassee Democrat on April 25, 2015

When environmental leaders across the state decided to push for a constitutional amendment generating billions to buy conservation lands, one of their key goals was to replenish the Florida Forever fund.

Under Florida Forever and its forerunner, Preservation 2000, the state purchased 2.5 million acres of environmentally sensitive land, including rare-species habitat, floodplains and fragile coastline, protecting them in perpetuity from development.

But Florida Forever, approved in 1999 and envisioned to raise $300 million a year for land acquisition, hasn't been fully funded since the 2008 legislative session. In 2009, after the recession hit and doc-stamp revenue from real-estate sales plummeted, lawmakers put no money into the fund. Since 2008, the program saw a 97-percent drop in funding.

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Florida Legislature Has Its Own Ideas for Voter-Approved Conservation Fund

Published originally by Lizette Alvarez, The New York Times on April 25, 2015

MIAMI — Facing a thicket of candidates and ballot measures in the November election, Florida voters sent one resounding message to elected officials: More must be done to protect the state’s natural habitats — including the long-suffering Everglades.

But as the Legislature heads into the final days of this year’s session, Republican leaders are being criticized for the way they are divvying up a $750 million pool of money created to buy, conserve and restore land and water resources. It was established when three-quarters of Florida voters approved constitutional Amendment 1, which sets aside part of a real estate tax.

The amendment was intended to bolster a popular conservation program, Florida Forever, that had been hard hit by state budget cuts. But instead of using the bulk of the money to safeguard land from development, supporters of the amendment say, state lawmakers have shifted it to other projects and programs.

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As U.S. Sugar flexes muscle, environmentalists fret about Amendment 1

Published originally by Michael Van Sickler, Brandeton Herald on April 23, 2015

Stuck in limbo because of the stalemate over Medicaid expansion, environmentalists face increasingly long odds that state lawmakers will raise spending on purchasing land for preservation and conservation, setting the stage for a possible legal battle.

Lawmakers have only a week left in the 2015 legislative session and are giving little indication they will budge much from their initial offers last month to provide less than $20 million for land buys.

That’s far less than the $300 million minimum anticipated by the supporters of Amendment 1, a ballot measure that 4.2 million voters approved in November.

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John Moran: Earth to Florida: time for a change

Published originally by John Moran, Tallahassee Democrat on April 21, 2015

This is the year, we were told, that water would finally get its due in Tallahassee.

And after considerable arm-twisting in the court of public opinion, the Legislature appears poised to drop $50 million on springs protection. Doing the math, that amounts to a miserly $2-and-change per Floridian.

But the change we need won’t be found in our wallets. The change we need must come from our hearts.

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Volusia, Flagler residents weigh in on state's Amendment One spending

Published originally by Dinah Voyles Pulver, The Daytona Beach News Journal on April 18, 2015

When the Florida Senate asked voters to write in about how the Amendment 1 money should be spent, more than 6,000 people responded.

They submitted short statements and long epistles. Some who wrote in favor of buying more conservation land pointed out they were registered Republicans. Others pointed out how long their families had lived in Florida or why they moved to Florida.

The News-Journal reviewed more than 5,500 of the comments received in a public records request. Senate officials report another 600 comments were received by the Senate’s Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation after that initial records request.

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Working forests key to solving state water challenges

Published originally by Mike Bell, Tallahassee Democrat on April 16, 2015

As our lawmakers wrestle with the state budget and debate critical legislation dealing with water policy and the implementation of Amendment 1, the importance of Florida’s working forests cannot be overlooked.

Working forests have a $16.4 billion impact on the state’s economy. They also provide jobs for 84,000 Floridians. From toothpaste to tires and LCD screens to ice cream, more than 5,000 items contain elements harvested from Florida’s working forests.

Working forests also play a key role in the purification of our air and water. They provide much-needed green space in Florida’s constantly developing landscape, habitat for our state’s diverse wildlife and recreational opportunities for residents and tourists.

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Amendment 1, Let's be blunt folks. Tallahassee is ignoring us again.

Published originally by Victoria Tschinkel, Sun Sentinel on April 14, 2015

Amendment 1 supporters around the state have been writing editorials to voice their outrage that the Florida Legislature is ignoring their will. Amendment 1 was written primarily to restore funding to Florida Forever, historically budgeted at $300 million per year, which bought carefully prioritized lands for their environmental and state historical value.

The editorial writers have been nice people, and mostly extol the virtues of land acquisition and Florida Forever. Well, 75 percent of those who voted already got that. It's the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott who don't get it.

Let's be clear about one thing, they are carrying out exactly what they started in 2011, and are counting on our passivity to use Amendment 1 to further their goals. Here's how.

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Putnam says conservation money may buy easements

Published originally by Yvette Hamett, The Tampa Tribune on April 10, 2015

POINCIANA — State Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam said Friday that the state legislature appears poised to use Amendment 1 money to purchase more conservation easements than new, raw land, avoiding management costs and keeping agricultural lands in production.

Putnam spoke at the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate Friday during a presentation on sales and value of agricultural lands. He said there is a desire in the legislature for the state to purchase fewer parcels of land outright, but place more emphasis on conservation easements, where the state buys development rights, but owners continue to farm it.

He said it is doubtful the legislature will approve purchase of lands south of Lake Okeechobee for Everglades restoration.

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Negron says he's trying to get money for sugar land

Published originally by Isadora Rangel, TCPalm on April 07, 2015

Sen. Joe Negron said Tuesday he is working to free up state money that could be used to buy sugar land to help move Lake Okeechobee water south and reduce discharges into the St. Lucie River.

Negron, R-Stuart, said he plans to propose a measure asking the Legislature to allocate $500 million for land purchase in the state budget.

That money could be used for the 46,800 acres owned by U.S. Sugar Corp., the Florida Forever conservation land program or to expedite restoration projects, such as the C-44 Canal reservoir to clean up that flows into the St. Lucie River.

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Bruce Ritchie: At session midpoint, disappointment replaces promise

Published originally by Bruce Ritchie, Context Florida on April 05, 2015

What had become the “year of the environment” for the 2015 legislative session has become a year of disappointment for some environmentalists.

Amendment 1 and statewide water policy were major issues heading into the session, with growth management also emerging once the opening gavel dropped.

Approved by 75 percent of voters in November, Amendment 1 provides an estimated $742 million for water and land conservation programs.

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