FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 15, 2015
Media Contact: Will Abberger, (850) 222-7911 ext. 23
Proposed environmental budget falls short
Tallahassee, FL (June 15, 2015) - Approval of Amendment 1 sent a clear message that voters want the Florida Legislature to make protecting our water and land a priority. The latest 2016 budget proposal released last night by the Florida House and Senate ignores this mandate.
By a 75 percent super majority, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 1, the Water and Land Conservation Amendment, to “fund the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.” The current conference committee budget proposal allocates only $17.4 million for the acquisition of parks and wildlife habitat under Florida Forever out of the $750 million available to be spent in Amendment 1’s first year.
Important natural areas like the Green Swamp and the Indian River Lagoon Blueway have been languishing on the Florida Forever priority list without funding since 2009.
“This is an insult to the 4.2 million voters who voted Yes for Amendment 1,” said Will Abberger, chairman of Florida Water and Land Legacy, the Amendment 1 sponsor committee. “Last November Florida voters to sent a loud and clear message to the legislature: make funding for conservation land acquisition a priority. The legislature is ignoring Florida voters.”
Florida Forever was signed into law by Governor Jeb Bush in 1999, reauthorized by the Florida Legislature in 2008, and until 2009 received at least $300 million annually. When funded, Florida Forever successfully allowed the state to acquire lands that protect the water quality of rivers, lakes, and springs, provide important wildlife habitat, and offer healthy outdoor recreation opportunities for all Floridians. The $17.4 million proposed for this year is less than the legislature appropriated for Florida Forever in 2013 and only marginally better than the 2014 appropriation of $12.5 million, before Florida voters approved Amendment 1.
More than $230 million in the current Amendment 1 budget proposal will be spent on existing agency operations. “This is like the lottery amendment all over again,” said Aliki Moncrief, executive director of Florida’s Water and Land Legacy. “Voters expect to see increased funding for parks, wildlife habitat, protecting our springs, and restoring the Everglades. Instead, the legislature is spending Amendment 1 funds on day-to-day agency operating expenses. In other words, there’s no net gain for water and land conservation in their proposal.”
Amendment 1 sponsors are calling on voters to hold their legislators accountable for their vote on the state budget this year.
“We’re exploring all of our options at this point,” said Will Abberger.
Florida’s Water and Land Legacy (“FWLL”) is the sponsor committee of Amendment 1, the Water and Land Conservation Amendment. FWLL drafted the Water and Land Conservation Amendment, collected nearly 1 million signatures to place Amendment 1 on the November 2014 ballot, and ran the successful voter education campaign that resulted in an overwhelming 75 percent approval of Amendment 1. FWLL was formed in response to severe cuts to popular and effective state conservation programs like Florida Forever and Everglades restoration. FWLL Steering Committee members are: 1000 Friends of Florida, Audubon Florida, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Defenders of Wildlife, Everglades Foundation, Florida Conservation Coalition, Florida Land Trust Alliance, Florida Wildlife Federation, League of Women Voters of Florida, Rails to Trails Conservancy, Sierra Club, The Conservation Fund, and Trust for Public Land.