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Court victory supports Florida's Land Acquisition amendment

June 27, 2018
By SANIBEL-CAPTIVA CONSERVATION FOUNDATION , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

In 2014, an overwhelming 75 percent of Florida voters supported a Constitutional amendment to allocate 33 percent of real estate doc stamp taxes to Florida's Land Acquisition fund, Florida Forever. The vote showed Florida voters really appreciate the public lands and special places that have helped make Florida a great place to live and explore.

The amendment was spurred when the Florida Legislature quit funding Florida's decade's long program that purchased and protected wild lands, critical wildlife corridors, habitats and water systems from Spring to the Everglades. It passed with the support of three of four voters in 2014.

However, the Florida legislature had their own ideas and misspent the funds on agency salaries and operating expenses over our active opposition each year. Their response? They told the public we didn't understand the language of the amendment, which reads as:

2014 CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT

Funds in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund shall be expended only for the following purposes:

- As provided by law, to finance or refinance: the acquisition and improvement of land, water areas, and related property interests, including conservation easements, and resources for conservation lands including wetlands, forests, and fish and wildlife habitat; wildlife management areas; lands that protect water resources and drinking water sources, including lands protecting the water quality and quantity of rivers, lakes, streams, springsheds, and lands providing recharge for groundwater and aquifer systems; lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area and the Everglades Protection Area, as defined in Article II, Section 7(b); beaches and shores; outdoor recreation lands, including recreational trails, parks, and urban open space; rural landscapes; working farms and ranches; historic or geologic sites; together with management, restoration of natural systems, and the enhancement of public access or recreational enjoyment of conservation lands.

- To pay the debt service on bonds issued pursuant to Article VII, Section 11(e).

Turns out voters are not turnips and on June 15 a judge hearing the 3-year-old case agreed, issuing a full summary judgment and canceling the trial scheduled to begin in July.

Voters are vindicated! Stay tuned for what comes next.

Thanks to the groups who sued: Florida Wildlife Federation, St. Johns Riverkeeper, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, The Sierra Club and Earthjustice.

The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation is dedicated to the conservation of coastal habitats and aquatic resources on Sanibel and Captiva and in the surrounding watershed. For more information, visit www.sccf.org

 
 

 

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