Stuart News: Vote Yes on Amendment 1

Stuart News Editorial Endorsement for Amendment 1, Florida Water and Land Legacy

Florida’s natural resources are at risk. Print

Pressure from development continually threatens wetlands and wildlife habitat, rural landscapes, wildlife corridors, drinking water and a host of other natural resources in the Sunshine State.

This assault is certain to continue as Florida’s population increases — from the current 19.5 million to a projected 25.5 million in 2040.

Reinvigorating the state’s acquisition of land and water resources — and putting the funds earmarked for such projects beyond the reach of Florida lawmakers — is the focus of Amendment 1: The Florida Water and Land Legacy amendment.

Starting in 2001, Florida Forever — the state’s main conservation and recreation land acquisition program — purchased more than 700,000 acres at a cost of $2.9 billion.

Through much of the past decade, the Legislature committed $300 million annually to the program. Since then, however, state funding for Florida Forever has waned ($57.5 million in the current budget).

Lawmakers have been raiding the Florida Forever Trust Fund to pay for other projects and programs.

“The Legislature has given us a very good reason to put this in the constitution,” said Maggy Hurchalla, former Martin County commissioner and a longtime environmental advocate. “Otherwise, they’ll take it away.”

Hence, the importance of a constitutional amendment to guarantee funding to protect our natural resources.

Florida voters have an opportunity in the general election to help secure the future of our land and water resources for decades to come.

Amendment 1 would dedicate 33 percent of net revenue from documentary stamp taxes paid on real estate transactions to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund. These funds would be used for the purchase, protection and restoration of environmentally sensitive land and water resources — everything from conservation easements, forests, fish and wildlife habitat, beaches and shores, and historical sites, among many others.

It is expected to generate $648 million the first year — 2015 — and $10 billion over 20 years.

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