The overwhelming approval of the Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, Amendment 1, by Floridians on the November 4 ballot is a reminder that environmental conservation in Florida is a nonpartisan issue.
As explained in my post of October 24, Amendment 1 will establish a Land Acquisition Trust Fund funded by the document tax to be used for acquisition and protection of a variety of environmentally sensitive areas. Some estimates show that approval of Amendment 1 could mean maybe $600 million to $1 billion dollars next year for environmental conservation allowing for the purchase of lands to protect wetlands, natural springs, beaches, forests, river beds, and even farms and ranches. The money could also be used for park and trail management.
From a regulatory perspective, land acquisition programs in Florida have a long and successful history dating back to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund in 1963 designed to purchase land for parks and recreational areas. The Environmentally Endangered Lands (“EEL”) Program of 1972 followed next and it was designed to protect environmentally unique and irreplaceable lands, not necessarily parks. The EEL program was replaced by the Conservation and Recreation Lands program from 1979-1990. In 1990, the Florid Legislature adopted legislation to create Preservation 2000. These collective land acquisition programs have been perceived by the public as incredibly successful. Therefore, the reminder by Floridians that environmental conservation in Florida is a nonpartisan issue is not a surprise for most environmental professionals.
How this money will be spent, and specifically what process will be implemented to choose lands for purchase is the question at hand. Again with a rich history of land acquisition programs and their accompanying processes to choose from, the State is not starting from scratch in structuring a process by which lands are chosen for purchase under Amendment 1. Today, the question for land owners to consider is, “Do you have some swamp land to sell?”