Many of us may have been disappointed by the results of last fall’s gubernatorial election, but few could complain about the passage of Amendment 1 by an overwhelming 74 percent of voters.
In case you didn’t know, the amendment funnels a third of revenue from the document tax — which already existed before the amendment’s passage — into much-needed funding for conservation, land acquisition and management. While this presents a clear public mandate for conservation, democracy doesn’t end at the voting booth.
Certain bits of language within the bill could be used to severely reduce its effectiveness in protecting Florida’s natural areas. The amendment provides funds for acquisition and management of conservation easements in areas important to state’s ecology and water security. However, it also allocates funds for recreational parks and “urban open spaces.” This line concerns me because it opens up the potential for spending money originally meant for conservation on lands and projects that may not help the state’s wildlife at all. Playgrounds and public green spaces are great, but when Floridians came out and voted in favor of Amendment 1 last fall, the creation of new parks and open spaces was not their intention.
I believe projects like that should be funded separately. Legislators are now accepting public comments on how the money should be spent, and I urge all who are interested in the health and beauty of our state’s natural areas to write to their representatives and emphasize that our money should be spent on conservation.
This is an important issue for the future of our state and one that gives UF students the opportunity to make a real difference.
Rhett Barker is a UF wildlife ecology and conservation junior.