Florida’s Battle Over Environmental Budget

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Tim Suereth
timsuereth.com

The Florida Water Management Board of Directors controls the quality, supply and flow of water into the Everglades and throughout the Sunshine State but their recent ruling about how best to treat and transport the states water could be overruled by the Florida legislature–in what some activist organizations are calling a taxpayer funded land-grab, at the behest of a politically connected hedge fund billionaire.

In 2014, voters in Florida approved The Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, otherwise known as Amendment 1, which set aside money in the budget each year to invest in projects that protect the environment. Now that the money is in the budget to help preserve and restore Florida’s natural resources, it could be wasted on a new Everglades restoration scheme that is unneeded, underfunded and counter to the true intent of the new environmental law.

Tim Suereth
timsuereth.com

I never look at other people’s work. I can’t get sucked into that celebrity thing, because I think it’s just crass. Give me time and I’ll give you a revolution. I can’t get sucked into that celebrity thing, because I think it’s just crass.

I can design a collection in a day and I always do, cause I’ve always got a load of Italians on my back, moaning that it’s late. Sometimes the simplest things are the most profound.

Tim Suereth
timsuereth.com

Amendment 1 was designed to dedicate 33 percent of net revenues from state excise taxes to fund the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.

The Land Acquisition Trust Fund was developed to acquire and improve conservation easements, wildlife management areas, wetlands, forests, fish and wildlife habitats, beaches and shores, recreational trails and parks, urban open space, rural landscapes, working farms and ranches, historical and geological sites, lands protecting water and drinking water resources and lands in the Everglades Agricultural Areas and the Everglades Protection Area. The fund was also designed to enhance public access and recreational use of conservation lands.

Some outspoken organizations that are intent on getting the state to acquire the Central Florida farmland suggest that Amendment 1 money was meant to be spent on purchasing land north of the Everglades–but that is just not true. Although Amendment 1 does allow for the acquisition of some land, it was never to be used to purchase the proposed 46,000 acres of Central Florida farmland, at an estimated cost of over $500 million. If the land is purchased, the state will be on the hook for maintenance and constructing the infrastructure for aquifers and retention ponds, which could cost over $2 billion in total, and thereby leaving the many other environmental issues in Florida without funding.

The Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, Amendment 1, requires the money to be used for many other purposes besides just acquiring land in the interior of the state. The law specifically states that the money should also be used for recreational trails, parks, beaches, historical sites and also farms – but the farmers don’t want to sell the land. They claim the land transaction would harm them financially, require them to fire workers and limit Florida’s future crops of produce.

Tim Suereth
timsuereth.com

The farmers will be forced to sell if the legislature chooses to spend all of the Amendment 1 money on Central Florida land rather than fund any of the other programs that are currently in need of financial support, such as the 365 approved environmental projects the US Corps of Engineers has requested money for. If the US Corps of Engineers environmental projects don’t get completed, Florida’s drinking water will suffer.

Tallahassee politicians will thwart the will of their constituency if they blow their entire pool of money for Florida restoration, beatification and environmental protection all on one costly endeavor that the states own water management directors say will disrupt the already funded federal plan to restore and preserve the Everglades.