Following years of legal maneuvering, a trial court has finally ruled on what Amendment 1, the Water and Land Legacy Constitutional Amendment, means. In 2014, 75% of voters supported Amendment 1 to secure adequate funding for the Florida Forever program and other conservation efforts across the state. Florida Forever and its predecessor program Preservation 2000, had been supported by both Republican and Democratic administrations until several years ago, when they were essentially de-funded. Amendment 1 was to correct that problem and save critical lands and waters in the face on ongoing development. Importantly, only willing sellers participate in these programs.
“This case was critical to ensuring that the ‘real Florida’ has a chance. Our wildlife habitats and waters rely on natural land.” said Manley Fuller, President of the Florida Wildlife Federation.
Unfortunately, the Florida Legislature did not do the will of the people and spent the money on a wide variety of things completely unrelated to conservation.
Because of the Legislature’s failure to follow the Constitution, the Florida Wildlife Federation and our partners filed a lawsuit against the Legislature and state agencies for misspending millions of dollars. This past Friday, Leon County Judge Dodson ruled from the bench that the Amendment is clear, and the funds must go to conservation land acquisition and management of those acquired lands. This is a tremendous victory not only for conservation but as a statement that the Legislature must do as the voters direct, no matter the issue.
There is little doubt that the Legislature and the state agencies will file an appeal of Judge Dodson’s order, and the Federation and its allies will continue the fight to make the Legislature do the will of the people. We want a sustainable Florida for our children and grandchildren” stated Preston Robertson, Florida Wildlife Federation General Counsel.