by John Wark
As Floridians turn out the vote Tuesday in another hotly contested presidential race they may find volunteers at some polling places asking them to think about voting two years from now on an effort to force the state to buy more conservation land. The campaign is putting much of its emphasis on Everglades restoration.
An environmental coalition known as the Florida Water and Land Legacy initiative, a political action committee supported primarily by the Florida Land Trust and its political supporters, hopes over the next two years to gather the legally required number of signatures (676,811) to add the multi-billion dollar land-buying conservation amendment to the 2014 ballot.
The amendment would require the state to dedicate one-third of documentary stamp tax revenues it receives to a range of land conservation efforts. According to one newspaper, “an estimated $5 billion might be raised during the first 10 years to pay for such projects as land purchases for land and water conservation efforts and protection and restoration of the Everglades and other natural systems.”
The who’s who of Florida environmental groups backing the amendment push — Florida Audubon, the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Trust for Public Land, the Sierra Club’s Florida Chapter, Defenders of Wildlife, The Conservation Fund, 1,000 Friends of Florida, the Alachua Conservation Trust and The Nature Conservancy — have been actively seeking signature gathering volunteers through their Florida Water and Land Legacy website.
“We’ve worked hard to restore treasures like the Everglades and to protect our beaches and shores,” notes the website..” Yet deep and continued budget cuts are putting are most cherised waters and lands in serious jeopardy.
“State funds historically allocated to protecting and restoring critical conservation and restoration efforts will run dry unless voters pass the Water and Land Conservation Amendment. Without it, we could lose much of what makes Florida special.”
State records show the group has collected about $300,000 and spent about $270,000 as of November. The top four contributors include the Tallahassee-based public relations firm of Ron Sachs Communications ($3,500), The Trust for Public Land ($5,411.63), the Florida Conservation Campaign political action committee ($134,558.74), and the Alliance of Florida Land Trusts ($1,000).
The Florida and Water Legacy group’s chair and registered agent, William W. Abberger, shares the same Tallahassee address, 306 North Monroe, as The Trust for Public Lands and The Florida Conservation Campaign, the PAC that made the largest donation. The Florida Conservation Campaign’s money mainly flowed from Florida environmental groups and Florida residents, including Nathaniel Reed. Although a $60,000 contribution also came from “The Trust for Public Lands, San Francisco.”