Environmentalists Cry Foul Over Land Money

TALLAHASSEE-- Environmentalists are crying foul over what they call the legislature’s failure to fund land acquisition. The future of the water we drink could depend on what happens at the polls this November.

The state has identified 1.9 million acres for purchase. All of it critical to Florida’s drinking water future. But state lawmakers got stingy with cash, spending just $10 million in new money to buy important land.

"Special natural areas, wildlife habitat, greenways, trails, land that's gonna protect our drinking water sources and our water quality. And the funding for that has virtually disappeared since 2009," Will Abbinger, spokesman for the Land and Water Conservation Amendment, said.

Environmentalists hope inaction fires up voters. Amendment one on this November’s ballot would guarantee money already being collected on each home sale would go to water and land conservation. If passed, about $300 million a year would go to lands needed to recharge water resources. It could come at a critical time, according to Water Use Attorney Pete Dunbar.

"The competition for water is now materializing in almost every place in Florida," Dunbar said. "That's a competition between the urban needs for water supply, the needs for agriculture to continue,"

Environmentalists are also unhappy with legislative efforts to protect springs.

In the end, lawmakers put a onetime $30 million appropriations into protecting springs, that's one tenth of what they originally started with.

Now, Dundar says, all eyes are on the 2015 legislature, which has already said water will be the top priority.

"So we'll see it addressed, I think with a great deal of significance."

But legislative promises that involve money are often hard to keep, which is why everyone is looking at what voters do on amendment one this November.

The state can sell up to $40 million in non-conservation lands, such as old prisons or schools, lawmakers are allowing the proceeds to purchase conservation lands.

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