BRADENTON -- Supporters of Amendment 1 rallied in Bradenton and seven other Florida cities Saturday morning to ask lawmakers to fund Florida Forever, Everglades restoration, and springs protection when they convene in special legislative session Monday.
Legislators have to return to Tallahassee because they failed to approve a budget in April.
Seventy-five percent of voters approved Amendment 1 when it appeared on the general election ballot in November. The amendment mandates the acquisition and restoration of Florida conservation and recreation lands.
Protestors started the rally chanting: "Finish the job, the people have spoken," and "Fully fund Florida Forever."
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Environmentalists should be celebrating, but are not,
said Mary Hrenda, a volunteer with Florida's Water and Land Legacy.
"The Legislature does not believe they should listen to the voters. They listen to their sugar daddies," Hrenda said.
Undeveloped Terra Ceia land is an example of sensitive environmental lands that could be saved from development if Amendment 1 were funded, Hrenda said.
The money could also be used to buy development rights on farms and ranches, ensuring the land continues to be used for agriculture and is not developed, Hrenda said.
Environmental activist Jono Miller's bumper sticker was popular with the crowd of about 100 on the grounds of the Manatee County Courthouse.
"Don't mess with My Akka," the bumper sticker read, a reference to concerns public preserves could also eventually be used for cell phone towers, hunting and cattle grazing.
"We have to work on this program. We have to get it passed," Miller said.
Lifelong Manatee County resident Nick Baden said Amendment 1 supporters should call their state legislators and county commissioners Monday.
"We are going to make them talk about it. Our county commission has been AWOL on this," Baden said.
Andy Mele of the Sierra Club of Manatee and Sarasota counties warned the Legislature wants to use money that should go to environmental land conservation for other uses.
"It's about shifting money to the rich," Mele said.
Dennis Kowal of Sarasota drove to Bradenton to attend the rally.
"Once the environment is gone, it's gone forever," Kowal said.
James A. Jones Jr., Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1.