Letters to the Editor

Vote yes on Florida Amendment 1 on water, land conservation

It's time to get excited about Amendment 1, the Water and Land Conservation Amendment. It will carry on the tradition of Preservation 2000 and Florida Forever, the widely supported programs that used part of existing documentary stamp tax proceeds to purchase sites with superior environmental benefits that willing sellers offer to the state. It should enjoy universal support but complacency can cause defeat.

The way it has worked is that local governments apply and provide supporting evidence. The Department of Environmental Protection ranks the proposals according to specific criteria. A special committee visits each property to see for itself, and a public hearing is held locally so people can speak up. Finally, an acquisition list is made, and the state works from the top down, negotiating costs, considering the amount the local government will contribute -- until the money runs out.

A local example is Emerson Point. It wouldn't have been acquired without documentary stamp tax money. It lessens erosion and flooding, incubates marine life, provides habitat for wading birds and other denizens of wetlands, sustains us -- either directly (eat fish!) or indirectly via the web of life, allows compatible recreation, and prevents ill-placed development that could cost taxpayers dearly if a major storm strikes.

The problems are that this program expires soon, and legislators developed a taste for raiding its funds.

The remedy is a constitutional amendment continuing the program and requiring one third of the documentary stamp tax money be used solely for this.

It's an old tax. It's no money grab; in the past, conservation has sometimes gotten a bigger portion of available funds.

The amendment sunsets in 20 years. It's not a fixed dollar amount, but reflects the state's economy. Many fine projects are still available. Environmental lands attract tourism and raise nearby property values.

Vote "yes" on Amendment 1.

Arlene Flisik