■ STAFF REPORT
On Tuesday, Jan. 14 at 2 p.m. everyone is invited to hear Christine Johnson, the president of the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, speak. The location will be the Boca Grande Community Center auditorium. A reception will follow the presentation in the Woman’s Club Room of the Community Center.
Since the 1960s Floridians have taxed themselves in order to save and have access to their important lands, forever.
Johnson will detail the history of our state’s premier land conservation program, as well as its current condition. More importantly, she will connect our economic prosperity to the program and our state’s natural environment.
“Since the 1960s, Floridians have taxed themselves in order to save and have access to their important lands forever,” Johnson said. “Economic prosperity is directly associated with the quality of our state’s natural environment.”
The Conservation Foundation has preserved almost 10,000 acres across 39 properties and protected forever 11,000 acres along the Gulf Coast from Manatee south to Collier County. Thirty more acres were added when The Quads, a buffer between the 440-acre Celery Fields bird preserve and contiguous light industry, were unanimously declared public lands by Sarasota’s County Commission. The Conservation Foundation will partner with the Audubon Society to establish native habitat, paths accessible to the handicapped, and a fund to maintain The Quads.
In 2014, 75 percent of Florida voters passed Florida Forever/Amendment 1 to save our most precious resource, our environment. Funded by tax revenue from real estate transfers, it is our nation’s leading land conservation program. This year alone it is expected to generate more than $906 million for land conservation and water protection, with $23 billion projected over the next 20 years.
Just how much money has actually been spent for the purposes intended by voters is unclear. When Rick Scott was governor, severe cuts were made to programs designed to protect the environment. Those cuts continued even after the passage of Amendment 1. Money from the fund was spent but not to conserve land and ensure water quality. Instead, it was used to pay usual business expenses not associatedwith the letter or spirit of Amendment 1.
Environmental groups took the state to court to challenge the constitutionality of the legislature’s behavior, but the case is in limbo.
Failure to implement the law could be costly. As time passes, less land will be available for conservation and will likely cost more than it would today.
Join us on Tuesday, Jan. 14 at 2 p.m. to find out what can be done.
Call the Boca Grande Historical Society at (941) 964-1600 for more information.