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Florida’s Green Wave

OPINION

BY TRACI DEEN, PRESIDENT + CEO OF CONSERVATION FLORIDA

The recent election spurred a lot of talk about red waves and blue waves, but a perhaps unnoticed wave that swept the polls in Florida this November was bright green. Once again, Floridians – red, blue, and independent – voted for conservation.

Voters in Polk, Brevard, Indian River, Alachua, Pasco, and Nassau counties turned out during a surprise November hurricane to cast a vote for wild Florida. These counties join Collier, Volusia, and Manatee in passing recent measures that support natural resource protection.

Why do Florida voters elect to pay for conservation? The reasons are as varied as the personalities of Florida’s voters, but the fact is the majority of Floridians support conservation. And we vote for it every time.

Floridians don’t always agree, but we do find common ground in the land and water we share. It’s a great love of place. It’s part of our ethos, our Floridian ethic, our heritage, and our legacy.

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Conservation ballot measures at the county level provide a steady, reliable source of funding to protect land that provides essential services to our local communities. Freshly grown food, breathable air, fishable lakes, and swimmable beaches are no longer guaranteed. We must be good stewards of our land and water today, and Floridians get that.

When we vote to save natural and agricultural lands that make our counties unique, we are saying, together, that this is what matters to us. We’re also taking some control over where, when, and how future growth will occur in our hometowns. 

I firmly believe that Florida is the best place to live, work, visit, explore, and more. I want to live here, raise a family here, and will continue to be a champion for our state’s prosperity. It’s no surprise to me that others want to be here, too. But, as we grow, we have to keep a keen eye on what we save, and what we pave. Voters in six counties sang that sentiment in unison.

It’s hard to put a price on things like woods, water, and wildlife until you start to lose them. That’s when their true value becomes crystal clear. For those of us who have lived here for a while, it hits you when you drive by the woods you’ve passed every day for decades and suddenly, they’re gone. For newcomers, it’s the feeling you get the first time you visit a Florida spring and are taken aback by its beauty. Everyone has a reason to stand up and protect wild Florida.

While voting for conservation is part of a growing national trend, Floridians have a long history of supporting conservation measures. Thanks to the voters who passed measures this year, hundreds of millions of dollars will be allocated to conservation in those counties.

We’re moving in the right direction, but we have a lot of work to do, Florida. With your support and our continued shared values, we can have it all here in our beloved state. We can continue to grow our economy and population while also saving the special places that can never be replaced.

Those Floridians who put wild Florida at the top of their minds, hearts, and voting decisions deserve our gratitude. By passing ballot measures in support of natural resource conservation, they are helping create a better future for all Floridians and sending a clear message to leaders: Save land, and now.

Are you on the fence about the value of protecting wild Florida? Join Conservation Florida at one of our upcoming outings and we’ll introduce you to 1,000 reasons to love and protect Florida’s natural and agricultural landscapes for future generations.

Are you all in and looking for ways to do more? Join Conservation Florida as we work to save our water, wildlife, wild places, and conserve the Florida Wildlife Corridor.

  • The Alachua County Surtax passed essentially by precincts within Gainesville. Reviewing precincts reports is not an easy task on the property appraiser website for individual ballot candidates or initiatives. But once one is there, it’s easy to run through by precinct number. A precinct map would also be helpful.

    With all that said, the voters of the City of Alachua voted against at both locations. Legacy Park was 60 to 40% against and CSI was 57 to 43% against. Essentially all precincts outside Gainesville voted against.

    Our conservation comes with a tag that says…thank you for also voting to spend funds on affordable housing. Any left over funds can be used to help repair roads around those affordable County and Cities government rental housing code controlled private properties.

  • Conservation lands (often unbuildable wetlands and buffers anyway) enhance the property values of adjacent development and homesteads — thus returning tax revenues that may have been lost. Protecting the groundwater supply is just as important. Soots good we are supportive of land conservation by and large.
    What’s bad though is focusing county sprawl along I-75 instead of the much more needed eastern county. The western county is where our aquifer recharge area is, and where clearing trees increases the nitrates in the water we drink. Trees absorb nitrogen from the air and the water, unless they’re clear cut to make room for ranchers first, then developments second.
    I-75 is reaching its maximum capacity as well. The state FDOT has learned to build rural toll roads — with less exits, less development — thru conservation areas. This prevents development from ever crowding along the toll roads. Thus saving wildlife and traffic capacity at the same time. Rather than more “freeways” with frequent exits, saturated development and traffic congestion — and lost wildlife, woods and water quality.
    Thankfully candidates who opposed rural toll roads lost their elections, such as Rodney Long and other Dems. It may be counterintuitive but rural toll roads help conservation, of land, air, water and wildlife. Instead of more (widened) freeways.

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