A Big Win for Conservation – Judge Rules the State is Misusing Amendment 1 Funding

Jacksonville, Fla., June 15, 2018 – North Florida Land Trust and conservation agencies around the state are celebrating today after a Tallahassee judge issued a summary judgment in a lawsuit over the state’s use of 2014’s Amendment 1 funding. Circuit Judge Charles Dodson found the state was not using the funds as the voters intended. The summary judgment allows the conservation groups to win the case without going to trial.

“I have been talking to groups, legislators and frankly, anyone who will listen for the last three years about how this funding was being used improperly,” said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT. “It was meant to fund our state’s conservation programs, but instead went to pay for things like staff salaries at four different agencies, trucks, and insurance policies to protect employees in civil rights suits, which is not what the voters had in mind. I am thankful Judge Dodson ruled in favor of the voters’ intentions and in favor of the preservation of our state’s natural resources.”

The Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, Amendment 1 was approved by 75 percent of voters in 2014. It was promoted solely as a land protection amendment and was to dedicate 33 percent of net revenue from the existing excise tax on documents to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, which manages and restores natural systems and enhances public access and recreational use of conservation lands. It was supposed to be mandated funding for land conservation programs like Florida Forever, Florida Communities Trust and the Rural and Family Lands Program.

“Money from these programs could really benefit Northeast Florida and in particular some of our ranchers and farmers that are perfect candidates for the Rural and Family Lands program,” McCarthy added. “They could place conservation easements on their properties and continue to work the land while giving up development rights. It would help balance the cost of working lands for existing farmers and for young farmers who might want to get into the family business.”

The lawsuit was filed in Leon County in 2015 by David Guest, an attorney for the Sierra Club, Florida Wildlife Federation and a number of other conservation advocacy groups.

About North Florida Land Trust

North Florida Land Trust is a non-profit organization who serves as a champion of environmental protection primarily in Baker, Bradford, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam, St. Johns, Union and Volusia counties. NFLT was founded in 1999 and has protected thousands of acres of environmentally significant land including property at Big Talbot Island, the River Branch Preserve, Pumpkin Hill State Park, Moccasin Slough, along the St. Mary’s River and other valued natural areas predominantly in Northeast Florida. NFLT is funded largely by private and corporate contributions and works closely with private landowners and other public agencies at all levels of government, not-for-profit partners, and foundations.  For more information, visit www.nflt.org.