Jacksonville conservationists are urging Duval County lawmakers to use more Amendment 1 money to buy conservation land around the First Coast.
The pleas at Monday’s Duval Delegation meeting came amidst an ongoing court battle pitting environmentalists against state officials who say the money was spent correctly.
One environmental preservation group says it’s losing projects as a direct result of what it calls a misappropriation of state funds.
Three-fourths of Floridians voted for Amendment 1 last year. The constitutional mandate requires the state to spend a third of document-stamp tax money on conservation. But lawmakers earmarked some of the revenue for salaries, water treatment projects and management, which have separate funding sources already outlined.
Some lawmakers have argued the real percentage of people who support Amendment 1 is much lower because voter turnout was low when it was approved.
The Northeast Florida Land Trust’s Jim McCarthy says that doesn't make sense.
“If you take that argument to its logical extension, then none of our representatives or state senators or the governor should be in office because such a small percentage of the total population actually voted for them,” McCarthy says.
He says this year alone, the trust has used state funds and donations to buy, restore and manage thousands of acres of habitat.
“We’re about to close, as a matter of fact, on 2,551 acres of marshland in the Nassau River,” McCarthy says.
But he says that success was won despite receiving limited cash from Amendment 1. In fact, he says, lack of funds has caused more than a few land deals to fall through.
“We’ve lost six projects that we had on our radar that we were working with six owners of significant land in and around the Timicuan in particular that were willing to sell to us if we had the money,” McCarthy says.
A Leon County Judge is now mulling a lawsuit by a coalition of environmental groups who share McCarthy’s position on Amendment 1.
**Correction: A previous version of this story included an acreage number of 22,551. The real number is 2,551. Jim McCarthy misspoke during our interview.