With government land grabs sparking alarm across the country, private property owners in Florida are growing increasingly concerned about new state powers to buy up land for so-called conservation purposes.
It’s land that will be bought and paid for with taxpayer money.
Voters have themselves to thank. In November, nearly 75 percent of those who cast their ballot approved Amendment one formally known as the Florida Water and Land Legacy Amendment, which allows state officials to spend nearly $1 billion to buy and improve conservation easements, wildlife areas, wetlands, forests parks and other preservation areas. The money will come from dedicating 33 percent of net revenues gained from existing excise taxes on documents.
Now, environmental groups are lining up to dictate how the government should spend the money and it’s making private property owners squeamish.
“We don’t believe Amendment One funds should be used to fix leaky sewer pipes,” said Will Abberger, conservation finance director of the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit that helps communities raise money and develop plans for parks, playgrounds and other recreational purposes.
Abberger and other environmentalists say Amendment One money should be used to buy conservation lands and to fund water protection projects.
Florida residents have good reason to be concerned about what that could mean for their property rights, especially given what’s happened in the Western U.S. states. The government owns over 50 percent of the land there – and so poorly maintains it that brush fires, and illegal activity run amok.
Drug and human smuggling have become so rampant on government-owned land in Arizona, that officials have erected warning signs – paid for by taxpayers – of the dangers in the area, according to The Washington Times.
Neglected government land has also become a breeding ground for invasive plant and animal species, which only harm the environment.
Opponents worried about government land grabs say they do recognize Florida’s very real environmental needs.
Even though Florida is the fifth wettest state in the nation, experts say the Sushine State will suffer fresh water shortages in the near future, largely because of rainwater runoff and population growth. Central Florida is particularly at risk, and most experts agree there won’t be enough groundwater to sustain local population if quick action isn’t taken.
But property rights advocates believe the state can address such issues without taking away Floridians’ land or property rights. They say Amendment One should be used to restore failing conservation projects already on the books, instead of wasting the money buying more land.
Determined to see Amendment One funds spent efficiently, the Associated Industries of Florida’s H2O Coalition has developed a comprehensive plan that addresses five key priorities:
- Sustainability, to ensure an adequate water supply for residents, businesses and the environment.
- Funding, to make sure recurring state money is available for water supply projects
- Innovation, to support and fund innovative solutions including public-private partnerships
- Sound Science, to address quality water problems with the best science available
- Incentives, to motivate stakeholders to use the latest technological solutions
Property rights groups hope that Amendment One money will be used to restore existing and failing conservation projects rather than to acquire more land.
Concerned citizens are voicing their opinions about the loss of local control and freedom when the scale is tipped too far in the government’s favor. Many Floridians, meanwhile, are voicing their concerns on issues like “Agenda 21,” a multinational environmental plan-of-action approved by 172 countries including the United States.
Many Floridians are worried that Agenda 21 and its inherent land-acquisition component will affect state and local communities, at a painful cost to taxpayers.
The federal and state government already owns one-third of Florida’s land, according to PropertyPatriots.org. The more Uncle Sam takes from private citizens, the less taxable property there will be left, ultimately requiring state and local officials to raise sales and property taxes to make up for the inevitable revenue shortfall.
Today’s property rights hopes are on HB 7003, a water conservation bill filed in the Florida House and supported by the H2O Coalition and other property rights advocates.
“Florida’s water users are looking for comprehensive solutions that will grow our water supply, not merely grow the supply of state-owned lands,” said Brewster Bevis, the Associated Industries of Florida’s senior vice president of state and federal affairs.
“The House proposal relies on science-tested tools to promote sustainability and ensure the conservation of our natural resources.”
In other words, it’s not another take-what-you-can-get government land grab. It could be, at long last, as a step in the right direction for all of Florida, especially its environment.
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