The environment is on your ballot. And no, we’re not just talking about FCV-endorsed candidates in state and local races. FCV is also supporting six local ballot measures in Collier, Manatee, Orange, and Volusia counties. Read about them below and help us educate voters in those counties about why they should support these good amendments.
In Collier County, voters have the opportunity to continue a popular and successful program for buying natural lands to protect our water quality and water resources, provide flood protection, and preserve valuable wildlife habitat. If approved, the measure would set aside an estimated $255 million over ten years to support the Conservation Collier program and safeguard our most environmentally important places forever.
A “Yes” vote will help protect water quality and water resources, provide flood protection, and preserve valuable wildlife habitat for species like the Florida panther. Collier county voters first approved Conservation Collier in 2002; more than 80 percent of the electorate voted to continue the program in 2006. Conservation Collier dollars have helped purchase properties like Gordon River Greenway, Marco Island’s Otter Mound Preserve, the Cocohatchee Creek Preserve, and Freedom Park. Learn more about this FCV-endorsed ballot measure.
This year, Volusia County voters have the opportunity to extend the Volusia Forever program, which is the oldest local land conservation program in Florida. Volusia County voters overwhelmingly approved the program in 2000, but it will end in 2021 unless voters once again decide to support it. Funding for Volusia Forever comes from property taxes at a rate of just $0.20 (twenty cents) for every $1,000 of taxable property value. Over the last twenty years the program allowed the county to purchase and improve more than 38,000 acres, including the Volusia Conservation Corridor, Lake George Forest and Wildlife Management Area, Deep Creek Preserve, and more.
A “Yes” vote will authorize Volusia county to continue this program for another twenty years. As this area of Florida grows, land acquisition and management is an investment in Volusia’s recreational opportunities, unique plant and wildlife species, and water protection. Volusia Forever has received national and state recognition for its “visionary leadership,” including awards from the Trust for Public Land, 1000 Friends of Florida, and the National Association of Counties. Learn more about this FCV-endorsed ballot measure.
Volusia ECHO Grant Program
Volusia County voters will also consider a second, separate opportunity to fund community investment. The Volusia ECHO (Environmental, Cultural, Historic, and Outdoor Recreation) program is funded through property taxes at just $0.20 (twenty cents) for every $1,000 of taxable property value. ECHO was first approved by voters in 2000 and is on the ballot for reauthorization in 2020. Since 2001, ECHO has provided grants for more than 240 projects in every region of Volusia County.
A “Yes” vote will allow continued investments in Volusia’s quality of life and sense of place. Attendance records show ECHO-funded projects are visited by more than 600,000 people every year. These projects include the Marine Discovery Park in New Smyrna Beach; the African American Museum and Barkley Square Dog Park in DeLand; Jackie Robinson Ballpark and Museum of Arts & Sciences in Daytona Beach; Volusia County’s Trails Program, and many more projects. Learn more about this FCV-endorsed ballot measure.
Orange County: Wekiva and Econlockhatchee Rivers Bill of Rights
In Orange County, voters will have a chance to approve the “Wekiva and Econlockhatchee Rivers Bill of Rights.” This citizen-driven amendment to the county charter would legally recognize the right of the rivers “to exist and to be protected against pollution,” and that all county residents “have a right to clean water.” Both the Wekiva and Econlockhatchee rivers are officially designated as “impaired,” and state law has failed to fix their pollution problems.
A “Yes” vote on the Wekiva and Econlockhatchee Rivers Bill of Rights charter amendment gives citizens and local governments legal footing to hold polluters accountable for damaging our water resources. When lawmakers fail to act, Rights of Nature measures like this can provide the needed protection because they provide legal standing in court and a way for concerned Floridians to fight back. Legally recognizing nature’s rights establishes a framework for laws that place human activities at the same level as nature’s laws and limitations. Ecosystems have the right to exist, flourish, and evolve naturally. Rights are stronger than regulations, offering the highest protection under the law. Learn more about this FCV-endorsed ballot measure.
Orange County: Save Split Oak Forest
Orange County voters have the unique opportunity to approve the perpetual protection of Split Oak Forest. This charter amendment, if passed, would restrict the Orange County Board of County Commissioners’ ability to amend, modify, or revoke the current conservation-focused restrictions and covenants running with the land. In other words, this charter amendment would permanently limit the use of Split Oak Forest to conservation and the protection of its wildlife, vegetation, and the environment as set forth in current agreements and restrictive covenants.
The Split Oak Forest Wildlife and Environmental Area was afforded a suite of protections when it was acquired with public funding for purposes of conservation. Ignoring those protections, the Central Florida Expressway Authority is moving forward a plan to build the Osceola Parkway Extension through Split Oak, directly impacting this 1,689-acre preserve. Allowing the destruction of protected conservation lands like Split Oak would establish a dangerous precedent for conservation lands throughout Florida. A “Yes” vote supports saving Split Oak Forest forever. Learn more about this FCV-endorsed ballot measure.
Manatee County: Vote for Water and Land
Manatee County voters will be considering a ballot measure entitled “Water Quality Protection, Fish And Wildlife Habitat Preservation, And Park Ad Valorem Tax And Bonds.” This measure would authorize up to $50 million in bonds to protect Manatee County’s last remaining natural areas and wildlife habitat before they are lost forever to development. Funds would be used to acquire, improve, and manage lands to protect water quality, prevent stormwater runoff, create parks, and preserve fish and wildlife habitat.
Manatee County is one of the fastest-growing counties in Florida, and it is one of the few counties in southwest Florida without dedicated funding for land conservation. If approved by voters, conservation monies could be used for projects similar to Robinson Preserve and Johnson Preserve on the Braden River. A “Yes” vote on this measure would support investments in Manatee County’s natural beauty now and for future generations. Learn more about this FCV-endorsed ballot measure.
Want to help gather support for these amendments? Volunteer with FCV! Help us educate Florida voters on why they should support these good amendments. Don’t forget to vote by mail, early vote, or vote in person!