Dear Editor,

In 1999 the citizens of Florida voted overwhelmingly to adopt Florida Forever and ensure funding for the purchase of public lands, with revenue from the sale of real estate doc stamps as the source of funding. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection was tasked with distributing the funds collected to state agencies and programs to purchase parks, trails, forests, wildlife management areas and more. All of these lands are held in trust for the residents of Florida.

Under Florida Forever and Preservation 2000, its predecessor, the state has purchased 2.5 million acres of environmentally sensitive land, including uplands, floodplains and fragile coastlines, protecting them forever from development.

Unfortunately, Florida Forever, first approved in 1999 with the anticipation of raising $300 million a year for land acquisition, hasn't been fully funded since the 2008 legislative session. In 2009, after the recession devastated the real estate market, legislators did not deposit any money into the fund. Since 2008, the program has seen a 97-percent drop in funding.

Funding Florida Forever at the $300 million amount should be a no-brainer. Land is a finite resource. Once it is developed it is forever lost to generations of future Floridians, with one less park to play in, or one less scrub habitat protecting endangered plants. Last year we lost millions of acres of trees to a natural disaster. We don’t need to lose any more of our wild spaces to deliberate, manmade destruction.

In May the Florida legislature allocated $33 million for Florida Forever, woefully short of the $300 million originally promised when Amendment 1 passed with a 75% majority. It’s better than nothing, but now is the time to contact our state legislators to demand that the $33 million be spent on land acquisition next year, and lobby for full funding in 2021.

Lynda White

Port St. Joe

Member, Gulf County Democratic Executive Committee