Florida Just Voted to Use Real Estate Money to Preserve Fisheries

Floridians are calling it a 20-year environmental insurance policy. It’s a new amendment to the state constitution that passed overwhelmingly in the Sunshine state this week. That legislation—Amendment 1—dedicates 33 percent of net revenue from a 50-year old tax fund to conservation.

Florida’s Amendment 1 is estimated to increase state funding for water and land conservation by billions of dollars.

The news has the fishing industry buzzing.

“Great work, Florida voters! Amendment 1 passed with a 75% majority,” said a blast from the American Sportfishing Association’s Keep America Fishing foundation, “Thank you! You showed that anglers can make a difference at the polls.”

Though the amendment was opposed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, it passed by a vote of 3-1.

The approval of Florida Amendment 1 now opens up an avenue to restore funding to the state’s Florida Forever program, an initiative that purchases land earmarked for conservation and was once the largest conservation program in America. Florida Forever could receive around $500 million per year from the tax.

Since 2009, funding for Florida Forever was cut to just $20 million.

From an industry perspective, Florida is a crucial conservation battleground. The state supports more than 80,000 jobs in the fishing industry (14,000 in freshwater alone), in a $5 billion per year endeavor. The state is home to more than 2,000 miles of shoreline, 11,000 miles of waterways and the home of the International Game Fishing Hall of Fame.

In addition, the next four ICAST (International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades) shows are set to be hosted in Orlando.

You can read the full text of the Amendment, which lands in Section 28, Article X of the Florida Constitution below:

SECTION 28. Land Acquisition Trust Fund. —

a) Effective on July 1 of the year following passage of this amendment by the voters, and for a period of 20 years after that effective date, the Land Acquisition Trust Fund shall receive no less than 33 percent of net revenues derived from the existing excise tax on documents, as defined in the statutes in effect on January 1, 2012, as amended from time to time, or any successor or replacement tax, after the Department of Revenue first deducts a service charge to pay the costs of the collection and enforcement of the excise tax on documents.

b) Funds in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund shall be expended only for the following purposes:

1) As provided by law, to finance or refinance: the acquisition and improvement of land, water areas, and related property interests, including conservation easements, and resources for conservation lands including wetlands, forests, and fish and wildlife habitat; wildlife management areas; lands that protect water resources and drinking water sources, including lands protecting the water quality and quantity of rivers, lakes, streams, springsheds, and lands providing recharge for groundwater and aquifer systems; lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area and the Everglades Protection Area, as defined in Article II, Section 7(b); beaches and shores; outdoor recreation lands, including recreational trails, parks, and urban open space; rural landscapes; working farms and ranches; historic or geologic sites; together with management, restoration of natural systems, and the enhancement of public access or recreational enjoyment of conservation lands.
2) To pay the debt service on bonds issued pursuant to Article VII, Section 11(e).

c) The moneys deposited into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, as defined by the statutes in effect on January 1, 2012, shall not be or become commingled with the General Revenue Fund of the state.[4]