Vote yes to forever protect Florida's environment

June 15, 2014 

Roseatte spoonbills need a healthy environment to thrive.

SOUTH FLORIDA WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT

I am not a liberal, just a Florida cracker. That is why I am voting for Amendment 1, the Water and Land Conservation Amendment, on the state ballot in November.

I support Amendment 1 because without raising new taxes, it will enhance sources of drinking water, manage fish and wildlife habitats, add and restore lands, protect beaches and shores and maintain state and local parks.

Amendment 1 requires that one-third of documentary-stamp revenues, generated from house and land sales, be used exclusively over the next 20 years for these purposes. Think of protecting the St. John's River from more algae blooms or our springs from choking further. Think of the Indian River Lagoon or Everglades restoration.

Supporting Amendment 1 falls squarely in line with my belief that conservation is all about conservative values and ideas. Conservation is, by definition conservative. Republicans have a long tradition of it, nationally and in Florida.

Teddy Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush were leaders. In Florida, Gov. Bob Martinez created Preservation 2000. Gov. Jeb Bush created a similar effort, Florida Forever. In Jacksonville, Mayor John Delaney led the way in local conservation, creating a legacy that will continue for generations. All Republicans, like me.

Amendment 1 is also about the practical reality that unless we take steps toward conservation ourselves, we cannot count on others -- including lawmakers -- to do it for us. Funding in this area has fallen off the cliff in recent years. Over the 20 years of the life of this amendment, Florida's population will grow to 30 million. We act now, or we act never.

Conservatives believe that government spending should be directed first toward the limited number of things that only government can do well. Securing a clean water supply and the conservation of lands falls in the wheelhouse of this definition.

Conservatives also believe that, whenever possible, government funding for these essential functions should not rely on higher taxes to get there. Conservatives believe that public spending should be tied to measurable returns on investment.

In the case of Amendment 1, if clean water and preserved lands for future generations isn't enough, consider the impact of these assets on Florida's No. 1 economy -- tourism. Fundamentally, only Hawaii and Alaska have their economy and environments as deeply tied together as we do in Florida.

On top of that, it's important to remember that every segment of Florida's economy depends on the natural beauty that draws people and businesses to our state. Without pristine waters and unspoiled landscapes, Florida will lose the special appeal that has fueled our growth and prosperity.

Amendment 1 fulfills these principles: It ensures that our state dedicates adequate dollars into the most essential of public goods -- protecting our waters and conserving our lands; it lives within our means by ensuring that taxes aren't raised to do so; and it provides an earnest return on investment for generations to come.

Many point to Theodore Roosevelt as the person who established the great American conservation movement. Indeed, Roosevelt led by example on this front, in part through the signing of the Antiquities Act, which has since been used to proclaim about a quarter of all areas composing the national park system.

Ronald Reagan carried on in this tradition, both as governor of California and our nation's president.

"In our own time, the nearly universal appreciation of these preserved landscapes, restored waters and cleaner air through outdoor recreation is a modern expression of our freedom and leisure to enjoy the wonderful life that generations past have built for us," President Reagan said.

If the people of Florida approve Amendment 1, we will together have secured our common interest in the most clear and direct way. And to this old Florida cracker, there's nothing as conservative as that.

J. Allison DeFoor is a former Monroe County judge and sheriff, former vice chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and a seventh-generation Floridian. He was Everglades czar under Gov. Jeb Bush and chairs the Vote Yes On Amendment 1 Campaign.

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