Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida

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Amendment 1 and Blue Springs

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In the Gainesville Sun today Nathan Crabbe has comments on the legislators and their misuse of Amendment 1 funds. Our lawmakers continue to disregard the will of the people of Florida.  Read this at this link in the Sun, or continue here for a reprint.Scroll

 Editorial: Buying Blue Springs

Published: Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 24, 2015 at 10:21 p.m.

Blue Springs is one step closer to being a state park. Too bad state lawmakers pulled a fast one with the money that could have made it happen.

As The Sun reported last week, the state’s Acquisition and Restoration Council unanimously voted to add the popular swimming hole in Gilchrist County to the list of springs slated to be bought with Florida Forever funds.

There’s just one problem: Florida Forever had its funding slashed from around $300 million to next to nothing in recent years. State voters thought they were restoring that funding when a whopping 75 percent of them passed Amendment 1 in the fall.

Nathan Crabbe

Instead, the Legislature pulled the same shell game that it did with the Lottery. Just like they used Lottery funds as a substitute for general fund dollars rather than providing new money for education, lawmakers spent most of the Amendment 1 money on existing programs, salaries and items of dubious environmental value such as insurance premiums.

Of the $740 million allocated through the amendment in the state budget, $227.1 million was dedicated to existing agency operations, according to an analysis from the group that put Amendment 1 on the ballot. Just $15.1 million was set to be spent on Florida Forever, the state’s main land conservation program.

The analysis came before Gov. Rick Scott signed the budget and vetoed a record amount of line-item spending from it. In his veto message, Scott wrote that he was rejecting millions of dollars in projects so that more money could be spent next year on environmental programs such as Florida Forever.

Some environmental advocates aren’t waiting around hoping for that to happen. The environmental law firm Earthjustice filed a lawsuit Monday on behalf of the Florida Wildlife Federation and other groups, charging lawmakers with misappropriating Amendment 1 money.

operty such as Blue Springs could become a state park.

While the Legislature pulled a fast one this time around, legal action or the governor’s leadership may yet m

Either the legal action or the governor, if he decides to show real leadership on the issue next time around, open up the possibility that worthy conservation projects such as acquiring Blue Springs for state park may yet happen.

The springs and surrounding 405-acre property are located on the Santa Fe River near High Springs. The same family has owned the site since 1958, putting the property on the market in 2013.

State acquisition would mean ensuring the protection of one of the state’s premier springs in private ownership and environmentally significant land along the Santa Fe.

Blue Springs is a money-generating swimming hole and campsite, which should appeal to a state Department of Environmental Protection that is increasingly looking to make revenue off state parks.

Florida voters thought that passing Amendment 1 would help ensure a property such as Blue Springs could become a state park.

While the Legislature pulled a fast one this time around, legal action or the governor’s leadership may yet make it possible.

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