OSFR enthusiastically supports this movement. Indeed, President Mike Roth and board member Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson are founding members of the small group in Gainesville Santa Fe River Bill of Rights (SAFEBOR.)
This movement shows great potential but we know it will meet strong resistance from greedy people who put money above all else and who are totally uncaring for the kind of world they will leave for future generations.
We are working for the day when our elected representatives begin to represent the people and not their own money-based interests.
Read the rest of the article here in the Gainesville Sun.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Don’t stop with SAFEBOR to protect Santa Fe
The Gainesville Sun editorial board
If corporations are now being treated like people under the law, why not rivers? Alachua County voters might be asking themselves that question when they head to the polls next fall. Environmental advocates are seeking to put an initiative called the Santa Fe River Bill of Rights, aka SAFEBOR, on the November 2020 ballot.
The charter amendment would recognize the legal rights of the Santa Fe River, its springs and tributaries, and the Floridan Aquifer within the county. Supporters argue that a new approach is needed to prevent environmental damage rather than just react to it.
Under the current system, “we have to wait until the river is polluted to do anything to defend it,” David Moritz, chairman of the SAFEBOR group, told a gathering of supporters last month at the Millhopper Branch Library in Gainesville.
Clearly something needs to change to better protect the Santa Fe. Groundwater pollution from agriculture, septic tanks and other sources, along with the excessive pumping of the aquifer that feeds the springs and river, have fueled algae blooms and other environmental problems.
With additional threats looming such as a water withdrawal permit sought by Seven Springs/Nestlé for water bottling, now is the time for action. But SAFEBOR supporters have several obstacles to overcome before any new protections become law.
First, they will have to collect more than 18,000 signatures by February in order to qualify the initiative for the ballot. If approved, Alachua County commissioners would thenbe responsible for passing the ordinances that define violations and corresponding penalties.
But if another effort to grant legal rights to a water body if any indication, that might not be the final word. In February, more than 60 percent of voters in a special election in Toledo, Ohio, passed an initiative to establish a bill of rights for Lake Erie. But the measure was subsequently challenged in a federal lawsuit, and an amendment was later passed in Ohio’s state budget that essentially invalidated the initiative.
With efforts like SAFEBOR also happening with other Florida waterways, one can imagine a similar scenario happening during the state legislative session here. Republicans in charge in Tallahassee have previously approved numerous measures preempting the ability of cities and counties to pass laws on a variety of issues.
No matter what happens, supporters of SAFEBOR deserve kudos for taking a creative approach to protecting the local environment. But natural features and threats aren’t bound by political borders, so these kinds of efforts need to extend beyond Alachua County….