They have had to do it again. Use legal action to make our lawmakers do their job.
Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times explains how Earth Justice, on behalf of environmental groups, is trying to make Tallahassee fulfill the people’s mandate of Amendment 1. Today the same groups who filed a petition in June, Florida Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, and the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida acted once more on behalf of Florida.
Michael Auslen’s article can be seen on-line here, or continue reading below.
But there is more at the bottom after this article, keep going.
Environmentalists ask judge to divert state surplus to Amendment 1 fund
Michael Auslen, Times Staff Writer
Friday, August 28, 2015 11:00am
Environmental groups are asking a Leon County judge to intervene in how the state will spend a large chunk of the $700 million in funds set aside by voters for conservation.
If granted, the injunction, filed Friday by environmental law group Earthjustice on behalf of three nonprofits, would force the state to put more than $200 million from the state budget surplus into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund. The state budget, passed by the Legislature in June, uses some of the money in the trust fund to fund existing projects like administration of the Department of Environmental Protection or firefighting by the Department of Agriculture.
Critics say this flies in the face of what three-quarters of voters demanded when they supported Amendment 1 on the ballot in November.
“We’re not saying that those things aren’t appropriate for funding,” said Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation. “We don’t think they’re appropriate for Amendment 1 funding.”
Environmentalists, including Fuller, want to see the $700 million from the trust fund in this year’s budget spent on land acquisition in the interest of conservation.
“We think theat the public spoke when they voted for the amendment. We think in these areas, the Legislature misapplied the funds,” he said.
But legislators argued in June that their spending falls in line with vague guidelines written into the constitutional amendment.
They did set aside some funds for land buys in the budget, but it falls far short of what environmental activists have asked for.
The same groups behind Friday’s injunction request — Earthjustice, Florida Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, and the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida — filed a lawsuit in June, asking a judge to determine how future trust fund money set aside by Amendment 1 can be spent.
If we look at this article (Saint Peters Blog) published today but by-lined Aug. 17, 2015, we can see precisely why these environmental groups must tie up our lawmakers’ actions in the courts, wasting money and time, in order to get our constitutional laws honored.
In essence, the South Florida Water Management District, the Commissioner of Agriculture, Rep. Matt Caldwell, and Speaker Steve Crisafulli are patting themselves on the back and rationalizing their lack of correct employment of Amendment 1 funds, as well as saying big AG is OK and needs no more restrictions.
State officials say Everglades water policy, BMP regime are working
By Ryan Ray
Aug 17, 2015
The South Florida Water Management District was joined by Republican elected officials Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and state Rep. Matt Caldwell this week in saying tighter restrictions on agriculture in the Everglades Agricultural Area are unnecessary because best management practices, or BMPs, are working.
Levels of harmful phosphorous — a product of agricultural runoff into the ecologically sensitive area — are down 79 percent according to recently released state data.
“For a milestone 20th year, water flowing from farmlands in the Everglades Agricultural Area achieved phosphorus reductions that significantly exceed those required by law,” read a Thursday release from the South Florida WMD.
“Over the program’s 20-year compliance history, the overall average annual reduction from the implementation of BMPs is 56 percent, more than twice the required amount.
“Two decades of successfully meeting and exceeding phosphorus reductions to improve Everglades water quality is a great accomplishment,” said Daniel O’Keefe, chairman of the district’s Governing Board. “South Florida’s agricultural communities are clearly demonstrating a long-term commitment to restoration efforts.”
Putnam, a key member of the state’s four-member Cabinet, said he heartily agrees.
“Farmers and ranchers throughout our state are looking toward science and data in order to protect Florida’s waterways and manage farms more efficiently, and today’s announcement shows that Best Management Practices are working,” said Putnam. “I thank the farmers and ranchers in the EAA for their continued commitment to being good stewards of the land.”
When Speaker Steve Crisafulli took the reins amid passage of Amendment 1, he declared 2015 would be a landmark year for water policy. Many considered it a failure when legislation aimed at tackling his signature issue died amid the 2015 regular session’s abrupt Sine Die adjournment. But Rep. Caldwell says the news this week is proof the Legislature’s approach is working.
“This historic level of reductions in phosphorus is proof positive that best management practices (BMPs) are working. It also highlights the need for BMPs to be part of any comprehensive water policy reform passed by the Florida Legislature,” said Caldwell via a statement. “Combined with the Second District Court of Appeal’s recent ruling that upheld BMPs, this has been a historic week for restoration efforts in the Florida Everglades. Florida’s farmers are making meaningful gains in water quality utilizing BMPs.”
“Under Speaker Crisafulli’s leadership, we will continue to make water policy reform a priority.”