CONSERVATION LAND FIGHT WILL CONTINUE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS ARE DIRECTIVES, NOT SIMPLY REQUESTS
Tallahassee – Today the 1st District Court of Appeals rejected Judge Charles Dodson’s “only new land” interpretation from his June 2018 ruling, and sent the case back to the trial court to consider whether Land Acquisition Trust Fund money has been spent unconstitutionally.
The litigants, including Florida Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, St. Johns Riverkeeper, and Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, represented by Earthjustice and David Guest, have been arguing in court since 2015 that the 2014 constitutional amendment – the Florida Water and Land Legacy Act – dedicated Land Acquisition Trust Funds to be spent only for conservation purposes on conservation lands.
“The appeals court did not even suggest that Amendment One established an all-purpose environmental slush fund as argued by the state. Instead, it held only that expenditures were not restricted to acquiring new conservation lands, and remanded for trial on whether the funds had been unconstitutionally expended” stated attorney David Guest.
“By punting the case back to Judge Dodson, the Appeals Court today let the Legislature continue to ignore the will of Florida voters,” said Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director Frank Jackalone. “Last year the Legislature appropriated only $33 million for buying new conservation lands out of more than $900 million that was available from state revenues set aside by Amendment One five years ago.”
“As the issue now moves back to the trial court, it is our intent to show that Constitutional amendments are directives, not simply requests the Legislature may ignore. Floridians overwhelmingly voted to protect what makes our state special and sustainable” said Preston Robertson, President, Florida Wildlife Federation.
Lisa Rinaman, St. Johns Riverkeeper made clear the path forward for the litigant group: “This narrow holding from the court of appeals puts us back where we were before our trial court hearing, but it does not rule on the fundamentals of conservation spending. Florida needs this funding now more than ever, and we will continue to fight for it.”
DCA Order: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Mx3jlZsdx3uJE4oRLjd8OFlUsxKMeJu/view?usp=sharing ###