Status of Santa Fe River Bill of Rights

savebore arrticle oreganizers In: Status of Santa Fe River Bill of Rights | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River
SAFEBOR founders Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, John Moran and David Moritz. Not shown are Mike Roth and Lucinda Merritt. Sun opinion editor Nathan Crabbe in foreground. Photo by Jim Tatum.

Despite this article’s slightly negative implications, we remain positive in thoughts regarding the  future of SAFEBOR in Alachua County.

This is because the Alachua County Charter Review Commission and the Board of Alachua County Commissioners are both peopled with members who are environmentally tuned to our water resources.

While it is true that we probably have a home rule/the-people-have-no-voice rule by now, it is the new norm that state authorities want all the power for themselves to sell to corporations.  This means that just about any counteraction environmentalists might take must be done by legal challenges.

A sad situation.

This should not be a deterrent for Commissioner Hutchinson unless he is footing the bill for the lawyer.  Legal challenges for fair and reasonable treatment of our rivers and springs which fail due to political reasons inevitably make statements for justice, decency and common sense.

Read the complete 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 © Jim Tatum

Santa Fe River advocates try new approach

By Cindy Swirko

Falling far short of getting enough signatures for a voter referendum, advocates of legal rights for the Santa Fe River are now on a different current toward their goal.

Santa Fe Bill of Rights — commonly called SAFEBOR — organizers want the Alachua County Commission and the county’s Charter Review Commission to act on creating a legal status for the river.

“This is clearly the next step. We knew from the get-go there was a likelihood we would have to resort to Plan B,” SAFEBOR organizer John Moran said.

Organizers needed about 18,100 petitions signed by registered voters to get the bill on a referendum. They got about 4,000.

The “bill of rights” would give county residents the legal standing to challenge projects that could degrade the river, such as phosphate mining or large-scale development, on behalf of the river.

Kristin for safebor In: Status of Santa Fe River Bill of Rights | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River
OSFR board member Kristin Rubin taking SAFEBOR petitons in Gainesville. With more time and petition gatherers the number would surely have been reached. Photo by Jim Tatum

Alachua County’s Charter Review Commission meets every 10 years to develop proposals to be decided by voters for changes to the governing framework.

Attorneys for both boards are not keen on a nature bill of rights, said County Commission Chairman Robert Hutchinson.

While a supporter of nature rights, Hutchinson said he was told by the county attorney’s office that such legal protections wouldn’t stand up in court.

“That is not to say there isn’t something that the County Commission or the charter commission can do,” Hutchinson said. “We’ve looked at expanded legal standing to sue. The problem is we could give them greater standing to sue the County Commission but not a water management district or the state or a private property.”

Legal rights for nature is a growing movement in law and in communities in Florida and elsewhere. But the Florida Legislature in its recent session put a clamp on that with a bill that blocks the rights. Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to approve it.

SAFEBOR advocates contend that if the county took action, it would likely be sued under the state’s new preemption law.

That would give proponents a test case on the right of the state to preempt local government home rule.



  1. What’s crazy is for corporations to be able to dictate what individuals and even entire communities can and cannot do to protect themselves from pollution!

    Rights of Nature is a movement dedicated to balancing the playing field when there are conflicts between what corporations want to do in the name of profit and what real (biological) people are allowed to do to protect their community’s and families’ health from the consequences of pollution.

  2. This “crazy” rights of nature concept is not new, in fact it is ancient. And we need to get back to it soon if we are to have any hope of reversing course on the ever expanding “nature for sale and destruction” philosophy embraced by the Florida legislature, among others. Just look to the new “Clean Water Act” that Governor DeSantis will be signing and touting this week to see how the legislators fail us. No curbs on agricultural pollution, nothing for the springs, and a ban on local governments’ ability to take matters into their own hands. “Clean Water” indeed!

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