Groups rally for Florida Forever

Local event, groups part of statewide push to secure full funding for state land conservation program.

Floridians Gather Across the State to Demand Land Conservation Funding 

Five years after the overwhelming passage of the Water and Land Conservation constitutional amendment, and after five long years of waiting for the legislature to abide by the will of the voters, a diverse group of Floridians came together for simultaneous events in Fort Myers, Gainesville, St. Augustine, and St. Petersburg to demand full funding for the Florida Forever land conservation program.  

At Prairie Pines Preserve in North Fort Myers, over two dozen representatives of over fourteen different organizations and businesses joined forces at a wild spot that has benefited from both Lee County Conservation 2020 and Florida Forever funding.   Liesa Priddy of JB Ranch stated: “If Governor DeSantis is serious about taking a positive stance on the environment, he and the Florida legislature must support the funding requested for Florida Forever and Rural and Family Lands Protection Program.  Land conservation is a bi-partisan issue.  I believe this is what the citizens of Florida want, and it is the responsibility of our elected officials to comply.” 

Other speakers included Ian Easterling, Co-Founder & CEO, Wild Heart Ecojourneys; Diana Umpierre, Sierra Club Everglades Restoration Organizing Representative and Chair of the International Dark-Sky Association Florida Chapter; Gladys Delgadillo, Conservancy of Southwest Florida; Rae Ann Wessel, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Natural Resources Policy Director; and Sarah Ashton, Vice President of “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society.

In St. Petersburg, Florida State House Representative Ben Diamondspoke to a crowd of 30 alongside Tim Martin, Sierra Club Florida Conservation Chair, Lindsay Cross, Government Relations Director for Florida Conservation Voters, and Haley Burger, Administrator of Florida Conservation Voters.

Rep. Ben Diamond: “One year is a blip on the radar. It’s not just this one budget, we need to make a sustained commitment to this effort. That was the idea behind the constitutional amendment that Floridians passed and supported wholeheartedly”  and “We’re projecting again to write a $90 billion plus budget. The money is there, this is just a debate about priorities, this should be at the top of the list.”

Gainesville City Hall was the scene for a gathering of two dozen activists, mermaids, and local electeds. Herman Younger, Sierra Club Organizing Representative said: “Floridians asked for this, Floridians overwhelmingly voted for this, Floridians elected you into office. We demand our voices be heard. If you refuse to listen to us and the needs of our land and water, we will elect someone else who will.”

Other speakers included Alachua County Commissioner Marihelen WheelerAnne Harvey, Acting Director of Conservation and Advocacy for Save the Manatee Club, and Ryan Smart, Executive Director of Florida Springs Council.

In St. Augustine, with the backdrop of the Matanzas RiverSt. Augustine Vice Mayor Leanna Freeman and St. Augustine’s Chief Resiliency Officer Mike Cullum joined Jane West, Policy and Planning Director for 1000 Friends of Florida, Jen Lomberk, the Matanzas Riverkeeper, Jim McCarthy, President of North Florida Land Trust, and a crowd of 35 members and supporters.

Jen Lomberk: “As Floridians our health, our economy, and our quality of life depend on clean water and one of the best ways to protect our water is to protect our land.” 

The Florida Forever Days of Action continued on December 14, at 12 pm at simultaneous events in:

Fort Walton Beach at Oakmonte Shopping Plaza, 800 Beal Pkwy NW, Wright, FL

Gulf Breeze at 1481 Ocean Breeze Lane, Gulf Breeze, FL 32563

Pensacola at Bruce Beach, 601 West Main Street, Pensacola, FL 32502

The Florida Forever Days of Action follow a letter signed by 123 organizations and businesses to Governor Ron DeSantis, Senate President Bill Galvano, House Speaker Jose Oliva, Senator Rob Bradley, and Representative Travis Cummings urging legislative action to restore annual full funding for the Florida Forever land conservation program. 

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