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Bob Graham: Lawmakers Ignoring 'Will Of The People' On Florida Forever Funding

Former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham.
The Knight Foundation
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The Florida Legislature has voted to eliminate funding for Florida Forever, the state's primary land-conservation program.

The only part of Florida Forever that is receiving any money this coming year is $10 million dollars for ranchers to not develop their land.  Since 2001, the state has spent nearly $3 billion to buy more than 700,000 acres of land.

This move disregarded Amendment 1 to the Florida Constitution, which passed in 2014 with more than 75 percent of the vote. That mandated the state use one-third of the money collected from real estate transactions to preserve sensitive lands. This year, that would have provided more than $740 million.

Lawmakers said that money instead will be used for managing land and for water projects.

Several environmental groups have sued the state to compel them to follow Amendment 1 and continue purchasing land.

One of the main backers of the Florida Forever - and its predecessor, Preservation 2000 - was former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham. He said state lawmakers are ignoring the will of the people.

"I have even gone so far as to suggest that maybe the first three words of the state Constitution should be reconsidered," Graham said, "and those are We The People. Because it appears as if the people's will is not being given much weight.

"I hope that there will be a public outcry on this, and that the result of that will be that the Legislature will reform itself," Graham said, "and beginning next year will give proper recognition to the will of the people - which is to save the natural Florida."

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Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.