Florida Voters Approve $260M for Conservation

Tallahassee, FL, 11/8/2006 Voters in three Florida counties approved conservation funding measures totaling $260 million on Tuesday, reflecting the national trend of at least three out of every four land conservation ballot measures winning approval at the ballot box.

Yesterday, voters in 23 states across the nation approved spending more than $5.7 billion to protect water quality, natural areas, parks and farmland, according to results released today by The Trust for Public Land, a national conservation organization. 127 state and local land conservation funding questions were on the ballot on November 7. Ninety-nine — or 78% — were approved. New Jersey was the leader, with 23 measures on the November 7 ballot, of which 15 – 65% – were approved. New Jersey provides matching state funds for local conservation.

“What we saw on Tuesday was the same thing we’ve seen across the United States both this year and for the past decade, and that is that people want to preserve land in their communities and they are willing to pay for it,” said Ernest Cook, Director of TPL’s Conservation Finance program, which helps local communities enact public funding measures.

The three Florida measures approved Tuesday were:

  • In Martin County, voters approved a ?-cent sales tax for clean water, wildlife habitat, and park acquisition and improvements by a margin of 55% to 45%. The measure will generate $60 million over five years. Martin County voters have approved four previous land conservation ballot measures, in 1988, 1989, 1996, and 1998.
  • Charlotte County voters approved by 55% a two-tenths (0.20) mill property tax increase to back $77 million in bond. The bond will help preserve the county’s remaining natural habitat from development.
  • Collier County voters approved extending the county’s highly successful conservation land acquisition program by an astounding 82%. The measure raises the current cap of $75 million in property tax revenue to $198 million. In 2002, Collier County voters overwhelmingly approved the original authorization for a one-quarter (0.25) mill property tax increase to finance bonds.

A fourth measure in Seminole County would have placed a two-tenth (0.2) of a mill property tax increase for ten years on the ballot to fund the acquisition of environmentally sensitive lands and trails. The measure was narrowly defeated (49% -Yes, 51% – No) Tuesday.

“Florida voters continue to show strong support for conserving land, both locally and statewide,” said Andy McLeod, interim director of TPL’s Florida Office. “The state has stepped up to the plate with the Florida Forever program, which provides matching dollars for many local acquisitions. It is heartening to see counties continue to create and expand programs that allow them to take advantage of those Florida Forever dollars.”

Earlier in 2006, voters in 50 communities nationwide approved 30 conservation finance ballot measures, a 60 percent approval rate. These measures generated over $301 million in new conservation funding. These measures continue a decade-old trend in which voters have taken it upon themselves to preserve their land at the ballot box. Since 1994, voters have approved more than 1,400 conservation measures, generating more than $37 billion in new public funds for conservation.

As in previous years, The Trust for Public Land’s Center for Conservation Finance is tracking all measures in the LandVoteTM database, www.landvote.org, the only comprehensive source for information about conservation finance ballot measures. Complete results are available now.

The Trust for Public Land conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. To date, TPL has helped protect more than 2.2 million acres nationwide, including more than 200,000 acres in Florida. Visit www.tpl.org/florida.