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Graham leads new Conservation Coalition seeking to revive state programs

by John Kennedy | November 30th, 2011

Former Florida Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham led a gathering of activists Wednesday calling for Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders to preserve the state’s water resources, while renewing its longstanding commitment to the environment.

“We need strong gubernatorial leadership to reverse the damage that’s been done,” Graham told a rally at the state Capitol.

Graham debuted Wednesday as leader of the Florida Conservation Coalition, which includes Audubon of Florida, 1000 Friends of Florida, the Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, Trust for Public Land and League of Women Voters. The coalition plans to lobby Scott and the Republican-led Legislature to restore funding to water quality programs, the Florida Forever land-buying program, and Everglades restoration, which supporters say have been staggered by budget cuts since 2007.

Graham was joined by state Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, Nathaniel Reed of 1000 Friends of Florida and representatives of environmental groups, which generally praised Scott’s environmental stance, but blasting legislative moves which reduced oversight and dollars for green programs.

Advocates derided the Legislature for approving a $210 million cut in water management district property taxes, which has led to wholescale staff layoffs and program reductions, the most profound occuring at the South Florida Water Management District. Graham said taxes were “reduced by the amount of two pizzas a year,” but that the cuts did wide-ranging harm to existing programs and services.

Environmentalists, though, withheld direct criticism of Scott, who campaigned for the reduction and embraced the  cuts. Instead, Graham, apparently buoyed by recent Scott comments which underscored the need for effective environmental policy and Everglades restoration, urged conservationists to “join Scott’s army.”

Graham also warned the coalition planned to hold lawmakers accountable for actions which hurt Florida’s environment.

“We want to alert the voters in 2012 who was responsible for what happened in 2011,” Graham said.

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3 Responses to “Graham leads new Conservation Coalition seeking to revive state programs”

  1. TMartin Says:

    The last thing this state needs is more taxpayer dollars going to purchase more land around the state. The government owns too much land, and frankly in tough times, should be selling this land to entities that can farm it and do something productive instead of just let it sit there and overgrow into unproductive land.

    Additionally, every time the government buys more land, taxpayers get nailed 3 times. WE have to buy the land, we have to pay the state to manage it, and the land now takes money out of local taxrolls.

    Its amazing how many groups want to use OTHER PEOPLES MONEY to further their own goals.

  2. Peggy Arvanitas Says:

    The elephant in the room this article has not even addressed? Jeb Bush. The doubling of US Sugar’s international operations into Florida was the first split from the spiritual and financially acute contract with the federal government for water quality. Jeb was the Governor and orchestrated this with the DEP Director.And at that point, no verification and review of pollution was ever in the contract or Castille’s DEP agreement with this company.

    We have never approached water quality from an ecosystem perspective. It has always been from a big billion dollar business acumen. God forbid Jeb Bush had to stare down Grover Norquist for breaking the tax pledge. And from my DEP Sunshine Law record request, he met with Grover in 2006! But au contraire to this anti-tax mentality, SOMEONE has to pay for pollution clean up on land, and pay their pro rated share of reservoir clean -up, as Lake Okeechobee has been the dumped in bath tub for decades.

    Businesses need to remember Micro Economics 101: negative externalities. That is when a cost is not apportioned to the business that created the burden. Most costs for businesses will never be absorbed voluntarily by local businesses, much less global ones. Mosaic, US Sugar and the Fanjul’s come to mind. If Florida residents wanted to take the same Grover anti tax mind set, we would demand Florida politicians REMOVE property taxes! Yes! Enough with your tax talk, someone has to pay for the ability to use Florida resources.

    The big scandal no one is grasping about the tear down of water basin boards, and the redirection of water management boards?? The reserve funds! We are approaching $500 MILLION in reserves, some of which ( as the basin boards) laws determined the per tax milleage apportionment from residential taxpayers’ properties.Where is the specific money from specific regions allocated for specific projects? This is illegal, in my opinion, and should be addressed by a consumer advocate group. God knows, past water management board Director Sonny Vergara and I had been the concerned citizens about this issue for the last four months.

  3. Jackson Says:

    TMartin does not understand that you must allow the land to lay fallow for it to recharge itself. This is land use 101. Return to school.

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