Florida’s leading conservation organizations are joining forces to launch the Florida Water and Land Legacy Campaign — a constitutional amendment for the November 2014 ballot.
Former Gainesville mayor Pegeen Hanrahan is the acting campaign manager who is focused on fundraising.
The campaign raised $1.4 million, but is just halfway to reaching its fundraising goal in order to gather more signatures — according to Hanrahan that’s where its biggest challenge lies.
Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation, said the campaign now has close to 300,000 signatures.
In order for the amendment to be given a chance on the ballot, the campaign must collect 683,149 valid signatures, which is 8 percent of all registered voters who cast ballots in the last general election.
Hanrahan said the campaign enlisted the help of about 4,000 volunteers across the state to collect the signatures and distribute petitions.
In the last few months, the group has also been working with a paid signature-gathering firm to speed up the process.
If voted in, Fuller said, the amendment would provide a major infusion of funds for Florida’s state parks, wildlife management areas and forests, as well as urban and suburban conservation opportunities.
“(The amendment) would provide 20 years of funding for conservation, land acquisition and management across the state,” Fuller said.
If successful, it would be the largest conservation at the state level initiative in American history, he added.
He said they have had no formalized opposition against the campaign and have the support of more than 300 businesses.
Hanrahan said the Florida Water and Land Legacy Campaign is the most significant effort she has seen of different groups coming together to achieve a common goal.
“I think it’s because what defines Florida and why so many people want to live here is because of the quality of our environment,” she said.
The deadline for collected signatures is Nov. 30, though the official due date is Feb. 1, 2014.
Hanrahan hopes to reach their goal for signatures before the due date because of the holidays.
If the campaign succeeds in generating enough votes, it will be added onto the ballot and later voted on. It would require 60 percent of the vote, plus one vote to be passed.
If voted in, the amendment would generate $650 million varying per year, Fuller said.
The money would be taken from the existing documentary stamp tax which is paid when real estate is sold. It would equal one-third of real estate transfer fees, according to Fuller.
Hanrahan said a vote in favor of the Legacy Amendment doesn’t increase the tax, but just dedicates the funding to conservation.
She said the tax has been the historical funding source for protection of land and water in Florida. But since 2009, the conservation has not been funded.
Brasington’s Adventure Outfitters in Gainesville is a local hub for collecting signatures.
Floor salesman Jonathon Franklin said they collect petitions about every other day.
“There’s people that bring in a handful of papers and then there’s people that bring in two full packets,” Franklin said.
The petition can be found at Brasington’s at 2331 NW 13th Street or online at www.floridawaterlandlegacy.org.
“It’s the pristine beaches and the clear springs,” Hanrahan said. “It’s the forests and the wetlands and the trails that we get to hike on. It’s the fishing and the hunting — those are the things that people want to be in and want to visit. We have to do something good for our children and grandchildren.”