The recent election spurred a lot of talk about red waves and blue waves, but a perhaps unnoticed wave that swept the polls in Florida this November was bright green. Once again, Floridians — red, blue and independent — voted for conservation.
Voters in Polk, Brevard, Indian River, Alachua, Pasco and Nassau counties turned out during a surprise November hurricane to cast a vote for wild Florida. These counties join Collier, Volusia and Manatee in passing recent measures that support natural resource protection.
Why do Florida voters elect to pay for conservation? The reasons are as varied as the personalities of Florida’s voters, but the fact is the majority of Floridians support conservation. And we vote for it every time.
Floridians don’t always agree, but we do find common ground in the land and water we share. It’s a great love of place. It’s part of our ethos, our Floridian ethic, our heritage and our legacy.
Conservation ballot measures at the county level provide a steady, reliable source of funding to protect land that provides essential services to our local communities. Freshly grown food, breathable air, fishable lakes and swimmable beaches are no longer guaranteed. We must be good stewards of our land and water today, and Floridians get that.
When we vote to save natural and agricultural lands that make our counties unique, we are saying, together, that this is what matters to us. We’re also taking some control over where, when and how future growth will occur in our hometowns.
I firmly believe Florida is the best place to live, work, visit, explore and more. I want to live here, raise a family here and will continue to be a champion for our state’s prosperity. It’s no surprise to me that others want to be here, too. But, as we grow, we have to keep a keen eye on what we save — and what we pave. Voters in six counties sang that sentiment in unison.
It’s hard to put a price on things like woods, water and wildlife until you start to lose them. That’s when their true value becomes crystal clear. For those of us who have lived here for a while, it hits you when you drive by the woods you’ve passed every day for decades and suddenly they’re gone. For newcomers, it’s the feeling you get the first time you visit a Florida spring and are taken aback by its beauty. Everyone has a reason to stand up and protect wild Florida.
While voting for conservation is part of a growing national trend, Floridians have a long history of supporting conservation measures. Thanks to the voters who passed measures this year, hundreds of millions of dollars will be allocated to conservation in those counties.
We’re moving in the right direction, but we have a lot of work to do, Florida. With your support and our continued shared values, we can have it all here in our beloved state. We can continue to grow our economy and population while also saving the special places that can never be replaced.
Those Floridians who put wild Florida at the top of their minds, hearts and voting decisions deserve our gratitude. By passing ballot measures in support of natural resource conservation, they are helping create a better future for all Floridians and sending a clear message to leaders. Save land, and now.
Are you on the fence about the value of protecting wild Florida? Join Conservation Florida at one of our upcoming outings and we’ll introduce you to 1,000 reasons to love and protect Florida’s natural and agricultural landscapes for future generations.
Are you all in and looking for ways to do more? Join Conservation Florida as we work to save our water, wildlife and wild places, and conserve the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
Traci Deen is a sixth-generation Floridian; she serves as president and CEO of Conservation Florida, a statewide land conservancy. For more information visit conservationfla.org.