On the Ballot: Chapters Advocate for Local Land Conservation Initiatives

County land conservation programs are an important part of protecting Florida’s natural resources, and are often created by county commissions or through local ballot measures. Audubon’s chapters have been instrumental in several proposals under consideration soon.

Polk County

In November, Polk County voters will decide whether to rededicate 20 cents per $1,000 of taxable property to land acquisition. Such a tax existed in the county from 1994 through 2015 and formed a critical fund for conservation and restoration of 25,000 acres. The funding would complement existing sources of state funding, purchasing smaller parcels of land that are needed to protect special places for both wildlife and people. The re-upped source of conservation dollars could raise more than $8 million each year.

Pasco County

Also in November, Pasco County residents will decide whether to renew “Penny for Pasco” for another 15 years. Slated to end in 2024, “Penny for Pasco” adds an additional one percent sales tax to fund not only parks and park improvements, but also schools, public safety, roads, and more. Twenty percent of the nearly $2 billion estimated to be raised between 2025 and 2039 would go to parks and environmental lands.

Seminole County

Seminole Forever would mirror the successful state-level Florida Forever program, using $5 million from the county budget to fund land acquisition and improvement each year (the money would originate from a combination of the general fund, tourism fund, as well as bonds). Instead of a referendum, the county commissioners are looking to pass an ordinance at the end of September, giving the funds to an Acquisition, Recovery, and Management Committee to choose properties and disperse payments each year.

Thank you to the chapters — Seminole Audubon, Lake Region Audubon, and West Pasco Audubon — for their efforts on these issues!

Article first appeared in Audubon Florida's Fall Naturalist magazine.

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