Ballot Initiatives Pose Threat to Wildlife Conservation in Florida

Contact: Mark Lance, Southeastern States Coordinator

Highlights

  • Environmentalists in Florida are pushing for the addition of 5 amendments to the Florida Constitution.
  • These potential amendments include, among others: prohibiting the hunting of certain “iconic” wildlife species and banning hunting preserves.
  • The petition to add these amendments to the 2022 ballot must receive 900,000 signatories by February 1, 2022.

Why it Matters: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has constitutional authority to manage Florida’s fish and wildlife. Two of the proposed constitutional amendments would supersede the FWC’s authority, undermine the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and threaten conservation funding for the FWC and its fish and wildlife conservation programs.

The five proposed amendments include:

  • A “right to clean water” which would create a cause of action for residents, nongovernmental organizations, and government entities against parties that contribute to waters not being “free for pollution.”
  • “Wetlands protection” which would prohibit the dredging, draining, filling, or “degradation” of wetlands. A violation would be punishable as a third-degree felony.
  • “Toll road expansion” which would prohibit the construction of tolls roads on “conservation lands” and “rural lands.”
  • “Iconic species protection” which would prohibit the hunting of species identified as “iconic.” Violations would be punishable as a third-degree felony, and a right of action would be created for citizens to enforce the prohibition against individuals, government agencies, and businesses that “intentionally or negligently harm a Florida Iconic Species.” Additionally, the amendment would create a petition mechanism with a low bar for other species to be deemed a “Florida Iconic Species.”
  • “Captive wildlife hunting ban” which would ban hunting in hunting preserves and prohibit the operation of hunting preserves.

Many of the “iconic species” listed in the proposed amendment, such as the Florida manatee and Florida panther, are already federally or state protected, and thus the inclusion of those species in the amendment is unnecessary. Moreover, the ability to petition for any native species to be added to the “Florida Iconic Species” list is particularly troubling and threatens Florida’s hunting heritage.

The proposed hunting preserve ban amendment also threatens the state’s hunting traditions and undermines the FWC’s management authority.

These two amendments are unclear at best and take management authority away from the FWC which has successfully managed the state’s fish and wildlife resources for generations. In 2020, sportsmen and women in Florida generated $69.31 million dollars for state-based conservation through the American System of Conservation Funding. If these two amendments are adopted, conservation funding for the FWC would be severely negatively impacted.

Last month, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) hosted the first of its Summer Educational Webinar Series on troublesome ballot initiatives that the sporting community has faced in the Western U.S. Similarly, CSF will work with the Florida sportsmen’s community to help educate voters about the negative consequences of the proposed amendments.

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Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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