LETTER: Ocoee: Beware of coyotes, bears

LETTER: Amendment 1 critical to our future

By: 
Oct. 23, 2014

Dear Editor:

This is to respectfully provide my opposition to your negative opinion of Amendment 1 and your advice to vote no.

Anyone who has witnessed the rampant destruction of natural ecosystems, destruction of valuable wetlands and pollution of our air and water in Florida will be aware of the need to reverse this quickly.

While I agree these problems should be the responsibility of Legislature rather than being placed in the constitution, we have seen an amazing lack of attention and agreement for a number of years. In this time, we have seen constant examples where politics trump the science involved in the solutions.

As a native Floridian, I have been horrified as I  watched the decline of our natural systems, both here and throughout the world. With degrees in biology, I also have learned the detailed damage being done, far beyond just a lake turning green or disruption of a simple connection of important wildlife area. Recent studies show a decline of wildlife population throughout the world, down 52% since 1970.

West Orange County has been hit hard over the years. Most viable upland natural areas were wiped out years ago for the citrus industry. Lake Apopka, which was famous for its sport fishing and bird populations, was killed by massive destruction of a 20,000-acre marsh that attracted hundreds and thousands of water fowl every winter, and pollution of the 30,000-acre lake that was wiped out of all the fish that supported the area.

We are now gearing up for an incredulous increase in population. A drive through the area of Horizon West will show thousands of new houses in construction, and every one of them will require clean water. Our aquifers are already low, our springs have declined flow, and all of our lakes are showing steady decline.

We have also benefited from the funding programs offered by Florida Forever and Preservation 2000 programs, which were supported by the 33% of doc stamp taxes, until the funds were diverted to “other things.” The Oakland Nature Preserve has become a beautiful restored upland and wetland that educates thousands of people about natural systems. 

This unusual project was acquired, developed, restored and operated by volunteers. Funds used to purchase the initial land acquisition were provided by the Trust for Public Lands, which was also supported in the past by the same fund we are trying to protect on a permanent basis. In this period of “digital dependence,” it is very important to educate people about the natural world. At ONP, we frequently find people, not just small children, who are terrified to get off the pavement, because they have never experienced nature in education programs. These are the voters of the future.

 It took many of us a lot of time to get Amendment 1 on the ballot, collecting more than 1 million signatures from registered voters. One of the problems we have encountered has been lack of knowledge about the amendment. I urge everyone who cares about the quality of life for the future to reach out to as many people as possible to promote this project.

Jim Thomas

West Orange