I am so proud of Florida Conservation Voters Education Fund’s 2019 accomplishments. Day in and day out, our dedicated staff of seven, we are always at work engaging people in our democracy to protect our environment and healthy communities for everyone. Below are five ways FCVEF has made a difference this year.
ADVOCATING FULL FLORIDA FOREVER FUNDING
Florida’s springs are unparalleled. In March, we celebrated our springs at Florida Springsfest, where more than 7,000 other springs fans convened at Silver Springs State Park. We believe that protecting land is protecting water. To promote the importance of conservation funding to state lawmakers, we lead Springsfest attendees in writing postcards to their elected officials asking them to fully fund Florida Forever in the 2020 Legislative Session. Friends and families of all ages had a blast taking photos in our giant #LoveFlorida frame, demonstrating their favorite things to do in Florida parks and preserves.
Along with mobilizing Floridians to demand full Florida Forever funding, we’re taking our land and water conservation needs to the Capitol! In early December, we delivered a copy of our Gems Report to all 160 Florida Legislators. With help from the Florida Natural Areas Inventory and input from countless others in the conservation community, this Report artfully ties together science and policy to advocate for full Florida Forever funding. We break down the complexities of conservation – how projects are vetted, funded, and managed – and highlight both our successes (like state parks and preserves) and lands not-yet-conserved.
In November, we celebrated the fifth anniversary of the passage of the Water and Land Conservation Amendment (Amendment 1). FCVEF gathered with key conservation partners at the Capitol for a celebratory press conference. We were joined by 1000 Friends of Florida, Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, Conservation Florida, The Trust for Public Land, and Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.
ADDRESSING SEA LEVEL RISE
One of FCVEF’s priorities this year was to spread grassroots awareness about sea level rise. In January 2019, we partnered with Miami artist, Xavier Cortada, and South Florida communities to inspire advocacy through art. Together, we painted elevation marker yard signs that residents could display in their neighborhoods. The yard signs are numbered 4 to 17 feet (based on FIU Eyes on the Rise data) show how many feet of melted glacial water must rise before that particular property is underwater.
Art is a great way to begin conversations in the community. FCVEF participated in an Artful Activism Workshop at the This is Zero Hour Youth Climate Summit in Miami. With the help of our volunteers, we facilitated one-on-one discussions about sea level rise and led participants in an elevation marker painting activity.
With fewer than 11 years left to take action and reverse our current course, art might be one of the best tools we have to inspire people to action. Together with artist Adam Kuby and Micro Galleries, we showed the international community the real threats that sea level rise poses in our corner of the planet. Micro Galleries has enlisted artists and communities from around the world to create public works that communicate unique, regional Climate Disruptions. South Florida highlighted our climate disruption through the open installation, “Sea Level Rise 2080.” We are in a climate crisis, but by harnessing the power of art, we can demand climate action.
CONNECTING WITH COMMUNITIES
In September, both Olivia Nedd (South Florida Lead Organizer) and Lindsay Cross (Government Relations Director) spoke at two events of the Green Encuentro Environmental Symposium. We talked about seal level rise, community connections, and energy policy. By joining together with engineers, planners, lawyers, activists, scientists, oceanographers, sustainability professionals, and organizers, we take a multi-disciplinary look at the problems ahead and build a strong network as we come up with solutions.
FCVEF thinks globally and acts locally. Along with millions of people around the world, FCVEF took part in the Youth Climate Strike at events in Washington, D.C., Tallahassee, St. Petersburg, and West Palm Beach. Students protested and even walked out of class to demonstrate and demand action for our climate crisis.
Locally, we partnered with Our Better Places and Virginia Key Outdoor Center to host a Beach Clean Up. By demanding that local lawmakers take action against plastic waste in our communities, individuals can make a positive impact on protecting our environment from plastic waste.
To connect with fellow Florida-lovers and share our collective appreciation for our natural places, we launched the Love Letters to Florida campaign. Our members wrote hundreds of letters recognizing their favorite places that make our state home. These love letters connect us as nature lovers and Conservation Voters. Shared online and through email, we spread that love to others in our community. In the Capitol, we want legislators and other decision-makers to know why Florida’s wild places are worth saving.
BRINGING CLEAN BUSES TO FLORIDA SCHOOLS
Addressing the climate crisis requires 1) reducing carbon emissions and 2) making our communities more resilient. We need both, and in deciding on our policy priorities must ensure that we are working together with communities of color, low-income communities, working families, and other impacted communities. This year brought an incredible victory for the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign, not only in Florida but throughout the country. Our LCV CHISPA and Clean Energy For All partners organizers helped bring more electric school buses to our communities and school districts. In Florida, thanks to supporters like you, we are one step closer to bringing more clean electric buses here.
It all started in 2015, when Volkswagen cheated on its emission testing equipment in millions of vehicles sold around the country. From that came a huge settlement, with $166 million coming to Florida. Like our partners at LCV CHISPA, FCVEF saw this as our chance to give our kids the bus and air quality upgrades they deserve. Thanks to our many Conservation Voters like you, we made sure the Florida Department of Environmental Protection answered to the will of the public who sent in over 1,000 comments demanding clean, electric buses. Fast forward to today, and DEP has made plans to allocate more than 70% of the funds to upgrading dirty diesel buses. Working with DEP as they build this inaugural bus program, we engaged with school districts and helped provide the information needed to make this program a success. This outreach included mobilizing Conservation Voters like you to send their school district staff a message: we want clean, electric buses. As we see this program develop, we expect to continue providing information and support. On the ground, we are working directly with concerned parents and community members by holding local events.
Our last event of the year, we held our Picnic in the Park to provide information and tools for addressing clean air issues in our state and the Hialeah community. Hialeah is the sixth-largest city in the State of Florida. It is a beautiful reflection of how diversity and multicultural communities make South Florida a wonderful place to live, work, and play. With free food and games, we engaged concerned parents and aim to continue supporting their efforts to push for electric school buses in their areas.
SAYING NO ROADS TO RUIN
In the 2019 Legislative Session, the Florida Legislature fast-tracked three major new toll roads that will destroy large swaths of Florida’s last remaining rural lands, pollute waterways, and threaten endangered wildlife. We opposed the bill from the start, and since its passage, we have allied with the conservation community to speak up against these Roads to Ruin. We’re proud to be working with our partners and allies to defeat these terrible toll roads.
The Northern Turnpike, Suncoast Connector, and Southwest-Central Connector all threaten our way of life, and everyday Floridians know that. Along with attending public meetings, speaking with media, and sharing messages on social media, we built a portal for the public to submit comments directly to the Toll Road Task Forces. With one click, you can share your concerns for our water, health, and wildlife, and thanks to Conservation Voters like you, we’ve submitted thousands of comments so far. Looking into the new year, and those to come, we will continue to stand in stark opposition to the three Roads to Ruin. We hope you’ll join us.
Every day, I am amazed at what FCVEF can accomplish, all thanks to not only our staff but the vast network of Conservation Voters (like you!) who support us. Thank you all for your advocacy and your passion for our beautiful state. While our toughest battles are ahead, I am confident that because of your support, we make Florida better and better every day.