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What Is The Florida Iconic Species Amendment?

Courtesy FL5.org / John Moran

Conservationists have a five-amendment rights of nature ballot drive going on right now. This is the second in a series looking at each of the rights of nature amendments.

The Florida iconic species amendment intends to modify Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission oversight by giving enhanced rights to the Bald Eagle, the Bottlenose Dolphin, the Florida Black Bear, the Florida Panther, the Florida Scrub Jay, the Key Deer, the Manatee, Marine Turtles, the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, and the Right Whale. The ballot amendment, if passed by more than 60% of Florida voters in 2022 would give these Florida Iconic Species the legal right to exist, thrive and evolve. It also would enable Florida citizens to enforce these rights and protections against persons, governmental agencies, and corporate entities that intentionally or negligently harm a Florida Iconic Species.

Any Florida citizen would be able to bring an action in circuit court, in their own name or in the name of the affected Florida Iconic Species, to protect the iconic species from whatever will harm them and to help ensure their survival.

First, though, the amendment needs 900,000 people sign a petition to put the measure on the ballot by this November 30th.

Chuck O’Neal is the Chairman of the Florida Rights of Nature Network and he is chairman of the FL5.org Political Committee. He says the new classification of the species iconic to Florida is necessary to protect them from recreational and commercial hunting, and to protect their habitats. The ballot amendment would also provide a way for Florida citizens to add species to the list as needed.

"Now, some people may say, look, we already have the Endangered Species Act, but that has become a political football," O'Neal said.

He also notes how the politics of development impact these species.

"What we're saying here in this amendment is listen, it's important to have your sprawl, for you, but as Floridians we want to preserve at least these 10 species that are iconic to Florida and we are not willing to sacrifice them for your quarterly profit on your balance sheet," O'Neal said.

Tish O’Dell, community organizer with CELDF, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, worries the proposed ballot amendment might be too limiting--that all nature needs to be legally protected.

"We're trying to shift people's thinking, that everything in nature is interconnected. And humans are just one species," O'Dell says.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission did not respond to interview requests made via email before we recorded this segment.

To read the full text of the amendment, visit FL5.org.

Copyright 2021 WGCU. To see more, visit WGCU.

Valerie Vande Panne