I write under the shade of a silver palm, a Florida native and personal favorite of mine. It’s early. 7:15 am – to be exact. The snakebirds have yet to begin basking, the turtles are still submerged, and the bobcat two lots over, has yet to rise from her hideaway.

The stillness of the morning offers a beautiful time for reflection. The overcast at this hour is notable. The contrast between the Florida Pine’s needles and its’ bark is striking. The native wildflowers to my right are glowing intensely, and in the distance, the dynamic fractals of the cabbage palm are hard to ignore against the slow moving canal.

My backyard observations serve as a conduit to reminisce on Florida’s natural beauty.

Wekiva Springs. The Suwanee River. The Charlotte Harbor. The Indian River Lagoon. The Florida Caverns. Amelia Island. Lovers Key. The Everglades. These are only a few that come to mind during my meditation.

Yet on this morning, and many others before, I resonate deeply on how we must protect the beauty of Florida, before that option no longer stands.

Enter ‘IDEAS for Florida’ – a statewide initiative to educate Florida citizens about the need to protect our natural resources and support statewide conservation programs – programs that the FWLL Amendment will enact.

For the past two months, IDEAS for Us utilized our statewide grassroots movement to raise awareness and take action on some of Florida’s most pressing and current environmental issues.

From Central Florida to Miami, IDEAS chapters across the state hosted action events, in partnership with the Florida Wildlife Federation, organizers of the FWLL Campaign, The Sierra Club and Environment Florida, to educate local communities on the importance of the FWLL amendment and the value of the precious resources Floridians are rapidly losing.

Action events included, a tree planting at the Pelican Harbor Marina in Miami; an Aquatic Planting Day in Orlando; and hosting the Citizen Clean Water Summit in partnership with The Sierra Club.

Additionally, two ‘Hive’ events in Orlando brought out speakers from the Central Florida community. Speakers included: Macy Zander from the Sierra Club; Chuck O’Neil, member of the League of Women Voters & Chair of the Natural Resource Committee; and hydro-geologist, Todd Kincaid, to speak on scientific research of nutrient flows and water levels.

Both ‘Hive’ events served as a springboard for the action events in Central Florida.

Looking at the numbers, ‘IDEAS for Florida’ spurred the planting of over 250 native plants and trees to Florida’s ecosystems, removed over 80 pounds of waste from local waterways, collected over 200 signatures for the FWLL petition, and engaged hundreds of Florida residents in environmental action, heightening their awareness to environmental issues across the state.

For those unfamiliar, the FWLL Campaign was designed to inform Floridians about the constitutional amendment that requires the Florida Legislature to keep its paws out of trust funds meant for environmental and parks programs — guaranteeing at the least, that one-third of the revenues from the existing excise tax on documents during the sale of property goes toward designated environmental programs.

In order to place this constitutional amendment on the November 2014 ballot, 683,149 signatures were to be collected from registered voters in the state of Florida by November 30, 2013. Presently, the FWLL Campaign reported that they have collected over 850,000 voter signatures. With the campaign formally ending on December 2nd, 2013, the Florida Water & Land Legacy Coalition hopes to collect over 910,000 voter signatures.

Although the FWLL campaign has ended, let’s not forget the beauty in our own backyards. There are endless opportunities to play a role in protecting Florida’s natural areas and waterways. Whether it’s voting for the FWLL Amendment in November, hosting a local clean up, or simply brushing up on Florida’s ecology -we all have the ability to be the difference.

IDEAS for Us thanks the FWLL Campaign, the Florida Wildlife Federation, The Sierra Club, and community members for their support throughout this initiative.

We look forward to sustaining ‘IDEAS for Florida’ for future educational opportunities regarding conservation efforts in Florida.

Samantha Ruiz
IDEAS for Us