Manatee County Conservation

Photo by Grant Jefferies Photograpy

Saving Special Places • Building Better Communities

Manatee County Voters Overwhelmingly Support Vote for Waters and Land

​1000 Friends of Florida urged voters in Manatee County to vote FOR the Vote for Water and Land in November 2020.  We are pleased to report that Manatee County’s bond referendum for land acquisition was supported by 71% of the voters.  The average homeowner will pay $29 a year, ensuring an estimated $5 million annually to protect conservation lands.   It’s important to start acquisition now as these lands will become increasingly costly as development pressure in the county intensifies.  This visionary measure will preserve land, water and wildlife for generations to come.  This proposal will protect Manatee County’s drinking water sources, prevent polluted stormwater runoff from flowing into bays, rivers, and creeks, provide natural floodwater storage and preserve the county’s quality of life.  There are strict accountability provisions to ensure funds are properly spent.

Thank you for voting YES to protect Manatee County’s waters and land!

Find out more at Manatee County website
See the Bradenton Herald article on the passage of the referendum

Brown Stork

Photo by Grant Jefferies Photography

Statement from 1000 Friends of Florida

September 29, 2020

Florida’s leading nonprofit advocate of sustainable development, 1000 Friends of Florida, urges voters in Manatee County to vote FOR the Manatee County Bond Referendum, Water Quality Protection, Fish and Wildlife Habitat Preservation and Parks, a visionary measure on the November ballot to preserve land, water and wildlife for generations to come.

The measure would levy a property tax in Manatee County of 15 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to acquire, improve and manage lands to protect drinking water sources, preserve fish and wildlife habitat, provide parks and prevent stormwater runoff from polluting waterways. These essential investments would save natural areas and wildlife habitat in the county before they are lost forever to development. With Manatee among the fastest growing counties in Florida, its natural lands disappearing and land prices steadily rising, there is no time to waste.

If the ballot measure is approved by voters, the county would also be authorized to issue up to $50 million in bonds to pay for land conservation. Those dollars would be eligible for matching funds from state, federal and private sources. In the past 10 years, every $1 spent by Manatee County on conservation has been matched by $2.23 from other sources, more than doubling the county’s investment.

This year the Florida Legislature and Governor tripled state funding for land conservation through Florida Forever. However, competition from Florida communities for those dollars is fierce. Local governments that can contribute their own funds to land conservation are in the best position to qualify for matching state funds. They also have the resources themselves to continue protecting land in years when legislators fail to fund Florida Forever. Recognizing this reality, communities across Florida have created and financed local land conservation programs through a variety of local funding sources, often backed by voters.  Since 1998, Florida voters have approved 97 land conservation ballot measures, according to the Trust for Public Land.

Under Manatee’s program, all funds raised would be strictly limited to uses spelled out in the ballot measure. Lands intended for conservation could only be purchased from willing sellers. A citizen oversight committee would review possible purchases, make recommendations to County Commissioners and monitor spending. The ballot measure also requires full disclosure of the program to the public through annual audits. Accountability would be paramount.

​1000 Friends’ enthusiastic support for Manatee’s ballot measure comes from our decades of promoting growth management and conservation throughout Florida.  If environmentally sensitive land in the county is protected from development, more growth will be directed toward areas with the infrastructure in place to support it.  This smarter approach will not only reduce the impact of development on fragile land, water and wildlife; it will also cushion the blow to taxpayers, who won’t get stuck with the cost of extending public services to remote areas.  Manatee County residents deserve policies that are environmentally and taxpayer friendly.

Manatee’s program would cost the average county homeowner $2.40 a month. That’s a very small price to pay to achieve a healthy balance between nature and development, and preserve the county’s natural beauty and quality of life for future generations. County residents will reap the benefits long after the current disruption and hardship related to the pandemic have passed. We urge voters to vote FOR the Manatee County Bond Referendum, Water Quality Protection, Fish and Wildlife Habitat Preservation and Parks. Please complete your vote by mail ballot and return.  Early voting begins October 19.  Election day is November 3.