This Article analyzes the attacks on a state constitutional conservation lands program since the election of a governor and state legislature opposed to environmental regulation in 2010 – a precursor to current happenings at the federal level under the Trump administration. Former Florida Governor Rick Scott and his administration have spent an average of over $40 million a year in taxpayer money to defend and, in most cases, pay judgments, in lawsuits challenging mandates of the Florida Constitution.
I examine this issue of ignoring or deliberately violating constitutional requirements through the lens of state constitutional provisions that protect natural resources, focusing on Florida and New York. Both states have explicit and specific protections for conservation and forest lands, which differ from constitutional provisions in other states that establish policies and delegate implementation authority to state legislatures. New York adopted its Forever Wild constitutional provision in 1894, and the text of that provision has remained intact, despite attempts to amend the provision or to pass legislation that would violate it.
In Florida, there are two constitutional provisions that protect conservation lands under the Florida Forever program. This program has widespread public support and, at its inception, had non-partisan political support as well, until Rick Scott was elected to be governor. During his tenure, there have been repeated attempts to sell or trade conservation lands protected under the Florida Constitution. Instead of spending taxpayer money to defend violations of these constitutional provisions, Florida state officials should uphold the oaths they made to “support, protect, and defend” the state constitution. Natural resource protections in the Florida and New York constitutions provide noteworthy guidance for other states to initiate constitutional amendments for similar protections. In addition, there should be personal repercussions for state officials who willfully violate these state constitutional commands and restitution of taxpayer money spent to defend unlawful behavior.
Recommended CitationRachel E. Deming, Protecting Natural Resources - Forever: The Obligations of State Officials to Uphold "Forever" Constitutional Provisions, 36 Pace Envtl. L. Rev. 202 (2019)
Available at: https://digitalcommons.pace.edu/pelr/vol36/iss2/1