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Sustainable Society:  A society that balances the environment, other life forms, and human interactions over an indefinite time period.







Florida Sustainable Population Declaration

Declaration Approved at Annual Meeting of
Floridians For A Sustainable Population*

April 20, 1997


Florida's population has more than doubled in the past twenty-five years and is now almost fifteen million.  Its annual rate of growth is higher than that of India or China, and unlike those nations, Florida's growth shows little sign of slowing.  The state's population density is already three and a half times the U.S. average.

Florida's increasing numbers are seriously degrading the state's quality of life.  The state's natural environment is being eroded by its mushrooming population, leading to pollution, water shortages and consequent restrictions, saltwater encroachment on aquifers, and loss of natural habitat and wildlife.  Burgeoning population has also been a major contributor to soaring taxes and to social problems such as crime, overcrowding of schools and jails, urban sprawl with accompanying community disintegration, and increasing traffic congestion.

But the rise in Florida's population can be slowed and eventually stopped.  Currently, seventy-eight percent of the state's population growth is caused by domestic migration and foreign immigration (both legal and illegal).  While natural increase (births in excess of deaths) is not at present the major cause of Florida's mushrooming population, there are imperative humanitarian, social, and economic reasons to eliminate unwanted pregnancies, sharply reduce teen pregnancies, and bring the birth rate down to a replacement level.

Despite growing public concern over increasing population, Florida state laws and county ordinances have a pro-growth bias.  With state and county officials often bankrolled by political contributions from developers, this is hardly surprising.  The state and counties subsidize so-called desirable new industries with tax breaks and zoning concessions with the cost paid by other taxpayers.  The new jobs gained by these expensive tax rebates and other concessions are often taken by migrants, with consequent rising demand for public services.

Current efforts to manage growth in Florida are ludicrous.  Each county and some municipalities are required by state law to submit comprehensive plans for anticipated growth, regardless of whether such growth is desirable.  If the county plans already approved by the state under the Growth Management Act are carried out, Florida will be swamped with over 90 million people, more than the population of the entire United States at the beginning of this century.

To stop the tragic evolution of our state into an ecologically sterile, polluted, resource deficient, insufferably crowded and congested place with a badly degraded quality of life for its citizens, the 1997 annual meeting of Floridians for a Sustainable Population recommends the following actions:

A. To discourage migration to Florida without degrading the natural environment or the state's quality of life and without imposing an excessive financial burden on the state's existing population:

1. State legislation should be enacted appointing a commission including technically qualified demographers, natural resources experts, and economists with a tight deadline to determine a maximum desired population for Florida within its carrying capacity, defined as a population level that can be sustained by existing natural resources (land, water, unpolluted air) and existing or planned infrastructure (roads, water and sewer lines, schools, police) without degrading the natural environment or the state's quality of life and without creating an excessive financial burden on the existing population. Incentives for migration to Florida such as the homestead exemption and lack of a state income tax should also be considered by the commission.

2. State legislation should be enacted amending the Growth Management Act of 1985 to provide that counties and designated municipalities project their population levels and growth rates, if any, so as not to exceed the state's carrying capacity as determined above, and submit comprehensive plans and mandatory zoning regulations based on those determinations. The legislation should provide that these plans and zoning regulations, after approval by the state agency, can not be changed to allow a greater overall number of dwelling units or acres of commercial or industrial use within the jurisdiction.

3. State legislation should be enacted requiring that counties and municipalities, where approved plans permit new development, require that all costs of such development (including roads, water/sewer, schools, police/fire) be paid by impact fees imposed on developers. Impact fees should be higher for new construction that would expand the urban boundary than for infill construction.

4. State legislation similar to Vermont's Act 250 (recapture tax) should be enacted to heavily tax undeveloped rural land that is sold or purchased for development.

5. State legislation should be enacted requiring that counties and municipalities give tax incentives to undeveloped or restored land to which development rights are surrendered in perpetuity by deed and that follow a state-approved plan for wildlife conservation or other environmental purposes.

6. State legislation should be enacted requiring that counties and municipalities also give tax incentives to agricultural land when development rights for any non-agricultural use are surrendered in perpetuity.

7. State legislation permitting or mandating tax incentives to certain job-generating industries or other enterprises (e.g. through Enterprise Florida) should be repealed and counties and municipalities should be prohibited from granting any tax preference to new enterprises.

8. State legislation should be enacted establishing a state and regional quality of life index that will include not only economic indicators (employment, real per capita income, production) but also impact on resources (water, wetlands, wildlife, forests, beaches) and the availability and quality of services (transportation, education, recreation, security) as these factors apply to existing residents of the state.

9. State and local officials should oppose, and local referenda should avoid, tax hikes and extensions to fund projects that promote new land development.

B. To discourage foreign immigration to Florida:

10. Federal legislation should be enacted to restrict total immigration to the U.S. (including refugees and immediate relatives) to an annual level equal to the out-migration from the U.S. (currently estimated at 200,000).

11. Federal legislation should be enacted to discourage illegal immigration to the U.S. by implementing a photo-ID social security card required of all job applicants, toughening penalties on employers hiring illegal aliens, and providing sufficient funds and a mandate to the INS to tighten control of our borders.

12. The Federal Government should drastically increase funding for international population and family planning programs so as to pay a share consonant with our economic resources (about 25% of the world's gross domestic product) of the estimated $12 billion shortfall to provide family planning to the 500 million women in less developed countries who want and need it, but lack either information or means to obtain it. Such funding is essential not only for humanitarian and foreign economic assistance purposes, but also to decrease the eventual demand for legal and illegal immigration to the U.S. and Florida.

C. To encourage reduction of the birth rate to replacement level, including any excess of immigrants over emigrants.

13. Federal and State legislation should not prohibit family planning and birth control from being covered by any public or private insurance policy.

14. Federal, State and local governments should coordinate programs to prevent teen pregnancy and to educate teens on the economic, social, and health benefits of delayed child-bearing. Florida's health education standards should include abstinence advocacy and contraceptive counseling. Legislation should not prohibit provision of appropriate supplies.

15. Pro-natalist Federal and State policies should be eliminated from tax and welfare law where they exist, and new ones should not be adopted. (These would include per-child tax credits beyond two children or tax deductions other than those applicable to all dependents and payments for additional children conceived by [or born to] those on welfare.)

16. A Federal commission including demographers and experts on natural resources should be appointed to recommend an optimal population for the United States within its carrying capacity, defined as sustainable without degradation of the nation's natural resources or its quality of life. The commission could use the Rockefeller Commission report as basic reference, and should recommend how to achieve that optimal population level, taking into account both natural increase/decrease and immigration/emigration. The Congress should then consider, and, if reasonable, adopt and the President should sign implementing legislation.


D. To preserve and protect wildlife, the environment and natural resources while human population growth is being restrained:

17. State legislation should be enacted requiring that counties and municipalities in their comprehensive plans and zoning regulations cluster housing and businesses in new developments, with maximum use of greenbelts and green space preserved in perpetuity on the remainder of the tracts.

18. State legislation should be enacted providing funding for purchase of development rights to ecologically sensitive lands which would remain in private hands.

19. Present state programs for purchase of environmentally sensitive land (e.g. P-2000) should be continued with increased funding.

20. State legislation should set minimum standards for counties and municipalities requiring planting, grading and maintenance of water catchment basins already mandated for new development so as to increase their utilization by wildlife.

21. State and local governments should encourage utilization of alternative methods of transportation by constructing and requiring developers to construct bicycle paths and sidewalks, and should encourage greater frequency and use of public transportation (rapid transit, buses, and trolleys).

22. State legislation should protect coastal areas by establishing and enforcing mandatory setbacks along dune and other sensitive areas beyond which new building would not be permitted and beyond which existing buildings could not be rebuilt if destroyed by storms. Neither State nor Federal government should subsidize beach "renourishment" or flood insurance in coastal areas.

23. The U.S. Congress should spend funds already collected through the Land and Water Conservation Program for the designated purposes for which they were collected (i.e., the acquisition of national parks, wildlife refuges, etc.). Similarly, the Florida legislature should use P-2000 funds only for the acquisition and preservation of the environmentally sensitive lands that were intended by that program.
Used with permission of Floridians For A Sustainable Population.
See original at < http://www.flsuspop.org/pages/declaration.htm >.


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