Empowering Local Governments to Pass ‘Rights of Nature’ Initiatives (Florida)

Provides local governments the power to recognize certain legal rights related to the natural environment (HB 6049)

In 2020, Orange County, Florida passed a groundbreaking “rights of nature” initiative, the first time county voters considered this type of charter in the country. Unfortunately, the Florida state legislature enacted a statute in 2020 that contains language stripping local governments of the power to pass these types of ordinances. HB 6049, introduced by Representative Anna Eskamani (D-47), removes this provision.

Updated

January 27, 2021

Work Type

Legislation

Status

Active

In 2020, Orange County, Florida passed a groundbreaking “rights of nature” initiative, the first time county voters considered this type of charter in the country.  The “Right to Clean Water” initiative recognizes that the waterways within the county have the right to exist, flow, be protected against pollution, and maintain a healthy ecosystem. Critically, it also allows residents to file lawsuits to protect waters that have been polluted.

Unfortunately, the Florida state legislature enacted a statute in 2020 that contains language stripping local governments of the power to pass these types of ordinances — in defiance of the will of voters like those in Orange County, where the “Right to Clean Water” initiative received 89% of the vote. HB 6049, introduced by Representative Anna Eskamani (D-47), removes this provision and again empowers local governments to recognize or grant certain legal rights related to the natural environment.

Growing concerns about environmental degradation and its impact on wildlife have led communities to find ways to protect their natural resources and their non-human and human residents. “Rights of nature” initiatives are powerful tools to safeguard the environment, and it is critical local governments have the ability to enact them.

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