My name is Oscar Psychas, and I thought you might be interested in getting updated as I walk from my home in Gainesville to our state capitol to call our state legislature to protect the wild Florida we love.
As I write to you I am laying in my tent, trying not to jump at every scurrying creature and enjoying finally being clean after bathing in the beloved Santa Fe River. The past two days of tramping across this special corner of our earth have reminded me of how lucky we all are to live here, a place that is ever fascinating, entrancing, and that still has a beating wild heart we can still hear if we listen. And talking with people from local rural communities has reminded me of how much we all care and are all grounded in this special place, and that we all want to see it protected for our children.
But I didn't do this walk solely for the purpose of tramping and getting lost in rural North Florida, nor for the admittedly surprising pleasure of drinking sweet tea mixed with tea-colored river water ( can any drink be more southern?). I am walking every last mile to Tallahassee because I see a huge gap in how Floridians care about this place and what our leaders are doing to protect it.
Perhaps the epitome of this disconnect was after an overwhelming 3 in 4 Floridians voted in 2014 for a constitutional amendment to create a $750 million annual fund for "the acquisition and restoration" of wild land. This seemed like a huge mandate to properly fund programs like Florida Forever, which identifies and purchases our state's most unique and critical wild places. But our legislature decided that this fund could be used to replace existing maintenance spending for salaries and pipes, and only 2% went to Florida Forever, our signature land acquisition program. Not a cent of money more has gone to conservation.
I, for one, take it personally- that they have become so focused on their short term political self interest that they cast aside everything we say and care about.
Our legislators know that this is essentially indefensible, but they're hoping we'll be too distracted to notice. This is a great strategy if you're Oscar and you're snacking on what your parents are serving for dinner tonight, but it's not a way to run a government.
It's up to every Floridian to speak up, as voters, as stewards of this land, and as patriots, and say that we care about protecting our shared home for future generations. That we will not let politics be put over our planet, our communities, and our way of life. I'm walking to Tallahassee to speak on behalf of every Floridian today and of tomorrow, and request that our legislature make wild Florida and its people a priority and fund the Florida Forever program and other conservation programs. I hope every Floridian can be a part of this movement of the people, and I hope you can think about how you can play a part in what our legacy will be.
If you're wondering where to start, you can go to walkforwildflorida.org and take the "challenge for Wild Florida" . I'd love to get you involved in this walk - check out our Facebook page at Facebook.com/WalkForWildFlorida for more regular updates, or join our group trail weekend this Saturday and Sunday way down on the Suwannee River... (Email/message me (3523398744) if you're interested- rides available. I'm so excited to start this journey with you all!
Here's some photos by the wonderful John Moran of the launch yesterday- i am so thankful to family, friends, mentors and all those who have supported me. It was great to have everyone writing their own postcards to our legislators for wild Florida, and we were honored that County Commissioner Ken Cornell joined to support the cause! Thanks so much for reading this and stay tuned!
Hugs and happy trails,