The mission of the Santa Fe River Bill of Rights (SAFEBOR) campaign is to enact new legal safeguards for the Santa Fe River by giving her her own legal rights. Existing regulatory laws have failed to protect Florida waters, organizers say, and falling aquifers and slime-filled rivers and springs with diminished flows increasingly are a focus of news stories and citizen concern. The health of our drinking water is another concern, as the Santa Fe River springs are the top layer of groundwater in the bioregion.

“The effort to grant legal rights to natural systems is part of a visionary new movement being adopted within the United States and internationally because people recognize that we need to fundamentally change the ways we are living with Mother Nature,” says SAFEBOR steering committee member David Moritz, who is also chair of the Alachua County Environmental Protection Advisory Committee.

Campaign organizers and volunteers plan to gather more than 20,000 petition signatures from registered Alachua County voters in the next six months. These petitions will secure a spot on the November 2020 Alachua County ballot to amend the county charter.

If the ballot initiative is approved, Alachua County will recognize the right of the Santa Fe River to flourish as a bioregion, free of activities or practices that infringe upon those rights. Then, Alachua County will be legally positioned to elevate the rights of communities and nature above the claimed “rights” of those who would harm public waters within the Santa Fe river-shed.