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Judge strikes down ‘rights of nature’ charter amendment

Orange County voters overwhelmingly approved the amendment in 2020

A judge has struck down an Orange County charter amendment overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2020 that was aimed at protecting the rights of nature.

The amendment had spawned a lawsuit designed to block a housing development in fragile wetlands. The suit claimed the development would violate the wetlands’ right to flow freely.

But Judge Paetra Brownlee dismissed the suit, reasoning the charter amendment was preempted by state law. Chuck O’Neal of Speak Up Wekiva brought the lawsuit.

“It’s a realization that our power to govern ourselves locally has been taken away from us.”

Legislators approved the state law at about the same time the amendment went on the ballot. O’Neal says his group is considering options, including whether to appeal the judge’s decision.