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New thinking needed to preserve our land

Colleen M. Castille Tallahassee

July 21, 2010

The only environmental policy left on the table this decade, Florida Forever land acquisition, has been tossed aside to direct Florida's meager tax dollars to helping the sick and the poor, providing public safety and educating children. Two years of appropriations have passed with no funds for conservation land acquisition. Floridians must now think differently about protecting our natural resources and upholding private-property rights. Both policies are set in our Constitution.

Florida should take a long-term view of planning. We can conserve as much land as we have over the past 18 years of conservation land acquisition with no cost to the taxpayers. Many landowners have presented local plan amendments, which build on the state's own natural-resource-protection lists and databases. Future policies should allow owners to build sustainably with greater density and intensity, while preserving a vast majority of the land for wildlife corridors and aquifer and wetland protection.

The Department of Community Affairs has denied most of these plans. If just a few of the proposals had been approved, Florida would have preserved more than a half-million acres, forever, without cost to the taxpayers. That amounts to three-quarters of the acreage the state acquired under Florida Forever, for which it spent more than $2.7 billion. Public access should be provided for hiking and biking trails. Under the budget climate Florida is likely to find itself in during the next several years, new thinking is required to meet the same conservation goals.

Colleen M. Castille Tallahassee

 


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