State conservation program excludes Hillsborough County
Now that Florida voters have overwhelmingly passed the Water & Land Conservation Amendment (Amendment 1), which restores the funding for our state to buy and protect environmental land, let’s take a look at the state’s list of proposed conservation projects … wait, what?!
In the whole state-wide list of all the conservation land the state is considering for acquisition, throughout Florida’s 67 counties, Hillsborough is one of only 4 counties where the state lists NO proposed conservation projects.
Here are two reasons why it is outrageous for our county to be excluded from this state-wide list of conservation projects:
- Hillsborough County has approximately 27,000 acres of land that is critical for conservation, but not yet protected — and this is just the land on the priority list of the county’s Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program (ELAPP).
- Hillsborough County is one of the larger contributors of tax dollars to this program which is funded through the state Doc Stamp Tax.
Hillsborough County citizens clearly have both a need and a right for our state to spend some of our own tax dollars within our own county on conservation lands. (Hillsborough once did have a project on this list, but it was removed.)
Who decides which lands the State should buy with the money we are setting aside for this purpose?
Florida’s Acquisition and Restoration Council (ARC), “has responsibility for the evaluation, selection and ranking of state land acquisition projects on the Florida Forever priority list, as well as the review of management plans and land uses for all state-owned conservation lands.”
This committee offers only 2 very short (1-hour) meetings per year outside of Tallahassee where the public can review their conservation proposals and provide public comment (see their calendar). Their next Regional Public Meeting is next Tuesday, Dec. 2, in Bradenton.
Regional meeting of DEP’s Acquisition and Restoration Council (ARC)
Tuesday, December 2, 5:00 – 6:00 pm
Bradenton City Hall, City Council Chambers
101 Old Main Street, Bradenton, Florida 34205
Anyone who wishes to speak to this committee about which land we should buy and how we should manage our public conservation lands, can go to this Regional Public Meeting, or wait about 6 months ’til their next one, somewhere else in the state. (The last one was last June in Arcadia.) There is also one annual Public Hearing in Tallahassee, and the next one of those is Dec. 11, 9:00 a.m.
These meetings are not well-publicized, and I found out about this one too late to arrange to go, so if you go, please ask them to include Hillsborough County.
To give one example of a Hillsborough County parcel that should be preserved, see this critical riverfront connection in a coastal wildlife corridor on the south side of Shell Point Rd. at 32nd St. NW., in Ruskin. (Click the map at right to enlarge it.)
To speak your mind about how our Public Lands should be acquired & managed, and to ask that Hillsborough County be included in the state’s list of conservation projects, and ask for the Shell Point site specifically, you can attend the meeting on Dec. 2, and/or contact these people:
The members of the ARC committee are listed without any contact information.
The State Lands division has an online contact form, along with some emails, including:
Acquisition and Restoration Council
Hank Vinson, Staff Director <Hank.Vinson@dep.state.fl.us>
Ask him to distribute your comments to all the Council members.
The Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation lists Amber Smith <firstname.lastname@example.org> as the main contact. Ask her to distribute your message to all these state legislators who represent Hillsborough.
Correction: this post has been corrected to note that Hillsborough is one of only 4 counties (out of 67) with no projects on the State’s Florida Forever acquisition list.
Update: Not a single one of the ten members of Florida’s Acquisition and Restoration Council (ARC) showed up for their twice-yearly “Regional Public Meeting” on December 2, mentioned above. They missed a great opportunity to meet with a sizeable crowd of notable environmentalists and representatives of various organizations who went to speak to them.