Let’s ask State Legislators for Hillsborough county’s share of conservation funds
Two weeks ago I reported that Hillsborough is one of only 4 counties where the state has NO land targeted for conservation on Florida Forever’s list. Some of us tried to talk to the DEP land-acquisition committee (ARC) about this, but they didn’t even show up for their public meeting.
I think we need to ask our State Legislators for help.
I spoke to the Hillsborough Legislative Delegation about this last Thursday, and I’m printing the text of that speech below to make it easy for others to use all or parts of it in emails to our legislators. Meanwhile, I’m talking to the county (you can too!), hoping that as citizens work to get the state to be more receptive to our county’s preservation proposals, the county will also work to get some of our projects on the State’s land-buying list.
Here’s the short speech I gave to the legislators on behalf of Sierra Club. Please consider sending a similar message:
“Good afternoon, Legislators.
Now that Amendment 1 has restored funding for Environmental Land Acquisition, we need YOU to make sure Hillsborough County gets our fair share.
Hillsborough is one of only 4 counties where the state has NO land targeted for conservation on Florida Forever’s list.
Here are two reasons why it is wrong for our county to be excluded from this state-wide shopping list of conservation land:
(1) Hillsborough County has 27,000 acres of land that is critical for conservation, but not yet protected — and this is just the land on the top priority list of our county’s Environmental Lands Program (ELAPP).
(2) Hillsborough County is one of the larger donors of tax dollars to Amendment 1 funding.
So: Hillsborough County citizens have both (1) a need and (2) a right for our state to spend some of our own tax dollars within our own county on conservation land. But the Florida Forever list includes land in 63 other counties — while it excludes Hillsborough County entirely.
One problem is that Florida Forever seems to prefer buying huge tracts of pristine land. But in Hillsborough, we don’t have those vast tracts of land left to buy. What we do have, and what is just as important to preserve, is smaller parcels that connect up into larger wildlife corridors and connected preserves.
Our County’s Environmental Land Program (ELAPP) has a grand plan of wildlife corridors we’ve been assembling since 1987. But we still have some crucial puzzle pieces missing. And in our rapidly developing county, these pieces are under much more pressure from development than some larger tracts in rural counties, so we have a more urgent need to preserve our connecting pieces while we can.
We need YOU to make the state more receptive to our county’s conservation projects, as our state begins spending Amendment 1 funds.
One other problem: The Florida Forever Rule says the State should prefer buying land at bargain prices, of course. However, State policy has recently been restricting Florida Forever to buying land only if we can buy it at 80% of its value. That’s tying the hands of your Land Buyers.
In order to carry out the voter mandate of Amendment 1, particularly in Hillsborough, the state needs to be able to offer a fair deal.”
If you want to send our legislators a message about this here is their contact info:
Emails for Florida legislators representing Hillsborough County
(cut & paste the whole block into your email’s “TO” field):
firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
(James Grant’s state house email may bounce since that election has been contested, so I’ve included his web contact email as well.)