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Wandering Florida

Wandering Florida -This Earth Day Fight for the Wild Places of Florida
By Joe Murphy
Apr 17, 2008 - 2:40:15 PM

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This Earth Day we must fight for the wild places of Florida. 

Programs ranging from the ELAPP Program in Hillsborough County, to the Florida Forever Program at the state level are under attack this Earth Day.  These programs have saved land locally and statewide for twenty years, and despite all that they have accomplished some folks still don’t get it.   This Earth Day we need to get out our pens and paper, fire up our computers, and get on those phones and make sure our elected officials know that Floridians want public lands, and we want more of them!

 Public lands are important for water, for wildlife, and for people.  They also are important to our economy.  Ecotourism, wildlife viewing, and outdoor recreation create economic activity.  People come to Hillsborough County to explore and enjoy ELAPP lands.  The money taxpayers invest in ELAPP benefits the county in numerous ways.

 At the state level, few programs in Florida enjoy the success and public support of the Florida Forever program.  Millions of Floridians use and receive benefits from the lands protected.  This is one of the most popular programs ever created in Florida, and one of the most successful.  Taxpayers and voters recognize that this program works, and it is public funds well spent.

This year the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission released a report which documents the economic value of tourism and resident wildlife viewing and outdoor recreation (please visit http://myfwc.com/whatsnew/08/statewide/News_08_X_WLV.htm).  This report states that: Overall, 4.2 million people participated in some form of wildlife viewing in Florida in 2006. These viewers generated more than $3 billion in total economic impact throughout Florida (Source FFWCC).

 These numbers, coupled with the multi-billion dollar recreational fishing industry in Florida, speak to the economic value of protecting wild places in Florida and preserving habitat.  People and wildlife directly benefit from Florida Forever.  We need to ensure that our children know the Florida that our parents knew.

Despite all this the Florida House of Representatives have proposed to zero fund Florida Forever in this year’s state budget.  They need to hear from you.  They need to know that Floridians want wild places purchased and protected.

 Hillsborough County Administrator Pat Bean was recently quoted saying the ELAPP has run its course and its time to spend the money elsewhere. 

Ms. Bean’s statements that ELAPP has run its course assume that any and all open space in Hillsborough County from this day forward has no ecological value, and in that sense would be appropriate for development.  Surely Hillsborough County residents, and residents of the greater Tampa Bay region expect and deserve more.

So, this Earth Day speak out for the Florida Forever Program and speak out for ELAPP.  Send an email to decision makers and urge them to support and fund programs to purchase and preserve open space and wild places.  Make Earth Day matter and be a voice for Wild Florida.

To contact the Hillsborough County Commission to support ELAPP please visit:
http://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/bocc/about/contactus.cfm

To contact the Florida House of Representatives regarding full funding for Florida Forever please visit:

http://audubonaction.org/campaign/florida_forever_funding1

Joe Murphy is the Florida Program Coordinator for the Gulf Restoration Network (GRN).  To learn more about GRN please visit www.healthygulf.org


© Copyright 2008 by The Observer News Publications and M&M Printing Company, Inc.

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