In the past decade, Florida has protected more critical natural lands than any other state in the US. Together, Florida Forever and Preservation 2000 form the largest public land acquisition program in the country. These environmental organizations have helped expand protection of important ecosystems from 7.4 to 9.9 million acres.
In my last post, Defining an Urban Growth Boundary through Preservation: A Central Florida Case Study, I explored how communities can use conservation/preservation as a way to control sprawl and create sustainable communities. On a Florida-wide level, conservation (protection of lands already altered by humans) and preservation (protection of lands in their natural state) initiatives protect our coastline, create greenways, preserve archaeological sites, and protect us from natural disasters.
The most ambitious ecological restoration project ever conducted in the US is the restoration of the Florida Everglades. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, created in 2007, set aside $11.9 billion over 30 years. The state and federal plan aims to restore over 18,000 square miles of the 2.4 million-acre marshlands through man-made treatment marshes and improved water quality.
Unfortunately, Florida’s largest land preservation boom occurred at a time when real estate prices across the country skyrocketed, making large-scale land acquisition a difficult and expensive task. Shortly thereafter, Florida was the hardest-hit state during the real estate bust, followed by the economically devastating Great Recession.
While we may not see another Florida land preservation boom like it this generation, the progress we made during the past decade was an essential step towards creating an inhabitable environment for both humans and animals. In the coming month, European-settled Florida turns 500-years-old. Even though we've done a lot of damage since then, the last decade has shown that it can be undone.
What are some small things individuals can do to protect natural lands?
Credits: Photographs by Alex Lenhoff. Image and data linked to sources.