The voters approved a ballot referendum in 2002 and again in 2006 to tax themselves .25 mil in ad valorum collections for funding the acquisition and management of conservation lands. Conservation Collier has acquired over 4,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land, including the 2,500 acre Pepper Ranch Preserve near Immokalee and Lake Trafford, and initiating two multi-parcel projects in North Golden Gate Estates and Golden Gate Estates respectively.
Conservation Collier was also a partner in the Gordon River Greenway, a 2.5 mile trail and boardwalk system which meanders through the heart of Naples, providing access to unique resources like mangrove forests, pine flatwoods, and the Gordon River.
The Conservancy was an active participant in the development of the Gordon River Greenway, which abuts the Conservancy’s campus, and was instrumental in advocating for the preservation of many of the acres which are now a part of the Greenway project.
Lee County voters have spoken. In a resounding vote of confidence in the County’s conservation land acquisition and management program, 84% voted YES to continue Conservation 20/20.
The vote is a tremendous win for local conservation efforts and underscores that Lee County’s residents value the many environmental and economic benefits derived from protecting southwest Florida’s unique natural areas. Many conservation measures were voted on during this election cycle across the nation, and according to a tally published by the Trust for Public Land, Lee County tied for first place in percentage approval with two other measures, one in California and one in Georgia. The vote is a testament to the success of the program and a strong message to continue protecting Lee County’s drinking water supplies, water quality, wildlife habitat, and quality of life.
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is grateful to have partnered with a dedicated coalition of organizations and individuals who worked tirelessly over the past six months to get the word out to voters about the referendum and educate them about the program. The response was overwhelmingly positive, which was further demonstrated in the vote results.
Now that the vote has passed, what is next? As the Conservancy outlined in a previous article, there are many conservation opportunities and needs, such as the acquisition of Edison Farms. There is also a 579-acre nomination currently under consideration and negotiation located in the Density Reduction/Groundwater Resource area, south of Corkscrew Road and adjacent to Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, that will hopefully be a new addition to 20/20’s preserve land soon.
Water quality continues to be a major concern in Lee County, and the protection and hydrologic restoration of wetlands, streams, and estuaries will be key conservation goals. We hope to see the momentum of this vote bolster conservation efforts and balance the environmental and economic needs of Lee County’s tourism- based economy as the region grows.
Thank you to all who supported the program by voting YES, by telling your neighbors and friends about Conservation 20/20, or by participating in the Yes On Conservation 20/20 coalition’s efforts.
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