Help put Collier County's future on the right path

It is a pivotal time in Collier County’s history. The future of 300 square miles of ecologically sensitive and agricultural lands in eastern Collier County is vulnerable to intensive development. The planning area, called Rural Lands Stewardship Area (RLSA), consists of nearly 200,000 acres and is home to the iconic Florida panther and 18 other federal and state listed species.

If the RLSA is developed as currently planned, the county could add more than 300,000 residents. This number of new residents is about the same as Collier County’s current population!


Collier County adopted the Rural Lands Stewardship Area program in 2002 to guide development of 182,000 acres of privately held lands in eastern Collier County.

The goals of the RLSA were to:

  • Protect prime agricultural lands and prevent premature conversion of agricultural lands to other uses.
  • Direct incompatible uses away from wetlands and upland habitat, in order to protect water resources and listed species.
  • Create mechanisms to allow for appropriate conversion of agricultural lands to other uses while avoiding sprawl.

The current RLSA program contradicts the very goals it aims to achieve. When the plan was originally promoted to the public, we were told that less than 10% of the lands in eastern Collier County would be available for residential and commercial development, while 90% of the lands would remain in agriculture and conservation.

After a 5-year review of the program it was found that 47% of the RLSA could be developed. The area equates to approximately 11 new towns the size of Ave Maria or two Fort Lauderdale’s! In addition, thousands of 5 acre home-sites could be built clear to the Hendry County line!

What's at stake

The current growth plan in eastern Collier County will transform a landscape of diverse connected ecosystems and agricultural fields into a sprawling hodgepodge of towns, villages, and low-density 5 acre home sites.

If eastern Collier is built as planned, many facets of our vibrant community and native wildlife will be affected. Substantial habitat loss due to expansive development will have direct impacts on the many listed species in the area, including the endangered Florida panther, wood stork, crested caracara, and Florida sandhill crane. Our water supply could be affected, as we do not fully understand the implications of the conversion of agricultural lands to 45,000 acres of new towns and villages.

The rural character of eastern Collier County will be altered forever. Furthermore, the cost of new roads and infrastructure to support the new towns could burden taxpayers, in a time when the County’s current Needs Plan for bridges, roads, and other infrastructure projects already far outweigh available monies.

How can you help

Now is the time to act! The Conservancy needs your help. Collier County is hosting public workshops and meetings regarding future planning in eastern Collier County. They are seeking the community’s input to help guide growth in the RLSA. Together, we have the ability to make a change so that development in the RLSA has fewer impacts on wildlife and natural resources and is less of a burden on taxpayers.

Collier County is hosting monthly public workshops on the RLSA program. A schedule of the workshops can be found here or for more information on how you can participate please contact

Important Links

  • Handout | Current RLSA plan vs. the Conservancy plan
  • Handout | Conservancy's solutions for a smarter way to grow
  • Click here for our 2019 Report: Conservancy’s Critique and Recommendations of RLSA Program
  • Click here to participate in upcoming public meetings on RLSA
  • MAP | Rural Lands Stewardship Area
  • MAP | Conservancy's RLSA Vision Map
  • Click here to see RLSA summary and the Conservancy's concerns
  • MAP | Proposed road network in RLSA and estimated costs of roads
  • Click here for Smart Growth America's Fiscal Impact of RLSA development
  • Click here for our presentation on “What We Were Told to Realty”
  • Click here to read our white paper which provides the historical context for “What We Were Told to Reality”
  • Click here 1000 Friends of Florida letter regarding 2005 Better Community Award vs. current position on RLSA
  • Click here for 1,000 Friends of Florida's 2013 review of RLSA

Please show Your Support!