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Conserving Open-Space is a Climate Solution

Land conservation is one of the most critical, and least discussed climate mitigation options.  Conserving natural open spaces is fundamental to climate resilience on various levels, as it:

  • Allows for catchment and filtration of water from heavy rains and storm events, providing flood protection and increasing the supply and quality of the region’s drinking water.
  • Provides open natural spaces and surface waters that reflect sun rays and thus limit surface heating.
  • Retains areas for growth of native plants and trees that serve as carbon sinks
  • Offers natural recreation areas to visit and use for exercise, especially important as urban areas with high pavement ratios become warmer.
  • Buffers and limits development sprawl, which tends to be an energy consumptive, car-dependent development format that also increases nonpermeable surfaces.

Apart from the climate considerations, conservation of quality open land addresses important environmental issues related to habitat conservation for native plant and animal species, including the Florida Panther, Black Bear, and Wood Stork. These and other species need connected movement corridors to wander; keeping them at a safe distance from our residential neighborhoods. Our natural areas also support our tourism industry, making SWFL a destination for eco-tourism and anglers, and supporting a vital regional economy.

An omnipresent development paradigm makes the conservation of public open land a challenging policy directive.  When public revenue is largely funded through property taxes, open-space is viewed as growth-limiting by those that don’t properly assess its eco-system values.  As environmental and climate stewards it is important to support public land acquisition and conservation.  Since 2002, Collier residents have risen to the challenge by supporting Conservation Collier, a small ad valorem tax that is collected specifically for land conservation.  The funding for Conservation Collier has resulted in the acquisition of over 20 land tracts, a dozen or so with public access trails, including the Gordon River Greenway, Marco Island’s Otter Mound Preserve, Freedom Park and the Cocohatchee Creek Preserve. See a list of these places.

Conservation Collier funding is on the ballot again this November.  The ballot measure would reestablish a .25 mil (1/4 of 1%) tax for 10 years to fund public land acquisition in Collier County – land that would remain natural open space in perpetuity. That is equivalent to $25 per year for every $100K in taxable value. For those that support environmental sustainability and want to advance climate mitigation, it is important to support this public initiative.  Equally importantly, educate yourself about the important role land conservation plays in climate mitigation and talk to others about this issue.

For more information on Conservation Collier


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