To the editor:
As citizens we have invested in the acquisition of public lands. These lands belong to us. Public lands serve many purposes, they attract tourists, they are crucial habitats for the very birds and animals that people come here to see, and most importantly they serve as aquifers and absorb storm water, preventing flooding in adjacent communities. This is critical to help protect residents from flooding during our rainy season.
Public lands are the places we take our families for hikes, to go to the beach, to view wildlife, to exercise and get fresh air.
Public lands also enhance the value of nearby properties. For example, Manhattan's most valuable buildings are those with views of Central Park. If you purchased property would you prefer a lot near a highway or parking lot or beside a nature preserve? Do we want our drinking water to come from parking lots or filtered and cleansed through preserves?
It is essential that we retain the valuable public lands we have invested in, especially if we are to continue to remain a highly desirable tourist destination. At this time we as citizens have the opportunity to speak up and let our state know we want to retain our public lands for our children and grandchildren.
A recent opportunity for consideration is the acquisition of Edison Farms using the 20/20 program. As Professor Leathers stated at a recent public hearing, "For the price of three pizzas a year you get 20/20-our public lands here in Lee County Florida". Other counties throughout Florida have higher rates of public lands (between 45 percent and 80 percent) than Lee County.
Edison Farms is a 4,000 acre preserve located in Estero. The site has been identified as a primary panther habitat and also a wildlife corridor for the following species, black bear, panther, river otter, bobcat, fox squirrel, Florida mouse, wood stork, Florida sandhill crane, little blue heron, reddish egret, snowy egret, tricolored heron, roseate spoonbill, limpkin, bald eagle, northern harrier, Audubon's crested caracara, eastern indigo snake, Florida pine snake, short-tailed snake, and American alligator.
Previous and current supporters of the acquisition include, the Brooks Concerned Citizens, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Collier County Audubon Society, Audubon of Southwest Florida, CREW Land and Water Trust, Estero Council of Community Leaders, Florida Wildlife Federation and the Trust for Public Land. The land has just gone through foreclosure. This is an investment of existing 20/20 funds that voters and leaders must consider to ensure we have clean drinking water and storm water retention.