Lee County Commission to Vote on Proposed Changes to Conservation 20/20 Program

Tomorrow, Aug. 21, 2018, the Lee County Commission will discuss and vote on proposed changes for the process it uses to consider land for purchase under the Conservation 20/20 Program. Commissioners will decide whether to change the process so that all proposals are considered annually and adopt a new scoring matrix that gives bonus points to parcels that have a water resource component.

  • Meeting info: 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, in the Old County Courthouse, 2120 Main Street, Fort Myers.
  • Addressing the Commissioners: If you plan to address the Board, please complete a “Public Comment Card” located on the table outside the Chamber entrance. Completed cards should be returned to the Staff table at the right of the podium prior to the start of the meeting.
  • County Commission Agenda Item Summary: “Creates a formal process for considering purchases of owner-nominated parcels that allows all such properties to be ranked in order of environmental conservation priority. Nominations will be processed during an annual cycle in which the Conservation Lands Acquisition and Stewardship Advisory Committee (“CLASAC”) will evaluate properties and recommend a ranked list for further consideration by the Board of County Commissioners. On June 7, 2018, CLASAC voted to recommend these changes to the BoCC.”
  • Full details of the Agenda item and the proposed process.
  • Full County Commission Meeting Agenda.
  • There are several parcels of land on Pine Island that have been preserved thanks to Conservation 20/20, including the Pine Island Flatwoods, Galt Preserve and the Pineland Site Complex.
  • View list of Preserves
  • View county-wide map of property already acquired and properties that are nominated.

About Conservation 20/20
In 1996, Lee County voters approved a referendum to establish a conservation land acquisition program. At that time, Lee County had very few protected natural areas. Growth and development were beginning to rapidly replace natural spaces. Concerned citizens came together to propose and advocate for the referendum. This group coined the term “Conservation 20/20” to symbolize a vision for the future of Lee County balanced between necessary growth and development and protected conservation land.

Twenty years later, in 2016, Lee County voters returned to the ballot box and voted overwhelmingly with 84 percent support for the Conservation 20/20 program to continue. Today, nearly 30,000 acres of conservation land is protected in Lee County through the Conservation 20/20 program. These lands protect drinking water, reduce flood risk, protect native wildlife and plant communities and provide spaces to enjoy nature-based recreation.

Conservation 20/20 has acquired 28,978 acres on 130 properties and many miles of shorelines all across the County.

As quoted in the News-Press story, Assistant County Manager Glen Salyer told a Conservation Land Acquisition and Stewardship Advisory Committee (CLASAC) meeting that making comparisons between projects is necessary to identify the best use of 20/20 funds, because there are more properties available than money to pay for them. “We still can’t buy everything, we are still looking for a way that we can rank these parcels in a way that we get the very best that are available for the program,” Salyer said at the session before the commission’s summer break. “Neither the board nor CLASAC was able to make comparisons of one parcel to another to decide which may be more or less important.”

The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) is advocating against the proposed changes.

Says SCCF: “We fear that the new cycle and criteria will eliminate unique parcels such as the previously purchased Woodring site on Sanibel and gives shrinking consideration to sites contiguous to existing preserves. We are at a critical juncture in addressing the health and survival of our natural systems. We should be enhancing our land acquisition efforts rather than limiting them. We caution that all of our water quality solutions should not be limited to purchasing land through this program. The County should also consider revisiting a storm water utility to implement water quality infrastructure needs and to require low impact design criteria when approving development in an area that will impact water quality.”

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