Tuesday, February 20, 2007



Hosted by; Dolores Bertolini

Where; Cape Coral Association of Realtor Building (rear entrance)
918 SE 46th Lane (Club Square)

When; Wednesday February 21, 2007 6:30-8:30



Guest Opinion: Burt Saunders
The News Press Monday February 19, 2007

Florida Forever needs more money for future
We're losing the battle to development

No one disputes the fact that Florida's population will continue to grow rapidly. More land will need to be developed to meet the housing, transportation and other needs of this growing population. If we do not do more to preserve our natural environment, we risk losing those wonderful environmental assets that have attracted all of us to this great state. For 17 years, Floridians have benefited from one of the nation's greatest conservation programs, Florida Forever, with many beautiful areas of Florida protected, forever, from development.
But times have changed. Today, Florida Forever is actually losing the battle to rapid development. The current $300 million annual budget today buys only a fraction of the land that it did in 1990. That's why it is so important that we at least double Florida Forever funds to $600 million annually.

Florida's population is approaching 18 million, and that number is expected to double in the next 50 years. A recent report, "Florida 2060: A Population Distribution Scenario for the State of Florida," published by the nonprofit 1000 Friends of Florida, outlines what Florida will look like in 2060, if we do not do more to protect our environmentally sensitive areas. The conclusions of the report are startling.

Southwest Florida is booming, and is expected to be completely built out by 2060. This will cause an almost continuous band of urban development along the southwestern coast, with population spillover into adjacent inland counties.

We welcome economic growth and the diversity of life that makes Florida so great. However, we must make sure that we do not degrade irreparably our quality of life. We need to provide more access to our beautiful beaches, lakes and rivers. And we need to help young and old alike discover "natural" Florida through parks, trails and open spaces. An increasing population equals more development and less land available for preservation.

I am proud to have been involved in passing the original Florida Forever Act when I was a member of the House of Representatives. However, we need to acknowledge that today's program is not adapting to the current needs of our rapidly growing state.

We need to better preserve today's land for tomorrow's Floridians. Accelerating the budget for the next 10 years — to $600 million from $300 million — will do that.

Florida Forever is ingenious in two ways: through the documentary stamp tax, it ties funding for land protection directly to real estate transactions. Development, in essence, pays for conservation. In addition, Florida Forever recognizes that the special places we buy today will also benefit future generations. Through bonding, future Floridians and future park users help pay for these environmentally sensitive lands.

As ingenious as it is, Florida Forever is simply underfunded. Land prices continue to rise, and with 1,000 people moving to Florida each day, the amount of space we have for recreation, or for simply enjoying nature, is dwindling. Groups including the Trust for Public Land, Florida Recreation and Parks Association, and The Nature Conservancy have documented that billions of dollars will be necessary to protect the acreage necessary to balance the population growth that we know is coming.

It is imperative that we act now. The dip in real estate prices is temporary. If we don't take this opportunity to increase Florida Forever funding and purchase future parks and natural areas now, they will be lost forever. You can support this by calling or writing to legislators to voice your concern for the future of Florida's natural environment.

— State Sen. Burt Saunders, R-Naples, represents District 37