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Collier Voters Decide Whether to Bring Back Conservation Land Buying Program

Railhead Scrub Preserve_Molly DuVall (2).jpg
Courtesy Florida Wildlife Federation
Railhead Scrub Preserve

This Fall, voters in Collier County will decide whether to reestablish funding for Conservation Collier by levying a nominal property tax in order to enable the program to purchase and protect sensitive lands.

The Conservation Collier Referendum, if passed, will place a small tax on property owners of 25 cents for every one thousand dollars of land value, or $75 a year on a property worth 300,000 dollars.

Started in 2003, the program has so far acquired 4,271 acres. This acquired land now protects local water quality, wildlife habitat, and provides outdoor recreation space.

But funding for the program sunsetted in 2013. A ‘yes’ vote on the referendum will restart the program and fund it for another 10 years.

Many local environmentalists and conservation organizations support the referendum, including the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

It also has support from the local NAACP chapter.

Collier County NAACP President Vincent Keeys says the organization is encouraging voters to pass it overwhelmingly--for the present, and for the future.

"If we do not stand with Mother Nature, then we will suffer for years to come. And I'm talking about generations after my own," Keeys tells WGCU.

Keeys says he is worried about his grandchildren, who live in the Everglades and are Native Americans, and that the more recent encroachment of the land they have survived on for thousands of years will carry on.

He says this human encroachment in Collier County is an impetus to pass the referendum.

"There has been an extremely large amount of construction," Keeys notes, often acquiring and constructing on the land without thought to long term environmental planning.

This over development impacts not only water quality and wildlife habitat, but, Keeys says, the local economy and housing industry, by forcing housing prices up and the people who cannot afford them, out.

Still, Keeys takes a big picture look at what’s happening nationwide with hurricanes, fires, excessive heat, and floods. He sees the Conservation Collier Referendum as a step towards securing a place for all of us in Southwest Florida, in the face of climate change.

"This is a critical point in time and we must stand together to solve the problems of the world," he notes. "We must stand together to solve the problems of the state. We must stand together to solve the problems that we have in our community."

The Conservation Collier question can be found toward the bottom of Collier voters’ general election ballot. A yes vote will allow the County to protect more land and water. A no vote will leave land and water vulnerable to encroaching human activity. To learn more visit https://www.colliercountyfl.gov/home.