ALACHUA COUNTY, Fl —The Conservation Fund unveiled today its list of America’s Top 10 Places with Potential to Advance Smart Conservation, providing national recognition to communities working to integrate land protection, development, infrastructure planning and smart growth. While many of the nation’s fastest-growing regions have fallen victim to sprawl and unplanned development, these ten communities across the United States are taking a closer look at how they can prepare for growth and still preserve the qualities that make each region special.
“We have a land-use crisis in the U.S.,” said Ed McMahon, member of The Conservation Fund’s National Council and Sustainable Development Chair of the Urban Land Institute. “In recent decades, the rate of development in many parts of the nation has been breathtaking. Communities all across America are faced with the same challenge—how to grow without sacrificing the natural, historic and cultural features that improve quality of life for residents, attract visitors and new business and bolster the economy.”
The award to North Central Florida was based on the following:
Population growth, soaring land prices, and the loss of rural land to development have placed North-Central Florida’s great green heartland at a conservation crossroads. The fragmentation of ecologically connected lands, the proliferation of invasive species and off-site land uses that degrade water quality and diminish water quantity also threaten this region.
State, regional, and local conservation programs have identified a connected North-Central Florida ecological system linking existing conservation lands and strategic unprotected open spaces. Once identified, lands are incorporated into state, regional and local projects that are then reviewed, prioritized and funded through existing land conservation programs, such as Alachua County Forever, Florida Forever and the Florida Communities Trust, which provides money directly to local governments.
GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Alachua County Forever, a land conservation program that has provided $29 million in funding since it was passed by County voters in 2000
“Emerald Necklace,” an Alachua County land conservation initiative establishing a network of greenways, open spaces and historic sites surrounding Gainesville
Florida Forever land conservation projects including Lochloosa Wildlife, Watermelon Pond, Lake Santa Fe, Mill Creek, Etoniah/Cross Florida Greenway, Northeast Florida Timberlands and Watershed and Camp Blanding-Osceola Greenway
Florida Ecological Greenways Network: Identified best opportunities to protect large, connected landscapes Identified ten Critical Linkages statewide; three are within this region
“O to O:” a cross-region land conservation project linking the Ocala National Forest to Osceola National Forest and the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge Includes two Critical Linkages Potentially two million acres and 200+ miles long likely the largest and longest proposed network of protected conservation lands in the eastern United States
NATURAL RESOURCES FOCUS
The aquatic preserves and other natural communities of the Big Bend Coast
Natural communities in Alachua County including pinelands, hardwood hammocks and prairies and marshes providing critical habitat for sandhill cranes, the southern bald eagle, Florida black bear, gopher tortoises, and endangered whooping cranes
Other North-Central Florida natural communities, including rare longleaf pine forests and Florida scrub, hardwood hammocks, bald cypress and hardwood swamps Watersheds of the St. Johns River, Suwannee River, Ocklawaha River, Santa Fe River, New River and Waccasassa River, including the headwater wetlands and tributaries of these river systems, such as Black Creek and New River
- Alachua Conservation Trust
- Alachua County Land Acquisition Program
- The Conservation Fund
- Conservation Trust for Florida
- Florida Department of Environmental Protection,
- Office of Greenways and Trails
- Florida Forever:
- Conservation and Recreation Lands Program
- Florida Communities Trust
- Save Our Rivers:
- St. John River Water Management District
- Suwannee River Water Management District
- Kanapaha Prairie Homeowners
- USDA Wetland Reserve Program
- University of Florida
For more information, please contact Alachua County Land Conservation Manager Ramesh Buch at (352) 264-6800.