Biodiversity, the variety of life, is the visible and invisible basis for human existence. Large segments of the increasingly urban human population are unaware of the benefits from a multitude of resources and processes that are supplied by natural ecosystems that include food, fiber, building materials and medicines. Alternatively, biodiversity is vital in regulating air and water quality and climate, in protecting us from natural hazards, erosion, and diseases, in recycling waste and in pollinating crops.
Our belief systems are inextricably linked to the natural world, clearly linking cultural and biological diversity, which, like natural resources, are not invulnerable and infinitely available. The environmental impacts of anthropogenic actions, which are processes or materials derived from human activities, are becoming more apparent in Collier County where our water bodies are impaired and our water quality is increasingly compromised.
Watershed monitoring started in 1996 and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) uses an Integrated Water Resource Monitoring Network Program, a multi-level or “tiered” monitoring system designed to answer questions about Florida’s water quality. The program is supported by several DEP water quality monitoring groups in Tallahassee and in regional (district) offices. In general, Tier I addresses statewide and regional (within Florida) questions, Tier II focuses on basin-specific to stream-segment-specific questions, while Tier III answers site-specific questions that form the basis for residential permit issuance in the functional watershed.
Loss of natural function, where it can’t be avoided, should be mitigated as close to the loss area as possible to insure that the integrity of the natural system is maintained. Collier County will impact 2.53 acres along Davis Boulevard/State Road 84 between Santa Barbara Boulevard and Radio Road (FPID number for this project is 195416-4) within the Big Cypress Watershed. Mitigation will take place in the Big Cypress Mitigation Bank which is outside the county leaving Big Cypress Basin residents with a water quality issue and very little opportunity to compensate for the losses.
Collier County is planning for a build-out population in excess of 320,000 in the area east of Collier Boulevard (CR 951). Most of that building will occur in the Rural Lands Stewardship Area where property owners, who have large plans, want all of the safeguards dropped so they can develop their property with a simple majority (3:1) vote on County Commission rezoning’s, rather than the super majority (4:1) vote that protects the public interest.
This dramatic conversion of Collier County’s working and natural lands provides an unacceptable and unsustainable picture of how we should accommodate the expected population growth.
The time is now to issue a clarion call for change. It is imperative that citizens and our leaders seek holistic, interconnected solutions that can protect natural, rural and working lands within Big Cypress Basin.