Tomorrow, November 24, the one and only public meeting to take input on a 10 year management plan for Babcock Ranch is being held by the Florida Department of Agriculture, Division of Forestry. This plan has been drafted in Tallahassee without input from local land managers.
- Rolls back water, wildlife and habitat protections in the current plan and deemphasizes the critical values, protections and projects provided by Babcock lands for critical water resources such as Telegraph Swamp and Telegraph Creek and needed water quality projects.
- Expands cattle, timber and row crop uses without limits to assure sustainable harvest or sustainable habitats are maintained to support protected species.
- Cypress harvesting and stump harvesting has been added back in where it was prohibited in the current plan on Lee County land.
- Requires only 1 environmental assessment over the 10 year period while timber, cattle, hunting, burning and other resource activities are ongoing. Environmental or ecological damage will not be identified or management activities adjusted in real time to prevent further damage if you don’t do this concurrently with annual management decisions. We ask that environmental assessments be done annually in conjunction with ranch management activities.
- Makes no distinction between the property in Lee and Charlotte counties even though the5,620.36 acres in Lee county were purchased by Lee County taxpayers through an ad valorum tax assessment known as Conservation 2020. As a result the land in Lee County has a review and management process in place that they have paid for and that must be recognized and accommodated in the plan.
- All references to the Lee County Land must reflect this distinction and be referred to as the Bob Janes Preserve. Any management changes must come before the appointed Conservation Land Acquisition Stewardship Advisory Committee (CLASAC) and be adopted by the BOCC.
- This draft plan rolls back nearly all the educational and learning lab components in the original plan and references only “master naturalists’ as an interested volunteer group. There are many, many other groups involved and interested.
Why the Rush? The plan is scheduled to go into effect in August, 2016. Why schedule a single public meeting the Tuesday before Thanksgiving with nearly no advertising for the public? Transparency and inclusiveness are fundamental in public land management. This meeting has provided neither. We strongly urge the Department of Agricultureto schedule a well advertized public meeting to discuss the 10 year management plan.
The meeting was not widely advertised so most local folks who worked on the acquisition effort don’t even know about the meeting. The draft plan was not included with the meeting notice and not easy to find and the meeting is scheduled for the Tuesday before Thanksgiving when most folks won’t be able to attend. Not very transparent or inclusive.
We are asking everyone who can attend to join us tomorrow just up the road in Punta Gorda, to provide public comment and request another local meeting for input. If you cannot attend please take action with this alert and follow up with emailed comments you may have with the plan. Below are a few of our concerns and a link to the draft plan for your use.
No one fought harder for the acquisition of this land – the state’s largest preserve – than the local community. Dont’ cut out our local voices.
Location: Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center
75 Taylor St., Myakka Rooms A & B
Punta Gorda, FL 33950