To the editor:
Public lands and the protection of wildlife habitat and open space provide many benefits to the public. In addition to protecting wildlife habitat and native plant species, public lands are also important for protecting a multitude of essential ecosystem services that support human life and benefit people. As Florida urbanizes, pressure will increase on the land that remains undeveloped to provide for hurricane and storm protection, flood control, water storage, pollination of agricultural crops, and natural purification of our air and water.
Because these indispensable ecosystem services provided by nature are not easily measured in dollars, it’s easy to forget that they have enormous value.
As more land is developed, existing public lands become more isolated and less able to provide ecosystem services or sustain long-term genetic diversity. But many of Florida’s public lands and preserved agricultural lands serve to multiply the value of existing conservation lands by functionally connecting them with greenways.
Protecting greenways helps protect critical ecosystem processes and services, such as water quality and quantity, which is essential for the restoration of the St. Johns River watershed.
Greenways like these also enhance the wildlife value of the blocks of existing conservation land that they connect. Many plant and animal species need more space than can be provided by individual parks, and corridors allow for interaction between dispersed populations of a species, which helps maintain gene flow, population viability, and adaption to climate change.
Perhaps most importantly, public lands help ensure that future generations of Florida’s residents will have the benefits of clean air and water that public lands and conservation lands provide.
Busy Kislig-Shires Byerly
Executive Director Conservation Trust for Florida, Inc.