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Kudos to Lee County
September 28, 2017

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County commissioners and conservationists alike are applauding the elected board's unanimous vote last week to add nearly 4,000 acres of wetlands to Lee County's voter-endorsed Conservation 20/20 program.

We add our voice to those heralding the purchase.

We lend our support for a number of reasons.

One, while the $42.4 million price tag is a hefty one, the acreage, as Commissioner Larry Kiker points out in his guest opinion in today's Breeze, is an integral part of the Lee Plan's designated Density Reduction/Groundwater Resource area.

Properties within the DRGR mark the region's aquifer recharge area and are so earmarked to protect the sources of Lee County's drinking water.

That's important.

Two, wetland properties like the Edison Farms also serve to protect the water quality conditions in Estero Bay and the Estero River by providing filtration for stormwater runoff.

That's important, too.

Three, as Hurricane Irma made abundantly clear, development in low-lying areas is problematic in the best of times, catastrophic in the worst.

Then add in some key bonuses:

- The six-section Edison Farms purchase abuts existing Conservation 20/20 lands, and so also provides critical habitat while enhancing the wildlife corridor used by endangered and threatened species like the Florida panther and black bear.

- Acquisition via 20/20 provides an opportunity for "passive recreation" access for the public paying for the purchase.

With these benefits in mind, purchase - and so preservation of the acreage in perpetuity - is a wise move for Lee County in both the short- and long-term.

We thank those who had the vision to bring the project to fruition.

We also again thank the voters of Lee County who have opted, not once, but twice, to support this far-sighted land preservation program.

Since Lee voters first opted to so tax themselves in 1996, Conservation 20/20 has resulted in the purchase of nearly 25,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land countywide: 124 parcels that now constitute 45 preserves including multiple sites in Cape Coral, North Fort Myers, Pine Island, Sanibel and Captiva, Fort Myers Beach, and outside Lehigh Acres.

The Edison Farms property comes behind the second voter-approved endorsement of the program in 2016. The buy will be 20/20's second largest purchase to date, coming in right behind the acquisition of the 5,620-acre Bob Janes Preserve in Alva for $41,538,620 in July 2006.

Kudos. The Lee County in which our children - and our children's children - will live will be a better place thanks to the decision our elected officials have made today.

- Breeze editorial

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