Guest Commentary: Lee County has benefitted from conservation fund
Abundant energy can lead to a pristine environment. As we take time to reflect during this holiday season, what better time to truly appreciate our beautiful state and quality of life. Florida is home to wondrous natural resources delighting residents and tourists alike: sugar white beaches, springs that support wildlife unique to this area and natural preserves that are known throughout the world. In addition, Florida has historic locations that have shaped our state’s and country’s destiny: Pre-Columbian archeological sites, the settlements in St. Augustine and Pensacola, and sites associate with the Seminole War, the Civil War, through to the U.S. space program. Florida is unsurpassed in its quality of life, natural beauty and cultural history.
A concerted effort from local, state, and federal governments has led to the purchase, conservation and in many cases restoration of these treasures, and much of the funding has been provided from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which derives its funds from revenues generated from offshore oil and natural gas production. America’s most important conservation program has funneled about $908,000,000 into Florida over the past five decades. For example, an area where we have been producing oil for more than a half century, the Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park areas, have received $30 million in LWCF funding in 2012 alone. In addition, the Florida Everglades Restoration Project has received about $58 million from the LCWF over the last three years to restore the natural flow of water in the everglade ecosystem.
The LWCF is celebrating its 50th year. Its idea dates back to President Eisenhower, was built upon by President Kennedy, and then enacted into law in 1964 during President Johnson’s administration in a brilliant bipartisan Congressional effort. What a “win-win” situation: Americans have access to affordable, reliable energy produced from domestic resources offshore, and our environment and cultural heritage is conserved using the revenues generated from royalties paid by the oil and natural gas industry.
Do not be fooled into thinking these funds are strictly for big projects located elsewhere. Lee County has benefitted through the years including 13 projects such as Sanibel Freshwater Recreation Area, Fort Myers Wharf-Centennial Park, Caloosahatchee Creek Preserve, and the Prairie Pine Preserve. About $2.5 million from the LWCF has been used to restore and make our local treasures more accessible in Lee County. You do not have to travel too far down the street – how about to the JN “Ding Darling” National Wildlife Refuge or to the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge – to find many more examples of the LWCF at work in Florida.
When we discuss the energy security, enhanced economy, and job opportunities that come from increased domestic offshore oil and natural gas production, we should also remember the tremendous environmental benefits that we have realized in the past and the potential for the future.
-David R. Mica is Executive Director of Florida Petroleum Council