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Island preservationist Buchanan dies

By Staff | May 20, 2016

Phil Buchanan, long-time Pine Island resident and activist, 72, died Thursday morning at his home in St. James City. The cause of death is unknown.

Buchanan came to Pine Island from North Carolina where he was born and raised on a Cherokee Reservation. He was a retired attorney and spoke five languages, including his native Cherokee. He received his formal education earning a bachelor of law degree and later, juris doctor from the University of Maryland.

From an article written about Buchanan in the Feb. 10, 2009, Pine Island Eagle, Editor Marianne Paton wrote: “Buchanan is a member of the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Fourth Circuit, the Maryland Court of Appeals, the Baltimore Bar Association, the American Bar Association and the Federal Bar Association. He is certified by the U.S. Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs in Law Enforcement. He also attended University of Florida and earned a degree as a master naturalist in coastal systems, uplands and wetlands, which has aided greatly in his volunteer work on Pine Island. He was awarded Outstanding Florida Land Trust Volunteer (Pedersen Award) for 2001.”

Buchanan was a member of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars and served in numerous foreign lands, including Vietnam. He worked as an attorney and intelligence officer for the U.S. government for 33 years. His position at retirement in 1993 was “Assistant General Counsel for Intelligence Law,” National Security Agency and he was awarded the Special Action Intelligence Award in 1968 plus the National Intelligence Medal in 1994.

After retiring to Pine Island, Buchanan became very active in the preservation of the island. He was part of the committee that drafted the original Pine Island Plan and was a strong advocate for “smart” growth for Pine Island.

In 1994 Buchanan became a member of the Calusa Land Trust and later became president of the organization. Much of the environmentally sensitive land the trust acquired during his tenure was purchased with grants obtained by Buchanan.

More recently, Buchanan headed the Pine Island Planning Committee that was the watchdog for recent Pine Island Plan amendments and headed a lawsuit against the city of Cape Coral to replace the Ceitus barrier.

“Phil was truly a giant among Pine Islanders,” Bill Spikowski said. “Phil was president of the Calusa Land Trust from 2002-2003 and long-time chairman of the CLT’s land acquisition committee. He was also a key proponent and defender of the Pine Island Plan for the last 15 years.”

“This is tragic news for Pine Island,” said Ray Judah, a local environmental artivist and former Lee County Commissioner. “Phil was a quality person who was the glue in safeguarding the Pine Island Plan and overseeing the Ceitus lawsuit to ensure protection of Matlacha Aquatic Preserve.”

Several years ago, when Buchanan received the “Al Mills” award from the Chamber Commerce, board officials said, “Phil serves as legal consultant to the Greater Pine Island Civic Association Board of Directors and works tirelessly for the preservation of our island lifestyle and has advised this group for the past 17 years… We could never afford to pay Phil for the many services he provides to maintain and improve our island lifestyle and we are so fortunate he chose to retire here and share his abundant abilities with Greater Pine Island.”

Plans for a memorial service are in progress.