Access to land and water: Outdoor legacy at risk?
Florida's population is predicted to double in the next 50 years to 36 million. That's enough people to fill New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Phoenix - the nation's five most populous cities. As the people move in about 7 million acres of land may be converted from natural or rural to urban development. Just think of all these people trying to watch wildlife, fish and hunt while crowded into fewer and smaller wild places.
We need to be concerned because the future has already arrived in some parts of Florida. Wait times at boat ramps are long and access to waterways is diminishing as public access points are purchased and limited to private use. These changes hit commercial fishermen right in the pocket book. Hunters are feeling the squeeze too. The prices for hunting leases have increased dramatically as less and less private lands are available. If the trend continues these costs could skyrocket putting leases out of reach. And Florida's preeminence as a world class birdwatching destination could be at risk if there is less and less habitat to sustain the species that bring birders and their bucks to our communities. As more and more people compete for access user conflicts are bound to increase and fish and wildlife are sure to experience the pressure.
So what can we do about it? We can get involved so we don't repeat the mistakes of the past. We can change how we grow so we do so with fish and wildlife habitat in mind. Do you know what is happening to protect shoreline access and working waterfronts in your community? Is your community purchasing property to conserve fish and wildlife habitats for you to enjoy? Or to buffer existing public lands from incompatible development? If you don't know the answers, find out and get involved. These types of land use decisions are determining our outdoor legacy. It will take all of us hunters and hikers, birders and bicyclists, working together to ensure a better future for our children and grandchildren.
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