The first wave of mail ballots went out Friday and there is an urgent local issue all voters will want to take note of as they choose among candidates and ballot initiatives.
The Lee County Board of County Commissioners has brought the Conservation 20/20 program back to the voters in a non-binding referendum as the land preservation program celebrates its 20th year.
Originally approved by voters in a similar, non-binding initiative in 1996, implementation of the program has resulted in the purchase of nearly 25,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land. The 124 parcels purchased from willing sellers constitute 45 preserves countywide, including multiple preserve areas in Cape Coral, North Fort Myers, Pine Island, Sanibel and Captiva, Fort Myers Beach, and outside Lehigh Acres.
These were all sites that met the very narrow scope of the voter mandate: The preservation, maintenance and improvement of the one natural resource over which the county still has some control - environmentally sensitive parcels that remain in a natural condition. That's wetlands and marshes, hammocks and flatwoods, prairie and scrub.
If the preservation aspect is not benefit enough, there is an added bonus: All of the preserves are open to the public for "passive recreation" such as hiking and nature photography. Some also allow fishing, kayaking, canoeing or even "back country" horseback riding.
Simply put, Conservation 20/20 is a stellar success story.
It is for that reason that the ballot initiative has received not only the support of all the expected pro-environmental organizations but the support of every city and town government throughout Lee County.
Did we mention that continuation of the program comes at no additional cost to the taxpayers?
Because the funding was approved by voters two decades ago, and because it is now part of the county's General Fund budget, a "yes" vote on the Conservation 20/20 Non-Binding Referendum carries no new impact on the pocketbook.
An affirmative vote just lets the county know that the public continues to support what has come to be called Lee County's Legacy Program.
We urge a resounding "YES" vote on the Conservation 20/20 Non-Binding Referendum.
Our environment - and our children and grandchildren who will enjoy its preservation in the future - deserve no less.
DO YOU APPROVE OF LEE COUNTY CONTINUING TO USE GENERAL REVENUE FUNDS TO ACQUIRE, RESTORE, IMPROVE, AND MANAGE LAND FOR CONSERVATION, SURFACE WATER MANAGEMENT, WATER QUALITY, WATER RECHARGE AND SUPPLY, FLOOD CONTROL, WILDLIFE HABITAT, PASSIVE PUBLIC RECREATION, AND OPEN SPACE PURPOSES, PURSUANT TO LEE COUNTY ORDINANCE 15-08 (COMMONLY KNOWN AS THE LEE COUNTY CONSERVATION 20/20 LAND PROGRAM)?
- Eagle editorial