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Land swap would fragment habitat

Activists to fight land swap Feb. 3 article

Land swap would fragment habitat

SunWest project manager Bob Carpenter said the 1,266 acres the Southwest Florida Water Management District will receive in the swap for 90 acres is deemed environmentally significant. However, he does not say that 119 acres of that land are uplands and 1,148 acres are jurisdictional wetlands and/or coastal salt marsh. He also does not say that the 1,266 acres will be isolated from conservation land to the north by the SunWest Harbourtowne development.

Eric Sutton of the water district's Land Resources Division did not say that bears require large tracts of land to survive. If bears were seen on the property, they traveled there from other suitable habitat to the north. Many of the species that the district says will be protected by the swap rely on the varied habitats both south and north of the proposed SunWest Harbourtowne. It is the connectivity between the smaller suitable habitats and the larger tracts to the north that will be severed by the swap.

The 2,500 homes proposed by the SunWest development and the associated human activity will effectively isolate the land the district will receive from habitat used by bears to the north. This fragmentation of habitat is a source of danger to all species, plant and animal, that occupy the large tracts of core habitat traveled by bears. Land protected for bears insures conservation of hundreds of other species, all valuable to the unique ecology of our state.

This swap sets yet another precedent for the potential justification for fragmenting bear habitat across the state.

For more information on the swap and SunWest development, read more online at

Julie Wert, coordinator, Gulf Coast Conservancy, Aripeka

Conservationists must reprioritize

I just moved to Heritage Pines from Connecticut and read your article with much interest. I have been in the energy and renewable business for more than 40 years and have much experience in dealing with environmental groups throughout the United States while involved in energy projects, and I would like to offer some unbiased opinions regarding the conservancy group's fighting this project.

Most environmental groups are well-intentioned but sometimes they become obsessed with issues that do not really stand up to the light of day.

Black bears are very opportunistic eaters. Most of their diet consists of grasses, roots, berries and insects. They will also eat fish and mammals and can easily develop a taste for human foods and garbage. Bears who become habituated to human food at campsites, cabins or rural homes and can become dangerous. If there are black bears in this area, they should be located and safely removed by the proper authorities. They typically weigh from 200 to 600 pounds and can threaten individuals. I am not surprised that there is no mention of this by the conservancy group.

Black bears are solitary animals and roam large territories. Males might wander a 15- to 80-square-mile home range. This makes residents of Pasco County vulnerable to them, so why is this group not worried about that? We have a wonderful state park area up the road in Homosassa, and that is where the one male and two female black bears should be relocated.

According to a quick search on Google, it is estimated that there have been 36 documented killings of humans by black bears in North America in the past 100 years. This begs the question: Who is this group more concerned about, humans or the black bears? I am not against black bears in any way and it is rare that they attack humans fatally, but it does happen.

My message to the Gulf Coast Conservancy is simple: Straighten out your priorities, because you do not speak for the majority of the residents in this county who want progress unhampered by hidden, biased agendas of groups that are not voted into office by the county citizens and don't have a proxy from our community to be self-ordained and anointed by themselves.

Steve Griller, Hudson

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Land swap would fragment habitat 02/04/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 4, 2009 9:57pm]
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