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Pasco land swap would be bad for black bears

Land swap would be bad for bears

Your Feb. 3 article describing the SunWest/Southwest Florida Water Management District land swap did not present a fair assessment of the situation. In particular, you did not develop the point that lands purchased with Florida Forever dollars are purchased for their environmental value.

In the case of the land the district proposed to swap, the reason the land was purchased was to protect essential habitat for the Chassahowitzka population of the threatened Florida black bear. The purchase and preservation of an adjacent 210-acre parcel by Pasco ELAMP has made the land even more valuable as wildlife habitat. Since the district participated in the purchase of the 210-acre tract, its reasoning behind the land swap is even harder to fathom. To now declare this land not environmentally valuable is unjustified and contrary to the facts.

A second missed point concerns the lack of connectivity between the land the district will acquire and the black bear habitat that stretches from Levy County into northern Pasco. In evaluating habitat for large, wide-ranging mammals and the myriad species that flourish under their umbrella, connectivity is an essential ingredient. The proposed swap severs a corridor that is repeatedly used by bears as core habitat and for travel. The district funded a five-year study of the Chassahowitzka bears. That study demonstrated conclusively that the path to the land that the district is acquiring crosses the land that the district is abandoning.

The development that will occur as a result of the swap renders the land the district will acquire as unreachable and thus a significant loss of bear habitat. In fact, much of the area is essentially protected already by virtue of being coastal wetlands.

Large mammals are a precious resource that must be preserved in their natural ecosystem. To have the Water Management District willingly trade critical black bear habitat for the convenience of a land developer is unacceptable.

Laurie Macdonald, Florida director, Defenders of Wildlife

Plan balances nature, project

It seems way too many good projects are stifled or stopped by environmentalists. Letters to the editor and to public officials are effective to enrage the ire and the preservation instinct in all of us, but, nationwide, this antigrowth effort is taking its toll on common-sense projects.

No one wants to push change to the point of the extinction of bears, the birds, the grass, the fish or countless other issues so often stated to oppose new projects, but this project appears to have an obvious preservation vision. Large projects can come to pass that will not harm the balance of nature and I truly believe that the Florida water management people and other regulatory bodies, in conjunction with the SunWest planners, will not destroy the goose that laid the golden egg.

Growth management proponents will grab at any straw that furthers their ability to ultimately control growth. If it isn't one thing, it would be another. The future of wildlife, bears, sea grass and wetlands, as well as growth, public land swaps, connectivity, environmental worth, genetic impoverishment, demographic collapse and public trust imply this project will never meet the activists' environmental criteria for preservation.

The "any way you look at it nature loses" mentality seems narrowly focused to oppose any form of this project. Most recent opposition appears centered on critique of the Southwest Florida Water Management District and local officials and not necessarily the environmental concerns as they may insinuate.

How much contiguous land is available for the bears now and what will be the percentage lost if the 90 acres in question is traded to help make this project fly? The plan and trade indicates it will provide more than 800 acres to the Southwest Florida Water Management District for general conservancy and up to nearly 1,800 acres in addition to than what is available presently.

This project is a cooperative effort between government and developers and will provide a Pasco County park with deep-water public access to the gulf, swimming, picnicking, hiking and fishing. Hudson currently has only one public boat ramp and limited public access to the gulf. This is huge for Pasco residents.

SunWest Harbourtowne will be an economic boon for the Hudson area and will clean up an environmental disaster. Proponents must meet stringent requirements, already in place, before construction can begin. I think the developers have a whatever-it-takes attitude, so all sides have an opportunity to be heard. Make compromises, stop crying wolf and be proud of your effort to shape this project environmentally.

Jack Leishman, Hudson

Littlefield picked wrong opponent

So, Ken Littlefield now wants to be our county commissioner. The gall to run against the most accessible public servant in Pasco County. Mr. Littlefield, what did you ever accomplish for Pasco County?

I have been a registered Democrat for 44 years. In the eight years I've lived in Pasco County I have not hear or read of any reason why Pat Mulieri should not continue to have my support.

Maurice A. Batista, Spring Hill

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Pasco land swap would be bad for black bears 02/09/09 [Last modified: Monday, February 9, 2009 6:20pm]
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