DUNEDIN — City commissioners are joining a movement to encourage the federal government to restore funding for a program established in 1964 to create parks and open spaces, protect wetlands and refuges and support other conservation opportunities.
They voted unanimously Jan. 10 to adopt a resolution calling for full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is said to have provided more than $1 billion over the past 54 years for a variety of programs.
The funding, as Commissioner Deborah Kynes noted, has contributed to the enhancement of several parks in Dunedin, such as Caladesi Island, Honeymoon Island, Haw Creek Preserve, Curlew Creek Park and Weaver Park.
Kynes was contacted by the Rev. David Shelor, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Dunedin, who has been involved in the issue because he has parishioners who were involved in parks preservation and related issues. Kynes asked Shelor at the commission work session to speak on the need to fully fund the federal program.
“We are here who we are in large part because of those who have gone before us having the wisdom and foresight to make sure that our coastal areas are protected and particularly giving us these tremendous gifts of Honeymoon Island and Caladesi state parks,” Shelor said.
According to the city’s resolution, though the Land and Water Conservation Fund is authorized to receive $900 million annually, this cap has been met only twice during the program’s nearly five decades of existence, and Congress diverts funds for other purposes.
The fund, which was discontinued in September, is considered essential to protecting Florida’s wildlife and habitat.
Hundreds of millions of LWCF dollars have been used for the restoration of Everglades National Park, Everglades National Wildlife Refuge, Big Cypress National Preserve, Biscayne National Park, Osceola National Forest, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Florida National Scenic Trail, among others, the resolution says.
Shelor said the fund is a simple and straightforward idea: a portion of federal fees from offshore drilling for gas and oil is set aside for preservation, conservation and recreation.
Shelor urged commissioners to join efforts by Sarasota County, Monroe County and other entities in encouraging full funding for the federal program.
The fund, a simple and straightforward idea, he said, stipulates that part of the federal fees for offshore drilling for gas and oil is set aside for preservation, conservation and recreation.
“I know that most positive change, sustainable changes, impactful change comes from the local level and comes up. I hope you will add your voices to that local level and help encourage our federal legislative leaders to do the right thing and reauthorize this fund and fully fund it,” Shelor said.
Commissioner Moe Freaney said she couldn’t agree more with what Shelor said.
“Let’s face it – fragile earth. We all know what’s the most important thing for our citizens. It’s green space, and it is protecting the waterfront. I think you could go to most places in the United States of America and people feel the same way. So, I think this is definitely an issue to speak up and be heard,” she said.
Commissioner also wanted to make sure that their actions would not be construed as the city being in favor of off-shore drilling
After discussing the proposed resolution at a work session Jan. 8, they added language to the resolution that says “The City of Dunedin does not support the issuance of oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf nor does it support off-shore drilling for gas or oil … .”