Guest Ed­i­to­rial by Sawyer Smith

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - DEPARTMENTS -

Whether it’s drift­ing in the Boca Grande Pass dur­ing tar­pon sea­son or snook fish­ing in the mouth of the Caloosa­hatchee, kayak­ing in the maze of man­groves in Ding Dar­ling or re­lax­ing on our miles of white sandy beaches, the beauty and har­mony of our coastal and in­land wa­ters and the in­cred­i­ble won­ders of our nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment are the very things that make our cor­ner of the world one of the most in­cred­i­ble places to live and visit.

Those of us who are year-round Lee County res­i­dents love this coastal com­mu­nity life and rec­og­nize the eco­nomic im­pact of the mil­lions of yearly vis­i­tors drawn here by our nat­u­ral re­sources. Nearly five mil­lion vis­i­tors last year alone pumped al­most three bil­lion dol­lars into our lo­cal econ­omy. It is these same nat­u­ral re­sources that must be pro­tected if we are to sus­tain and im­prove our eco­nomic value, grow our com­mu­ni­ties and in­vest in our qual­ity of life.

The chal­lenges and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of main­tain­ing a healthy Gulf Coast and Caloosa­hatchee River, while of keen lo­cal in­ter­est, also ex­tend far be­yond our county’s ju­ris­dic­tion. Lee County’s own Con­ser­va­tion 20/20 Pro­gram, which buys and con­serves sen­si­tive wa­ter­shed lands, has been suc­cess­ful in meet­ing its orig­i­nal mis­sion since its in­cep­tion in 1996. This type of pro­gram is es­sen­tial to ju­di­cious wa­ter man­age­ment, but should be reaf­firmed by the vot­ers and up­dated to meet the new chal­lenges of land and wa­ter re­source pro­tec­tion.

Lake Okee­chobee man­age­ment is not within Lee County’s con­trol, yet the down­stream im­pacts of the dev­as­ta­tion of red tide along our coasts are very much our con­cern. The U.S. Army


Corps of En­gi­neers and state Wa­ter Man­age­ment Districts will need to work co­op­er­a­tively with our re­gion to bet­ter man­age wa­ter re­leases from this lake. Fu­ture plan­ning must in­clude recog­ni­tion of en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion through­out all of Florida’s wa­ter­ways, and bal­anc­ing the needs and op­por­tu­ni­ties of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment with en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion. Lee County—per­haps more so than al­most any other area in Florida— rep­re­sents a nexus of of­ten­times com­pet­ing in­ter­ests in wa­ter man­age­ment. Strong lead­er­ship in align­ing those di­verse and com­pet­ing in­ter­ests into a sus­tain­able bal­ance is re­quired to main­tain our en­vi­ron­ment while ad­dress­ing our qual­ity-of-life con­cerns. We all ben­e­fit from South­west Florida’s sin­gu­larly beau­ti­ful en­vi­ron­ment, yet we can eas­ily for­get the fragility and in­ter­con­nec­tiv­ity of this ecosys­tem—an ecosys­tem upon which our very fu­ture eco­nomic well-be­ing de­pends.

We need to join to­gether to en­sure its pro­tec­tion, while si­mul­ta­ne­ously en­gag­ing in thought­ful and proac­tive de­ci­sion mak­ing to sup­port businesses, cre­ate jobs and grow our econ­omy. Af­ter all, in South­west Florida a healthy en­vi­ron­ment is in­sep­a­ra­ble from a healthy econ­omy. We must en­cour­age our lead­ers in Wash­ing­ton, Tal­la­has­see and through­out our South­west Florida re­gion to pro­mote com­mon-sense so­lu­tions to achieve these mu­tual goals. As we look around us and at the bal­ance that has al­ready been achieved, we should be con­fi­dent that by re­main­ing true to our shared prin­ci­ples and com­mit­ment to our com­mu­nity, we can and will be suc­cess­ful. Sawyer Smith Part­ner, The Wil­bur Smith Law Firm

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