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The popular land conservation program in Lee County known as Conservation 20/20 Land Conservation will be put back on the November ballot in order to be reconsidered by voters for it’s extension into future years. The 5 Lee County Commissioners voted 4-1 to put the program back on the ballot so that voters can decide if they want to keep taxing themselves to purchase, restore and manage environmentally sensitive land.
The Conservation 20/20 Land Conservation program has been in existence since 1996 when a referendum was put on the ballot and was subsequently approved by voters. Concerned citizens back in the early 1990’s were worried that environmentally sensitive land was being gobbled up by developers and our green spaces and aquifer recharge areas were being lost. The 20/20 program has spent $316 million dollars since the programs inception to buy 24,931 acres of land in Lee County. That is a little under 5% of the total land area in Lee County which has 520,629 acres within it’s boundaries.
Some early advocates of the land conservation program stated that other counties in Florida set aside over 10% of it’s land for preserves and open spaces. The Lee County Commissioners thought it wise to let voters and citizens reevaluate the program and decide for themselves whether they want to continue being taxed to buy land as they become available. Last year, many people were upset that county commissioners used funds from the program to cover shortfalls for the general county budget needs. The citizens of Florida passed Amendment 1 in last years elections to buy environmentally sensitive land for restoration, water storage and wildlife habitat areas. Lee County’s Conservation 20/20 program has a website at leegov.com/conservation2020.