Former FL State Leaders Join Committee for Conservation Funds

TAMPA, 7/18/2008: Former Governor Bob Martinez and former county commissioner Jan Platt have joined forces to support the continuation of Hillsborough County’s very successful environmental lands preservation program.

The two appeared before the Hillsborough County Commission this week to announce the formation of Hillsborough Environmental Land Preservation, A Citizen’s Committee. The group will work toward passage of a referendum in November reauthorizing the sale of bonds for the county’s Environmental Lands Acquisition and Preservation Program (ELAPP).

“Even in these times of fiscal restraint, people recognize the urgent need to preserve the natural places and open spaces that help define our community,” said Martinez. The former governor created effective environmental protection while in office, most notably Preservation 2000, which was the largest conservation land-purchasing initiative in the nation when it was created in 1990. P2000 was the precursor to the state’s current conservation land-buying program, Florida Forever.

“We have a golden opportunity right now to preserve some critical places while land prices are down,” said Platt, who served on the Hillsborough County Commission for 24 years and was one of the creators of the ELAPP program in the late 1980s.

One of the state’s most successful land acquisition programs, ELAPP began in 1987 when Hillsborough County voters approved a referendum assessing a quarter mill tax. In 1990, citizens overwhelmingly approved bonds to raise $100 million over 20 years for preservation land purchases. Since then, the program has acquired about 45,000 acres for conservation, but will expire in 2011. ELAPP is overseen by a citizen committee, and will be subject to annual independent audits to ensure that the funds, if authorized by citizens on November 4, will be spent in accordance with the voters’ wishes.

“With Florida Forever being reauthorized, we need a local partner. We’ve developed a really successful way of acquiring land,” said Sally Thompson, one of the founding members of the ELAPP steering and selection committees. “We have been able to leverage local funds in ways I couldn’t have imagined when we passed the original program back in the 1980s.”

“In Florida, having those local funds can be particularly fruitful, given that the state land buying programs require local matching funds,” said Ernest Cook, director of The Trust for Public Land’s Conservation Finance Program. “Hillsborough County has been successful in matching their prior ELAPP funds with state funds on more than a one to one basis, and we have every reason to believe that will continue.”

The Conservation Finance Program of the Trust for Public Land helps states and communities generate new funds for parks and open space acquisition through legislative action or referenda. The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, historic sites, rural lands, and other natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 2 million acres of land in 46 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In Florida, TPL has protected more than 340 sites – over 200,000 acres at a market value of about $500 million. The Trust for Public Land depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission. For more information please call 850-222-7911.