President's Letter June 2003
Michael Andoscia, M.A.
Responsible Growth Management Coalition
P.O. Box 1826
Fort Myers, Florida 33902
Dear RGMC Member:
Recently I was reading A Reason for Hope by Dr. Jane Goodall. In the book she mentions one Merv Wilkonson of British Columbia. Mr. Wilkonson is a logger, but not of the breed that is justifiably reviled by environmentalists. No, Mr. Wilkonson has a 136 acre plot of forest that he has been logging since 1939! Thatís right, ď1939Ē is not a typo. He uses sustainable techniques which have preserved this land for almost 65 years. Dr. Goodall describes the forest as looking relatively untouched. She states that wildlife on Mr. Wilkinsonís tract has actually increased! Just as important, those who live in the nearby town have jobs that are based on Mr. Wilkonsonís logging practices, and will continue to have such jobs so long as these sustainable techniques are used.
Merv Wilkonson, according to Dr. Goodall, is one of her ďreasons for hope.Ē If this logger can make a personal living, create an economic base for his community and preserve the environment, maintaining a home for wildlife in British Columbia, why canít everyone? Of course, we already know the answer to this. Primarily, greed! Surely Mr. Wilkonson could make a lot more money by clear cutting these 136 acres, selling off all of the lumber, and then selling the cleared land to developers who would build condos or other high density residences. Mr. Wilkonson could then invest his profits elsewhere and live high on the hog. But obviously, Mr. Wilkonson has loftier goals.
Indeed, we could use Merv Wilkonsonís leadership in Lee County. Our community is a wealth of environmental assets that brings many who are intent to make a profit into the area. In and of itself, this is not bad. Itís the means by which such profiteers conduct their business that is destructive to our community and to our standard of living. Sustainable techniques for using our natural resources were not discussed by Parker Daniels when the Fort Myers City Council accepted their proposal for increased density. Mining interests threatening to sue our County Commission over restrictions to the depth of their mines certainly have no respect for sustainable use of our sensitive environment.
Whereas it is true that plots of private property belong to individuals, the environment belongs to all of us. The two cannot be separated. When Parker Daniels and Palomino projects adversely affect the Six Mile Cypress Preserve this affects all of us. When mining operations draw water from our groundwater recharge areas this threatens the quality of life for all of us. The citizens of a community should not be forced to sacrifice the quality of their lives in the interests of increasing the profit margin for individuals and corporations. The RGMC does not request that business enterprises stay out of Southwest Florida. Instead we ask that they do business responsibly with respect to our homes and the sanctity of our community.
Those of us who do not want to see the natural beauty of our community, our rural heritage, sold off to the highest bidders must stick together and speak in one voice. Those who wish to exploit our natural resources to the detriment of the environment, the wildlife and the people of Southwest Florida are cunning in their methods. Through endless amendments to Lee Countyís Comprehensive Plan they are able to co-opt our home piece by piece. This forces environmental groups to fight a myriad of small, but costly threats to our way of life. By this method there will soon be nothing left of our natural and rural inheritance to pass on to our children and grandchildren.
Thatís why it is up to us, as members of one of the boldest local organizations to present a strong front to those who would threaten what we hold sacred. Currently the RGMC continues to fight the Miromar Comprehensive Plan Amendment that would replace a piece of the DR/GR with an unnecessary golf course community that would be of benefit to a few land owners and a detriment to Lee County.
On June 25th I will be reading a letter into the record before the Lee County Commission regarding the Estero-60 proposal. This Comprehensive Plan amendment (CPA 2002-02) will increase the density on a 60 acre parcel in Estero for the purpose of development. This parcel is a functional slough and highland that provides habitat for many listed species. It also provides a buffer between urban development in the east and the Estero Scrub Preserve. Those who are interested in this issue should come out and support the RGMC in this effort.
Remember, Merv Wilkonson has made a living in an extractive industry by using responsible and sustainable techniques. If a logger in British Columbia can do it then we in Southwest Florida should demand that those wishing to make a profit from our natural resources do the same. Economic growth and a healthy environment are not mutually exclusive.
Michael Andoscia, M.A.
President: Responsible Growth Management Coalition