THE MIAMI HERALD,
THURSDAY, AUGUST 1, 1991
To save Dade’s wild places
Appointee Carol Rist, seasoned conservationist, sums up her new, unpaid job thus: “I feel as though it’s the most important thing I’ll ever do in this field.” Could be, for Ms. Rist and the other six members of Dade’s just-appointed Land Acquisition Selection Committee, an offshoot of the May 8, 1990 Environmentally Endangered Lands referendum.
Voters approved then a two-year, 0.75mill property tax for the “acquisition, preservation, enhancement, restoration, conservation, and maintenance of environmentally endangered lands for the benefit of present and future generations.”
Well, maybe so. Once Dade was a wild place of upland forests sloping to flooded grassy flatlands and coastal jungles. Everglades and Biscayne National Parks protect some wetlands and coastlines. The oncevast upland forests, have largely been bulldozed for development. The special tax is meant to save what little is left.
A carefully crafted ordinance establishes sound acquisition criteria. These should prevent Metro Commissioners from using the tax to bail out developer pals saddled with undevelopable parcels. Only land with ecologically valued assets and size enough to justify preservation will be considered.
The committee will recommend 20 sites to the commission semi-annually for approval. Some sites are on state-purchase lists. Matching contributions from the state or private sources will be sought.
At least $10 million in tax proceeds will become a trust fund for management plans, such as habitat restoration, written by applicable Metro departments. Management must be as closely monitored as the acquisition process. The Parks and Recreation Department lately seems to think parklands are for economic development, for instance. Not these lands. Ever.
There’s reason for skepticism. The large, valuable ITT property, which the state gave to Metro to manage, is a disgraceful example of willful neglect. That’s not what voters intended for their investment in Dade’s remaining wild places.