“SOS: Saving Our Shores”: A Florida Keys seminar on the growing population

The Key Speaker Cynthia Guerra explaining land acquisition programs | Nafiul Khalid/PantherNOW

Nafiul Khalid | Contributing Writer

On Nov. 3, in a resounding commitment to preserve the fragile ecosystem of the Florida Keys, a hybrid seminar on land conservation was held at the Wertheim Conservatory at 3 p.m., bringing together the graduate students of the Department of Earth and Environment.

The key speaker, Cynthia Guerra, the acquisition manager for the Monroe County Planning and Environmental Resources Department in the Florida Keys, highlighted the urgency of safeguarding this unique and biodiverse region and satisfying the growing population. She projected two major stances defending ecosystem restoration: protecting the inhabitants and land acquisition.

“Especially in South Florida, if you think of residences or new housing, they are using
agricultural fields. It is easier to convert agricultural spaces to residential, as it is easier to make
zoning changes,” said Cynthia while comparing two models of the future population from 2070.

According to her, the growing population will require more accommodation. But, since it is easier to convert the protected and agricultural greens into residential spaces, she tells the audience that they must find an alternative. She projected a statewide alternative by 2070 for how the growing population and land conservation can coexist in the Florida Keys.

She wrapped up land acquisition with three programs: the Density Reduction Program, Less
Than Fee Program and the Resale Program.

“Don’t buy lands, buy interests,” she advised while describing the Less Than Fee Program for land acquisition.

She also said that surface water levels and hurricane evacuation are already a lot, and we do not need another pushing factor — the growing population.

Finally, she concluded that the Florida Keys can also be a great place to live, other than for tourism.

She encouraged the Rate of Growth Ordinance system, which is residential building permits, and believes the Florida Keys can be an attraction for both snowbirds and residents, only if we plan smart.

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