Given diverse interests and missions, what if we could all agree on what we would like Florida to look like in the next 50 years? What if we could all work from the same “blueprint”? That is the goal of the Cooperative Conservation Blueprint, a major multi-partner initiative led by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). The initiative is bringing together landowners, businesses, governmental and conservation organizations and others to collectively develop, agree on and use a compelling incentive-based conservation Blueprint for Florida – a core element of implementing Florida’s State Wildlife Action Plan. Having the Blueprint now would assist in conservation, development, legislative policies and business sustainability.
A vision by itself is not enough, we also need policies and incentives attached to that vision that bring economic viability, increased options, and value-added to the lands identified. Private landowners have been and continue to be excellent stewards of Florida’s landscapes. The current pattern of land ownership in Florida, with large tracts of important natural lands owned by a relatively small number of landowners, provides a timely opportunity for the strategic use of incentives to conserve large areas. As a result, working lands can continue in private ownership and management, produce an economic return and sustain the best of natural Florida for future generations.
Florida abounds with geographic data sources and planning tools that focus on identifying areas important to fish and wildlife conservation. There are also numerous planning programs in Florida that work on regional or statewide strategic planning. A few examples in the PFLCC area are the seven regional visioning efforts that have been initiated by the Regional Planning Councils, and The Nature Conservancy’s Northern Everglades Initiative in east central to southwest Florida. While varied governmental agencies, nongovernmental organizations and businesses use different tools and approaches, to date there is no single agreed upon comprehensive and unified future statewide vision for all of Florida.
The Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida, the Florida Natural Areas Inventory and the University of Florida GeoPlan Center worked with the FWC to develop the Critical Land and Waters Identification Project (CLIP). The CLIP is a fully integrated set of GIS data layers of priority statewide conservation areas, working landscapes, and development areas. The CLIP uses science and the best statewide spatial data to identify Florida's critical environmental resources in a database that can be used as a decision-support tool for collaborative statewide and regional conservation and land use planning. The CLIP can provide science-based data to build a shared understanding of the most vital natural resources important for the state’s economic and environmental future. The Blueprint aims to use the CLIP as the basis of a statewide common vision all can work from.
Much like the Blueprint on a statewide scale, the PFLCC strives to provide an environment where diverse perspectives and programs can come together and find common ground in peninsular Florida. The Blueprint process offers a model for a partnership based approach that emphasizes the importance of private landowners and the need for economic policies and incentives. The CLIP data provides a foundation of scientific natural resource data that can be used to build shared understanding and focus on the regions most vital areas. The PFLCC aims to build upon these and other resources and create a comprehensive vision to coordinate efforts across the region.