Recently, the CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Mr. Rob Moher, disparaged a number of respected environmental organizations.
The alleged offense? Working with Collier Enterprises to ensure the wildlife enhancements put in place for new towns and villages exceed the already strict requirements prescribed by the Rural Lands Stewardship Area program.
It is time to put the record straight.
To achieve mutual benefit, you need collaborative effort. Yet the Conservancy has not been at the table with Collier Enterprises Management and the many environmental organizations who have worked with us to achieve landmark conservation programs in Collier County over the past 20 years.
Example: The award-winning Rural Lands Stewardship Area (RSLA) program.
The Florida Wildlife Federation and Audubon of the Western Everglades/Audubon Florida were at the table every step of the way. These dedicated environmental groups chose to engage with Collier Enterprises Management to determine how wildlife can best benefit from land preservation in the RLSA and how human-wildlife interactions can be made even safer.
As a result, Collier Enterprises Management has made multi-million-dollar investments in innovations such as numerous wildlife underpasses, wildlife-deterring water barriers, and bear-proof trash cans to help keep wild species in dedicated wild areas rather than in residential or commercial developments. Yet, Mr. Moher trivializes these efforts.
The Conservancy did arrive late. Despite twice endorsing the 45,000-acre development footprint, the Conservancy has spent the better part of the past decade deriding the RLSA program and claiming it was “hoodwinked” by the very agreements it publicly supported on the record in county hearings.
The Florida Panther Protection Program is another example.
This is an historic agreement between landowners and wildlife organizations. This collaborative program, created at the urging of Defenders of Wildlife, will protect a huge range of panther habitat — as much as 2,500,000 acres. Ultimately, the Conservancy left its seat empty at that table, too.
Collier Enterprises Management is investing millions and giving land which will be put into preservation in perpetuity to exceed the RLSA requirements and to honor agreements with the three esteemed conservation organizations that worked on the project. The Conservancy has not taken up the invitation to engage in this process; rather, it simply makes accusations of greenwashing.
Investing millions in proactive, measurable, meaningful programs is part of Collier Enterprise Management’s mission to continue to serve the lasting legacy of Collier County. Collier Enterprises Management is proud of this achievement.
Despite all this, there is still an empty chair at the table with the Conservancy’s name on it. Those who truly care about the Conservancy should encourage Mr. Moher to stop wasting taxpayers’ and donors’ time and money on lawsuits and publicity campaigns and instead take his seat at the table.
Christian Spilker, President of Collier Enterprises Management, is an environmental scientist with over 25 years of experience in negotiating positive conservation outcomes.