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Special Edition | August 15, 2012
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The M-CORES program, which includes the proposed Suncoast Connector Toll Road in Jefferson County, passed through the Florida Legislature at breakneck speed with little review or analysis. Tall Timbers has a number of concerns given the potential for significant and wide spread impacts. These include fragmenting public and private conservation lands, robbing business from Main Street Monticello, impacting our rivers and other water resources, and making prescribed fire more difficult and costly.
Join us in asking the Jefferson County Board of County Commissioners to OPPOSE the Suncoast Connector toll road and its path through Jefferson County.
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<pre>Just say No! I am writing to ask you to oppose the Suncoast Connector toll road proposed in Jefferson County. The Suncoast Connector and two other proposed toll roads were approved by the Florida Legislature with virtually no analysis or demonstration of need.</pre>
<pre>Jefferson County and the Big Bend are already served by US 19, which is an excellent four-lane highway that is lightly traveled and operating at a fraction of its capacity. Building a new (and unnecessary) four-lane toll road through Jefferson County would directly affect the Aucilla River, one of the most scenic rivers in the state and the site of many important archaeological discoveries. Construction of a new highway would also affect the flow of water to our rivers, wetlands, and coastal fisheries. With billions of tax dollars being invested in restoring freshwater flow to the Everglades, why would we risk the same outcome in our backyard?</pre>
<p>Construction of the Suncoast Connector toll road would fragment wildlife habitat along a 150-mile corridor and threaten publicly conserved lands enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.</p>
<p>The Suncoast Connector would also be a limited access highway ― the road would bypass existing communities along its path, such as Monticello. This would reduce traffic to local businesses along the US 19 corridor including through downtown Monticello.</p>
<p>Jefferson County and other rural communities certainly have infrastructure and economic development needs. Let’s work with the Legislature to strategically address these needs in a fiscally responsible manner that does not jeopardize the natural resources and historic downtown that make Jefferson County so special.</p>
<p>I urge you to OPPOSE the Suncoast Connector toll road and its path through Jefferson County.</p>
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The conserved lands of the Greater Red Hills region are found on working, income-producing properties that support agriculture, forestry, and recreational hunting. These properties contribute $272 million annually to local economies and support 2,300 jobs. [link to Planning & Advocacy section] The landowners’ strong stewardship ethic preserves their working lands while replenishing drinking water supplies, protecting water quality, and providing wildlife habitat for dozens of rare and endangered species. Tall Timbers’ conservation easements on these working properties encourage landowners to retain their traditional livelihood by keeping farms in family ownership.
Home to world-class wild quail populations, the Greater Red Hills region contains the largest concentration of gamebird preserves in the United States. These preserves also support the largest community of Red-cockaded woodpeckers on private lands. Indicators of high quality habitat found here include the gopher tortoise, Bachman’s sparrow, fox squirrel, and many amphibians. Tall Timbers’ conservation easements identify and protect the critical habitats of these species.
The region also boasts outstanding aquatic resources. Large river systems, like the Flint/Apalachicola, Ochlockonee, and Aucilla, flow from Georgia and feed into the Gulf of Mexico to support some of the world’s most productive estuaries. Large disappearing sinkhole lakes, like Iamonia, Miccosukee, and Jackson, provide habitat for an array of aquatic species and migratory birds. Tall Timbers’ conservation easements protect these vital watersheds and wetlands that are the lifeblood for the ecological health of the region.
Once dominated by longleaf pine, our pine woodlands support abundant wildlife and local economies. These forests need prescribed fire to stay healthy. Herbert L. Stoddard and his associates Ed and Roy Komarek were pioneers in this emerging scientific field during the mid-20th century. Tall Timbers continues that legacy with applied research on prescribed fire and land management. Today, there is a tremendous need to expand prescribed fire use beyond the Red Hills to ensure ecosystem health and reduce wildfire risk. Additionally, Tall Timbers uses conservation easements to permanently protect private woodlands while balancing the need for economic return from selective timbering.