Tall Timbers working to protect the Red Hills from Florida’s massive toll road plan

Tall Timbers and many other conservation organizations are working overtime to understand and respond to the ramifications of Florida Senate bill 7068, which authorized the creation of the Multi-Use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance program (M-CORES). The ultimate outcome of this program could be the building of three new toll roads spanning approximately 340 miles across Florida. This would be the largest highway expansion in Florida since the President Eisenhower Interstate Highway System of the 1950s.

Of greatest concern to Tall Timbers is the proposed Suncoast Connector toll road, which would connect with other toll roads and the Florida Turnpike in central Florida and extend northward through Jefferson County in the Red Hills. Tall Timbers believes this proposed toll road will encourage sprawling growth in rural communities, fragment or destroy private and public conservation lands, and adversely affect critical wildlife habitat in the Red Hills region and other rural landscapes.

Suncoast Connector Counties

Tall Timbers is proactively responding to this threat by: hiring a consulting group to help represent our conservation interests; conducting research on key environmental, economic, and cultural resource issues to influence the outcome of this process; engaging with dozens of conservation organizations around the state; and working closely with landowners, other interested individuals, and partner organizations in Jefferson County and other Red Hills communities who are concerned about this sweeping proposal.

On August 1, the Florida Department of Transportation appointed a 42-member Suncoast Connector Task Force to evaluate design features and the need to acquire conservation lands that may mitigate the impact of project construction on the quality and quantity of water resources, wildlife habitat, and farmland. The Task Force consists of representatives from numerous state agencies, transportation organizations, local governments, and various stakeholder groups (economic development, trucking, farming, utilities, and the environmental community).

Tall Timbers will closely monitor and interact with the Task Force throughout its 14-month term to inform members about the Red Hills region and the Big Bend, where so much private and public investment has already permanently protected large, contiguous blocks of forestland and sensitive natural resources.

Ultimately, the Task Force will summarize the results of its analysis in a final report to the Governor, Legislature, and the Secretary of the Department of Transportation by October 1, 2020.

Tall Timbers’ Board recognizes the seriousness of this threat and is engaged in an aggressive fundraising campaign. If you would like to support our effort, please contact Crystal Davis Rice at 850-545-2162 or email Crystal. For additional information about this issue, contact Neil Fleckenstein at 850-728-6235 or email Neil.

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