Special Edition | December 21, 2012
What is the economic impact of Red Hills working rural lands?
Tall Timbers to undertake much needed study
By Neil Fleckenstein, TTLC Planning Coordinator
Tall Timbers has a long and successful history of working with landowners and other partners to protect the Red Hills from threats that would fragment the landscape and jeopardize the use of prescribed fire, which is essential for these working rural lands. These threats have included sprawling residential development, pipelines, toll roads, landfills, and even interstate extensions. Our efforts to protect the region’s working lands have often focused on the importance of the Red Hills for its wildlife habitat and its role protecting drinking water quality, water supply and fresh air.
However, as the country continues to experience difficult economic times, increasingly the message that truly resonates with many of the elected officials and others who make important decisions that directly affect the Red Hills can be summed up in one word: “jobs.” Unfortunately, a comprehensive analysis of employment and economic impact associated with Red Hills working lands has never been undertaken [a limited study of a portion of Thomas County was completed in 1994]. Therefore, demonstrating the region’s significant economic and job-related benefits for our communities is vitally important to ensure the future sustainability of the Red Hills region.
Tall Timbers will address this long overdue need through the Red Hills Economic Impact Analysis Project. The goal of this project is to estimate the direct and indirect economic impact and employment associated with approximately 325,000 acres of working rural lands in the Red Hills region.
Working with economists at Florida State University, we have determined that the best way to gather the information we need is through a survey of approximately 110 owners of large Red Hills’ properties. This survey, which will be mailed on January 9, 2013, will inquire about the costs of operating and maintaining working rural properties in the Red Hills, employment associated with these properties, and certain aspects of land management. It is critically important that we receive a high response rate for the survey so that we can accurately capture the total economic impact of Red Hills working lands.
Of course, we understand the highly personal and private nature of some of the information we are asking for. That is why we cannot emphasize enough that the survey will be completely anonymous and ALL information collected will remain strictly confidential. Absolutely no information about any individual properties or landowners will be revealed and information discussed in any report derived from the survey will be presented only at the county or regional level. Finally, no information regarding per acre costs will be published.
Recently, Tall Timbers and a number of Red Hills residents who themselves will participate in this effort, have begun reaching out to fellow landowners to discuss the Red Hills Economic Impact Analysis Project. If you are one of those landowners, we hope you will join some of your friends, neighbors, and colleagues in supporting this ground breaking project that will help us conserve and protect the Red Hills.