Lee County has supported the acquisition and protection of critical conservation areas for nearly 50 years. Before the Conservation 20/20 program was established in 1996, taxpayer funds were used to acquire several properties in Lee County to maintain as conservation preserves. Some of these preserves have since been expanded in size with the acquisition of land adjacent to these properties using Conservation 20/20 funds.
For more information about these preserves, please refer to the links below.
Before Conservation 20/20: A brief history
The first conservation area protected in Lee County was Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve. A referendum in 1976 to purchase the land using taxpayer dollars was presented to Lee County voters, which passed with overwhelmingly majority support. Additional land to expand the boundary of the preserve was later acquired with assistance from the South Florida Water Management District through the Save Our Rivers Program at a cost of approximately $7 million dollars.
From 1990 to 1994, Lee County also had a capital improvement project, the Sensitive Lands Inventory and Protection Program, which collected about a half-million dollars annually. Approximately 1,000 acres of land was purchased through this program, which included land for Hickey Creek Mitigation Park, St. James Creek Preserve, and Bocilla Preserve.
Another large effort was focused on the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed in south Lee County. Approximately $9 million was collected from an additional .25 mil property tax from the early 1990s to 2001. Lee County purchased roughly 9,000 acres, most which was then sold to the South Florida Water Management District to allow Lee County to continue purchasing property within this project.
Prior to Conservation 20/20, Lee County spent roughly $15 million to protect approximately 11,500 acres of conservation land. Grants from the Florida Communities Trust, Greenways and Trails, and Save Our Rivers programs additionally provided $4 million toward the purchase of these lands.