Letters to the Editor

Natural gas funds conservation in Florida

Abundant energy can lead to a pristine environment. As we take time to reflect during this holiday season, what better time to truly appreciate our beautiful state and quality of life?

Florida is home to wondrous natural resources delighting residents and tourists: sugar-white beaches, springs that support wildlife unique to this area and natural preserves that are known throughout the world.

In addition, Florida has historic locations that have shaped the state’s and country’s destiny: Pre-Columbian archeological sites, the settlements in St. Augustine and Pensacola, sites associated with the Seminole War, the Civil War through to the U.S. space program.

Florida is unsurpassed in its quality of life, natural beauty and cultural history.

A concerted effort from local, state and federal governments has led to the purchase, conservation and, in many cases, restoration of these treasures. Much of the money has been provided from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which derives its funds from revenues generated from offshore oil and natural-gas production.

America's most important conservation program has funneled about $908 million into Florida during the past five decades. For example, two areas where we have been producing oil for more than a half century, the Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park, have received $30 million in LWCF funding in 2012 alone. In addition, the Florida Everglades Restoration Project has received about $58 million from the LCWF over the last three years to restore the natural flow of water in the Everglades ecosystem.

The LWCF is celebrating its 50th year. The idea dates back to President Eisenhower. It built upon by President Kennedy and then enacted into law in 1964 during President Johnson’s administration in a brilliant bipartisan Congressional effort.

It’s a win-win situation: Americans have access to affordable, reliable energy produced from domestic resources offshore, and our environment and cultural heritage are conserved using the revenues generated from royalties paid by the oil and natural-gas industry.

Do not be fooled into thinking these funds are strictly for big projects located elsewhere. Miami-Dade has benefited through the years with 51 projects, including Snake Creek Canal Park in North Miami Beach, Beachfront Park and Promenade in Miami Beach, Miami River Bicycle Trail in Hialeah and Latin Community Riverfront Park in Miami.

Nine projects have been funded in the past decade with the LWCF providing $200,000 each to projects such as Bella Vista Park, Miami Lakes Park and the Park on the Bay acquisition. About $19 million from the LWCF has been used to restore and make local treasures more accessible. You do not have to travel too far — the Biscayne National Preserve or National Key Deer Refuge — to find many more examples just outside of Miami-Dade.

When we discuss the energy security, enhanced economy and job opportunities that come from increased domestic offshore oil and natural-gas production, we should also remember the tremendous environmental benefits that we have realized in the past and the potential for the future.

David R. Mica,

executive director,

Florida Petroleum Council,

Tallahassee

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