By Robert Knight. Published in the Gainesville Sun on September 22, 2022.

Working in unison, Florida’s counties and cities have more power than our governor and legislature. Florida’s League of Cities and Association of Counties comprise a robust network of local officials that thrives off the collective power and best interests of the public they represent.

To use that power to dismantle the political/corporate machine that is methodically destroying Florida’s natural environment, there must be a true leader, a crusader, a tireless organizer who can combine these forces to truly represent the future best interests of Florida.

Alachua County is a microcosm of our statewide rush toward environmental doom. Through compromise and weak resolve, local leaders ultimately condone rampant development that has eroded the quality of life for residents — both human and non-human.

Bound with imaginary handcuffs of comprehensive plans and special needs maps, and with the never-ending “fear of litigation,” community leaders need to find creative methods to overcome obstacles to achieve environmental protection.

Credible science has verified the increasing impairment of Alachua County’s lakes, rivers, creeks and springs. Newnan’s Lake, Orange Lake, Lake Lochloosa, Gainesville’s urban creeks, and the Santa Fe River and her 50-plus artesian springs are all polluted by excessive nutrients and suffering from altered hydrology.

The culprits causing these impairments are well known: urban and agricultural fertilizer, inadequate wastewater and stormwater management, and massive groundwater extractions.

Upland and wetland habitats that provide refuge for our native wildlife are being reduced with each subsequent development. With unbridled population and economic growth, even urban human space is shrinking with the transformation of Gainesville into a metropolis of subdivisions, high rises and increasing traffic congestion.

And yet, every new development is allowed to add additional stress to our already-damaged aquatic and terrestrial environments. “Death by a thousand cuts” is alive and well in this county that prides itself on its social and environmental ethics. Development decisions need to be made that actually represent the protection values that citizens hold dearly — a lasting quality of life for future generations of people and wildlife.

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