The Late Governor Askew Remembered for His Work to Designate Florida’s Aquatic Preserves

Yesterday we learned that Governor Reubin Askew passed away in Tallahassee surrounded by his loved ones. We remember the many ways the Governor left his mark on Florida. One of his legacies was the foresight to set aside more than 2 million acres of pristine submerged land and coastal landscapes to be preserved for their “exceptional biological, aesthetic, and scientific value…for the benefit of future generations.”

The acres were set aside in the Aquatic Preserve Act of 1975. Two aquatic preserves had previously been established in statute and one by the Florida Cabinet. The vast acreages came as a bundle under Governor Askew and have proven an enduring gift to the people of Florida.

Aquatic Preserves walk the fine line between public historical use and conservation. In most cases, the Preserves were designated because the waters and the adjacent lands were abundant with fish and shellfish and loved for the nature based recreational opportunities they provided like fishing, boating, swimming and bird watching. On occasion a Preserve was established in an urban area. Two of the most urban Aquatic Preserve offices – in Tampa and Miami – are success stories that exemplify urban economies working hand in hand with conservation. Other rural Preserves are known for natural resource management such as restoring oyster reefs and seagrass beds, which serve to make the fish more abundant and improve water quality. Aquatic Preserve staff are the field experts, often called upon by local decision makers to apply their scientific understanding of ecosystems to influence urban design and planning.

All the work began in 1975 and has not stopped. Thank you Governor Askew for signing the bill. Florida’s 41 Aquatic Preserves may be the best thing you never built.

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