“Three-time gold medal winner.” The state park system, which hosts about 27 million visitors a year and generates $2.1 billion, won its third award from the organization in 2013, a feat no other state has accomplished.
In April, the Tampa Bay Times obtained internal DEP draft documents called the “Optimized Land Management and Cost Recovery Plan,” in which the agency details how by the end of 2015, it plans to have bid documents ready to send out to companies for timber harvesting and cattle grazing. The plan also called for the agency to coordinate with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to allow hunting as a recreational activity in certain parks. This plan has yet to be finalized and a date for public comment has not yet been scheduled.
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park is a 21,000 acre wilderness area south of Gainesville which hosts hundreds of species of wildlife and plants. It is biologically, geologically and culturally unique. Paynes Prairie became the state park system’s first preserve in 1971.
Well over 200,000 people from across Florida, the United States and the world visit Paynes Prairie every year.
Florida State Statute 258.037 regarding state parks and preserves says it is the agency’s policy to “acquire typical portions of the original domain of the state which will be accessible to all of the people, and of such character as to emblemize the state’s natural values; conserve these natural values for all time.”
Wildlife viewing is the second most popular outdoor recreation activity in Florida, surpassing such activities as bicycling, fishing, golf and tennis.1 In 2011, there were 1.9 million wildlife viewers (residents and nonresidents) participating in wildlife viewing activities at least one mile away from home (away from- home activities) in Florida. This is a 22-percent increase since 2006. In addition, there were nearly 3.3 million residents participating in wildlife viewing activities within one mile of their homes (at-home activities), representing a 1.2-percent increase since 2006. The away-from-home activity cited most often by recreationists was observing wildlife, whereas the primary at-home activity was feeding wildlife. Overall, 4.3 million people participated in some form of at-home or away-from-home wildlife viewing in Florida in 2011. Excerpted from the 2011 Economic Benefits of wildlife viewing in Florida. This project was conducted by Southwick Associates for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The purpose was to quantify the 2011 economic benefits of wildlife viewing in Florida. The data used in this project were obtained from the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife- Associated Recreation (Survey). The Survey is conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Census Bureau. The Survey provides hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing participation, expenditures and demographic information. The data were analyzed using economic models to generate economic impact estimates.