Living on the Gulf of Mexico heightened my awareness of the good sense to make refuges, parks, and preserves. Pensacola has one of the least developed barrier islands and is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, 130 miles of national parkland stretching from Ocean Springs, Mississippi to Ft. Walton Beach, Florida.
As a National Park, it is charged with finding the balance between preserving the ecological communities in its boundaries, but also making them accessible to people for their knowledge and enjoyment. This is increasingly a difficult balance.
On a recent visit to Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, I was also reminded that a refuge has a different governing body – the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Each American inherits 623 million acres of protected lands at their birth. Within this great treasure, parks, refuges, and wilderness status protects land in different ways and each system is governed by a specific governing agency. A wilderness designation protects land from any development – roads, etc are not allowed. However, people can hunt on wilderness lands. For species, a wilderness is an unencumbered, natural system.
Florida has numerous wilderness areas. But, all this may change sooner than we like to think. Check out the latest article in Grist Magazine on Florida’s shrinking coastline as ocean level rises.