When I developed the FMNP in 2001, I sought input from agricultural professionals and included their views in educational videos used in the Freshwater Wetlands and the Upland Habitats courses. Their messages address best management practices, water conservation, wildlife habitat and self-imposed taxes implemented to improve production practices, to name a few.
Their messages also discuss the importance of a safe and reliable food supply. One of my favorite video clips is by Norman Todd (agricultural consultant and former citrus manager), who states that “food production is a national security issue.”
This is an important point and illustrates that agriculture is necessary and shouldn’t be compared in every respect to natural areas.
That being said, maintaining healthy ecosystems that provide environmental services, such as clean water, fisheries, recreation and a plethora of economic enterprises, is also a national security issue.
We need both agriculture and natural areas and to the extent possible, we need these two landscapes to complement each other. These are some of the messages of the FMNP.
So the next time you hear someone make derogatory comments about environmentalists, you might consider repeating a comment by my friend Mark Colbert, of A. Duda and Sons, “I am an environmentalist, I’m a farmer.”
Dr. Martin Main is a professor of wildlife ecology and conservation at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee and leader of the Florida Master Naturalist Program. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.