Preserve Manatee County's environmental heritage; tourism and the local economy are at stake

Manatee County offers unique ecosystems to its residents and visitors. Countless people travel the globe to bask in our natural wonders — from our shell-filled beaches to unique nature parks and preserves. For Earth Day 2018 on April 22, let us recognize the history of protecting our county’s, as well as our state's, natural habitats — both on land as well as in water.

Shortly after World War II, both Florida and Manatee County saw an increase in tourism and population. With this came a thriving economy that brought dredging and an increase in waterfront homes and restaurants. Today, tourism and the local economy continue to grow, which make environmental education that much more important.

Earth Day is a day to remind Americans to be conscious of the markings we leave on the planet. How and why did Earth Day start? Shortly after an oil spill in 1969, Sen. Gaylord Nelson, D-Wis., created the first Earth Day, which took place on April 22, 1970, in an effort to bring awareness to air and water pollution. Over 20 million Americans celebrated Earth Day across the nation.

Sunset from Robinson Preserve in Manatee County. Mark Young

Shortly after, the Clean Water Act (1972) and Clean Air Act (1970), both signed by President Richard Nixon, were passed. Each of these acts assists the nation, and Florida, in keeping our air and water clean. Due to continued support, these acts have been amended and passed again to include further action, such as the Water Quality Act of 1987. This act identified 28 national estuaries and ultimately put the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program into effect.

Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP), started in 1989, is a