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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Dear UF IFAS, withdraw your support of Plum Creek

Dear UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences,

As students of UF, we want to make it clear that we fully support the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ stated mission to “sustain and enhance the quality of human life.” Additionally within IFAS, the School of Forest Resources and Conservation states its goal of “educating students and citizens about the sustainable management and conservation of natural resources.” As students who strongly support both of these stated goals, we therefore must speak out and condemn IFAS’ actions in supporting the ecologically catastrophic Plum Creek development project that is slated to take place here in Alachua County and demand that IFAS withdraw its support.

As those who head IFAS are aware, the Plum Creek timber company has been planning this project for some time. Last year, the company made it clear that the plan would entail cutting down sizable acres of corridor habitat that is important to wildlife in order to make room for a development that would dramatically increase runoff and pollution into nearby wetlands, putting listed species like Eastern indigo snakes and gopher tortoises in jeopardy. Black bears would also be needlessly exterminated under the plan.

One of the foundational justifications that Plum Creek offers is that jobs will be created in eastern Alachua County, a more economically-depressed district. However, the notion that this plan would counteract poverty is absurd. Many of the long-term jobs that the Plum Creek timber company projected would be created require advanced college degrees, putting these positions far out of reach for the vast majority of local residents. If out-of-area people who are hired subsequently move into Hawthorne, gentrification would follow in their wake, making life even more difficult for those already subsisting there on low incomes.

This proposal is a disaster from an environmental and ecological perspective, yet Plum Creek is able to boast that they have the support of IFAS; they have even had IFAS faculty vouch for the company via their so-called grassroots campaign, “Envision Alachua.” It is no secret that IFAS will benefit materially in exchange for supporting this development proposal, as was described by an IFAS spokesperson at an “Envision Alachua” community workshop in February.

We understand that IFAS may be underfunded. However, this does not excuse supporting a project that directly contradicts the stated goals of both IFAS and the School of Forest Resources and Conservation. Plum Creek would be an ecological catastrophe for Alachua County. Moreover, it would not enhance people’s quality of life, and supporting it certainly doesn’t educate students or citizens about the importance of sustainable management and conservation. 

We realize that Plum Creek has withdrawn last year’s plan and intends to draft a new one. However, IFAS should seriously reconsider its support of the destruction previously envisioned by Plum Creek and make it clear that no amount of ecological destruction or jeopardizing of imperiled species will be endorsed in the future.

Until IFAS withdraws its approval for Plum Creek and sticks to supporting legitimate conservation measures, we do not see fit to take IFAS and SFRC seriously as institutes that truly care about people or the environment.

Sincerely,

UF Students for a Democratic Society

[A version of this story ran on page 7 on 4/10/2015]

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