In response to sustained rapid development, which began in the 1960’s, the Florida Legislature passed the 1985 Growth Management Act. The Act required development of comprehensive land use plans for every county within the state. The comprehensive plans were required to have goals, objectives and policies aimed at, among other things, the conservation of vital natural resources.

Hillsborough County’s comprehensive plan established the Significant Wildlife Habitat Program. The program is applicable to large tracts and can only protect a portion of a landowner’s upland habitat at the time of development. Those habitats that were protected have become more isolated over time and lack consistent management, reducing their ecological function. The county’s comprehensive plan also set the context for public acquisition and management of natural areas which began in 1987.

The Jan K. Platt Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program (ELAPP) is an outcome of Hillsborough County Comprehensive Plan. ELAPP is Florida’s largest local land preservation program and has been successful in protecting more than 63,000 acres of natural lands across all municipalities in the county. As Hillsborough County continues to urbanize, it is important to focus preservation and restoration efforts on the most valuable ecological landscape corridors critical to maintaining ecological function and biological sustainability across the system.