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Miami – In the 2000 – 2010 decade – despite a severe economic downturn near the end – Florida’s 30 Urbanized Areas sprawled out and destroyed 1,220 additional square miles of surrounding farmland and natural habitat, according to a study released today by NumbersUSA. Vanishing Open Spaces in Florida: Population Growth and Sprawl in the Sunshine State, which analyzes the impact of increasing sprawl on the availability of open space – and the causes of that sprawl – will be released Thursday evening at an event at Deerfield Beach by the study authors Roy Beck, President of NumbersUSA, Anne Manetas, Vice President of NumbersUSA, and Leon Kolankiewicz, an environmental scientist.

According to the NumbersUSA study, “The past decade adds to an unprecedented trend of Florida destruction over more than a quarter of a century. In the 1982 – 2010 period measured by the National Resources Inventory, 4,186 square miles of Florida’s natural and agricultural space were converted into urban and suburban development, resorts, vacation homes, roads, and rural commercial sites.”

Polling found most Floridians unhappy about the cost to agriculture of accommodating nearly 3 million residents added to the state during 2000-2010. When asked, 71 percent said “it is unethical to pave over and build on good farmland” compared to 14 percent indicating “the need for more housing is a legitimate reason to pave over farmland.”

The study found that 96% of the elimination of surrounding farmland and natural habitat was related to extra demand by new residents. Population growth in Florida’s urbanized areas accounted for 1,171 square miles of the lost open spaces according to the study.

Roy Beck explains, “Our goal with this study is to educate Florida’s residents on what is happening with their state in terms of the significant development taking place and how it will impact their communities in the long run if their elected leaders don’t address it,” said Roy Beck. “We want to make sure they have the facts relating to what this growth means in the long run for their quality of life and their environment.”

To read the study and learn more about sprawl and development in Florida, please click here.

Updated: Tue, Aug 4th 2015 @ 1:14pm EDT