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Findings

Two major factors impacting conservation at UCF were found in the documents. First and foremost, an unequal distribution of planning for funds between conservation and development exists at UCF. The word "fund" is mentioned 21 times in 2.14 Capital Improvements Element as compared to only once in 2.13 Conservation Element (refer to Fig.1). The data clearly reveal an imbalance of financial interests against conservation interests. Secondly, most initiatives aimed toward conservation at UCF are amendable. 2.4 Future Land Use Element, which directs developmental patterns at UCF and includes both 2.13 Conservation Element and 2.14 Capital Improvements Element (coded as B, consistent with other elements), mentions the word "amend" nine times (refer to Fig. 2). Eight of the nine times concern the term conservation. The data demonstrate the importance of land to UCF, limited funds for conservation, and repeated threats of amendments by the University.

Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) funds are provided to UCF by the State of Florida. Therefore in accordance with the coding scheme, any information related to PECO funds are coded as "A, State interest." These funds are granted to the University for the purpose of providing infrastructure to accommodate educational programs, student population, administration, and accessory services of the campus (Statutes and Constitution). For the 2011-12 school years, $66,560,308 was granted to UCF in the form of PECO funds. PECO funds are essential in providing students with the support structures necessary for achieving academic goals; however, these funds are also fundamental for maintaining an expanding industrial economy with a primary focus on construction and development.The 2.14 Capital Improvements Element describes the administrative processes for coordinating construction projects and annual reviews of infrastructural needs. Goal 1 of 2.14 Capital Improvements Element outlines its aim to "Provide facilities to meet the academic needs of student enrollment as projected in the Academic Program Element and space needs assessments." This goal is coded as B, consistent with other elements. According to the Academic Program Element, UCF's projected fall headcount for students for the 2011-12 school year was 42,495 (UCFCMP). The actual fall headcount for 2011-12 was 59,785 (Institutional Knowledge Management).

This influx of nearly 20,000 additional students in the University is a primary reason for the rapid development of infrastructure at UCF. An accurate prediction of growth dynamics has not been fully factored into campus planning. UCF creates pressures for funding infrastructural growth by accepting more students than what current capacity standards can maintain. Parking is a primary example of the significant infrastructural growth at UCF. It shares an equal word count with conservation in 2.4 Future Land Use Element (refer to Figure 2). Parking will continue to be an issue of conflict concerning land use due to the increasing number of students accepted to UCF, combined with the difficulties of providing students with efficient transportation alternatives.

The only time the word "fund" is mentioned in 2.13 Conservation Element is in Policy 1.2.12, which states, "Fencing to prevent tortoises from entering nearby roadways will be established, contingent upon availability of funds" (UCFCMP). Gopher tortoises are considered a threatened species in Florida: "Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), species may be listed as either endangered or threatened. 'Endangered' means a species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. 'Threatened' means a species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future" (US ESA). The ESA is a national law to protect and recover imperiled species such as the gopher tortoise, as well as the ecosystems upon which they depend. Therefore, any mention of threatened or endangered species in the UCFCMP is coded as "F, National Interest" and "A, State Interest."

The development of UCF's campus has been successful due to the financial contributions of the State; however, it is not required that any percentage of these funds be put toward conservation. Thus development at UCF has come at the cost of habitat loss and fragmentation that has led to the isolation of small populations. The Florida Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens) is an endemic species of Florida that previously resided at UCF (in its earlier years as Florida Technological University [Appendix UCF Archive]). However, due to extreme modification and destruction of habitat, this bird can no longer be found in UCF's Natural Lands. According to Rosenberg et al (1997), "Ultimately, the processes of isolation and population extinction lead to a reduction in biological diversity" (677). The abundance of funds used for infrastructural growth at UCF, compared to the lack of funds placed toward conservation initiatives (i.e., providing fencing for preventing tortoises from entering nearby roadways), indicates minimal effort by the University to prevent further imperilment of vulnerable species. Consistent with my first theory of social environmental change, contradictions such as this exist in planning documents due to institutional values of industrial progress for economic growth.

The Conservation Element of UCF's Campus Master Plan receives limited financial attention and is further weakened by potential amendments. Despite the amendments mentioned in 2.4 Future Land Use Element toward conservation, the most important goals and objectives within 2.13 Conservation Element are amendable. This does not mean that all amendments are negative. However, the pressures and trends of infrastructural growth at UCF threaten the viability of conservation strategies at UCF. Aerial images collected from the UCF Archives illustrate the rapid increase in development patterns implemented by UCF over the last several decades (refer to Images 1-4).

The 2.13 Conservation Element discusses the protection of environmentally sensitive lands at UCF. Policy 1.1.1 of this element states:

The University shall maintain in a natural state all of those sites identified as conservation on the Future Conservation Areas Map. New areas shall be considered for potential designation as Conservation Areas based on documented conservation values, e.g., presence of imperiled or vulnerable species or natural communities or other features of state, regional, or local concern, due to declines or vulnerability to further losses. Consistent with the Future Land Use Element, except for minimal structures and improvements necessary to ensure safe access and essential support functions, there shall be no construction in these areas except pursuant to an amendment to this Plan adopted in accordance with all applicable state and local requirements. (UCFCMP)

This policy reflects a theme of indefinite conservation at UCF. Conservation receives no net gain unless UCF protects current conservation lands and seeks to acquire other property that can be included in the acreage in the category of protected land. It is not clearly stated that natural areas will be permanently protected from development. However, it is explained that construction is possible in conservation areas with the appropriate amendments that meet applicable requirements.

UCF has conveyed in its Final Campus Master Plan that the protection of imperiled or vulnerable species and natural communities is expendable. According to Suazo et al (2009), "Habitat loss or modification is the major threat to most of the world's threatened and endangered species, so management to restore and improve habitat quality is of great conservation importance" (2322). The data suggest that UCF intends to accommodate the continued infrastructural growth of the University, consistent with my first stated theory of social environmental change. This is inconsistent with State and National policies or interests of protecting and restoring valuable ecological entities.

Other factors impacting research and conservation at UCF are discussed as follows. After comparing the 2005- 2015 and 2010-2020 versions of 2.13 Conservation Element, I discovered two important differences in regard to Policy 1.2.12. In the 2005-2015 version of 2.13 Conservation Element Policy, 1.2.12 states the objective to:

Continually maintain the upland preserve located in the north portion of the campus as gopher tortoise relocation area for tortoises that test positive for Upper Respiratory Tract Disease. Fencing to prevent the tortoises from easily entering McCulloch Road will be established. (UCFCMP)

Here, UCF presents its concern and awareness of urban impacts on the survival of vulnerable species, by providing a fence to prevent gopher tortoise fatalities from vehicular traffic. UCF states its commitment to provide what is necessary to prevent these incidents. The University also recognizes a fatal disease to Gopherus polyphemus that has been a major concern for many biologists and conservationists. Brown et al (1999) state that symptoms of the Upper Respiratory Tract Disease (URTD), mentioned in Policy 1.2.12 of 2.13 Conservation Element, include "serous, mucoid, or purulent discharge from the nares, excessive tearing to purulent ocular discharge, conjunctivitis, and edema of the eyelids and ocular glands" (2264-65). The disease is caused by a bacterial mycoplasm that is spread when tortoises come in contact with one another (Riedl, 2006). According to a non-published document obtained from Dr. Peter C. H. Pritchard at the Chelonian Research Institute, Oviedo, Florida, "in more severe cases the cornea becomes opaque, resulting in blindness, either transitory or permanent. Tortoises affected by URTD also display lassitude, weakness, anorexia and weight loss" (1989). The potential for the spread of URTD increases with relocating gopher tortoises more frequently. Policy 1.2.12 reflects UCF's concern for gopher tortoises that test positive for URTD.

Policy 1.2.12 was updated in the 2010-2020 version of 2.13 Conservation Element. The updated policy states:

The upland preserve located in the north portion of the campus will continue to serve as the gopher tortoise relocation area for tortoises, until the carrying capacity has been reached for that parcel. Fencing to prevent the tortoises from entering nearby roadways will be established, contingent upon availability of funds. The University shall explore the future protection of upland habitat to serve as a gopher tortoise relocation and management site. (UCFCMP)

UCF modified the preceding (2005-2015) text to include all gopher tortoises, not only those tortoises testing positive for URTD. This indicates a distinct change of values and interests at the University. Tortoises testing positive for URTD were previously relocated to conservation sites at UCF as indicated by Policy 1.2.12. The updated amendment made to Policy 1.2.12 to include all tortoises, not those specifically testing positive for URTD, is essential in understanding how conservation strategies can change as scientific knowledge becomes available.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) now requires that gopher tortoises be tested for URTD before being relocated due to the risk of spreading the disease (Riedl, 2006). Any tortoises that test positive for URTD cannot be relocated offsite. This is consistent with my second theory of social environmental change: compromise and collaborative efforts are essential for stakeholders to achieve goals. The URTD tests performed before tortoise relocation ultimately protect the wellbeing of tortoises elsewhere. It should be noted that UCF was previously accepting relocated tortoises testing positive for the disease. This implies that the mixing of populations has occurred; therefore, URTD in populations of gopher tortoises at UCF cannot be disregarded.

Policy 1.2.12 of 2.13 Conservation Element is coded as G, Opportunity Areas. Students pursuing the fields of veterinary medicine, botany, and biology have the opportunity to participate in monitoring the health of imperiled species at UCF. This experience is essential for student academic development. Students do not have to travel far to gain hands-on experience related to researching and understanding the dynamics of healthy ecosystems and species. Protecting UCF's Natural Lands is critical if UCF is to achieve its academic mission of "address[ing] pressing local, state, national, and international issues in support of the global community" by enriching student development and pioneering impactful research (Mission Statement UCF).

Data retrieved from the UCF Archives indicate that UCF has undermined the scope of its academic mission in regard to environmental studies and sustainability in favor of providing infrastructural needs such as parking lots and garages. Surrounding scrub habitat in the UCF Natural Lands was leveled in 1989 to provide a parking lot near the original ROTC building (Carte, 1989). Construction began earlier than the projected date resulting in the destruction of student research taking place in the UCF Natural Lands. A similar incident occurred in 2004 when "UCF officials sent heavy equipment to the Arboretum where work crews chopped a significant part of the Arboretum's forest into mulch and altered the drainage of its wetlands" (Spear and Balona, 2011). UCF did not have the appropriate permit from the State or the St. Johns Water Management District (SJWMD) for clearing this land. The destroyed portion of the Arboretum was a designated Conservation Easement according to the UCFCMP. The destruction of student research as well as the loss of protected conservation areas at UCF may be the result of low levels of communication among stakeholders, including UCF administration, conservationists, and developers.

The amendments made in the updated 2.13 Conservation Element demonstrate important fund limitations for conservation, as well as changing interests of the University in establishing the permanent protection of environmentally significant lands. It is evident that development can take place despite the lack of funds for providing substantial measures for protecting species affected by the encroaching urbanization. UCF presents a poor sense of conservation planning by allowing intense development near conservation areas with minimal financial investment to provide the materials necessary for implementing successful conservation and remediation strategies. Insufficient steps are being taken to prevent physical destruction of federally protected ecosystems and species.

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