The 250-mile stretch of pine forests, cypress swamps and wetlands provides a habitat for sea turtles, bald eagles, black bears, woodpeckers and other endangered wildlife.
Some say the biggest threat to the region is the Saint Joe Company. It owns more than 800,000 acres in the panhandle and has a massive development plan to reshape the entire region.
Diane Brown, a Panama City resident, says, “How much sense does it make to plan massive development, an unnecessary airport, new highways, shopping malls, theme parks and subdivisions in areas that are primarily wetlands?”
Officials at Saint Joe Development counter critics by saying they understand the importance of the emerald coast and have been working for more than a decade to preserve environmental treasures in the panhandle.