ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -- Conservationists on the First Coast are looking at Houston shortly after Hurricane Harvey and they say there are lessons that can be learned, including preserving the wetlands.

Jim McCarthy, the president of the North Florida Land Trust said protecting wetlands can ease future flooding.

Tuesday, McCarthy said his thoughts and prayers are with the people in Houston.

"I have colleagues and relatives there," he said.

He said Houston and the First Coast have some similarities: One is massive growth.

Houston, the 4th largest city in the U.S., grew fast in the last few decades.

"Because there was so much land available and relatively inexpensive, people were growing out and they were paving everything," he said.

In Northeast Florida: "The projections are by 2040, some say by 2060, Duval County is going to be built out," he added.

So, smarter development is what McCarthy suggests.

Also, he and other conservationists strongly believe the wetlands could be the key to easing future flooding if a massive storm would hit Jacksonville or other urban areas.

"We've got to protect the wetlands because they would naturally let us flow water away," McCarthy said.

Wetlands move water out, he said, where concrete and asphalt just flood. There are are many wetlands in Northeast Florida.

"Jacksonville can't solve this on its own. It needs to go upstream," McCarthy said.

He explained that minimizing flooding in Jacksonville will require preserving wetlands south of the River City.

"You've got to go up river and help those areas so you don't get much running down," he explained. "If those areas get covered over (as in developed), then it doesn't go into the aquifer. Instead ill run off into the St. Johns River and come further down and you'll get a wall of rushing water. We need to prevent that by protecting those areas."

McCarthy sees more healthy wetlands as something that could have helped Houston and could help north Florida in the future.

Regarding the flooding in Houston because of 50 inches of rain, he said, "No one could prevent that. You can minimize it or reduce it."