The dismantling of Florida is under way. Nobody has really noticed, but ever so subtly the Governor and the Legislature are reversing a decades-long effort to preserve this state.
The most recent evidence was release of a list of property owned by the state that is now deemed “excess.” Read through this list and you’ll realize that bits of our local real estate are going up for bids unless somebody stops it. Bits and pieces of Falling Waters State Park, Florida Caverns, Grayton Beach, the Lake Talquin State Forest, 79 acres of the Porter Pond Tract in Washington County, Tate’s Hell and Torreya State Park are all proposed for the auction block, along with other chunks of Florida.
Granted, it’s an acre or two here and there, not all of Florida Caverns, for example, but why is this property “surplus”? The state has been buying tracts of land to save it in pristine condition, to stop the march of strip malls, parking lots and subdivisions; why suddenly stop and reverse the process? The argument for selling off some 5000 acres earmarked is that the money will allow for the purchase of other lands. It’s an idea with a decidedly hollow ring about it. I am reminded of the elephant’s trunk under the tent flap. Once the trunk is in, the elephant follows.
If nobody says anything, that in turn will embolden those who would like to sell off a whole lot more, in tracts far larger and more commercially attractive.
There is an effort in progress to produce the signatures to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would earmark part of the revenues from doc stamps, through good times and bad, for the sole purpose of buying endangered land for posterity. It’s quite obvious the legislature cannot be trusted, a mere law to that effect would have them subverting and pillaging in no time, but a constitutional amendment is a bit tougher to circumvent.
I could be accused of being alarmist but this is just another piece in a series of puzzle parts that are creating an image of Florida’s patrimony going down the drain. The Department of Environmental Protection is being systematically gutted by way of a subtle, but effective shift in its focus and function.
Internal memos and directives leave little doubt that DEP is not there to protect the environment; rather it is there to facilitate the rape and pillage of our air, land and water. A document entitled Compliance Assurance Program Performance Standards spells out the new, kinder, gentler DEP being fashioned by the Scott Administration. Particularly telling is the word “customer” as applied to the people that DEP is meant to regulate. Other memos I have been given use the word, “constituent”. The message is simply that prosecution is not necessary, wrist-slapping will get it done and we have to explain over and over to repeat violators that they’ve been naughty boys and girls and not to do that again. So far as the “troupers” are concerned, the path to promotion is to follow that kinder-gentle approach. I can imagine the calm that would settle on our interstates if the FHP got the same kind of enforcement orders from above.
The numbers tell it all. Enforcement of environmental violations has dropped sharply because aggressive enforcement of the laws is not merely discouraged, but punished. Careers are ended; desks are cleaned out if you take this whole environment thing too seriously.
This is an important story, worthy of your attention and cause to raise a fuss. Left alone, power plants will befoul the air, sewage system operators will dump unmentionable material into the water system, water systems will go untested because the official view is, according to a memo I have in hand, that those who are self-reporting, who report no violations, are a very low priority due to a shortness of staff. Lie and the world laughs with you.
Selling off Florida for a profit, abusing and befouling the rest for lack of meaningful enforcement are part of the current program. That this is the work of people who use the word “conservative” to describe themselves is Orwellian. To conserve is to save that which is best and protect it, thus a conservative, one would expect, would be full-throated in defense of that which makes Florida unique.
If you want to exercise those conservative urges in a practical form, go to www.FloridaWaterLandLegacy.org where you can get a copy of the petition that’s being circulated to put that amendment on the ballot. There is something you can do.