– February 16, 2012
We know that the environmental movement has had an impact on Florida politicians. Because today, when they want to do something bad for the quality of our water, the health of our forests or the integrity of wildlife habitat, they are always sure to say that they want to protect the environment.
Then they go ahead and do the bad thing.
So in the interest of protecting Florida’s natural resources, state Rep. Clay Ford, R-Gulf Breeze, is restricting his bill to open state lands to oil and gas drilling only to the Panhandle. State Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker is sponsoring similar legislation in the Senate.
Ford is willing to put the Everglades off limits — we can be thankful for small favors — but apparently doesn’t see his home-county Blackwater River State Forest, with its creeks, rivers, wetlands and pitcher plant prairies, and its endangered plant and animal species, as environmentally sensitive.
Of course, on the upside, maybe local tourism promoters can add “oil field tour” to the hunting, fishing, swimming, canoeing, hiking, biking, bird watching and camping they tout the forest for today.
There was a time that even conservative legislators understood that areas like the Blackwater were put aside to preserve remnants of Florida’s natural landscape (which does not include the extensive industrial tree farms many Floridians mistake for natural forests).
Healthy, natural wildlands produce myriad direct benefits for Florida residents, including the many recreational activities. But preserving natural forests, wetlands, watersheds and other habitats preserves both water quality and quantity, air quality and wildlife in a growing state.
These lands were originally protected precisely to be a natural asset that belongs to all the people — including future generations.
Now, with the state rapidly cutting back on services to residents, from education to health care, and the Legislature clearly identifying its role as serving corporations (after all, the Supreme Court says corporations are people), the pace of legislation is increasingly sweeping aside anything that impedes corporate interests, while the interests of state residents get put next in line.
So naturally business lobbies and the Florida Petroleum Council support Evers’ and Fords’ legislation. And if you lose a favorite hunting area or camping spot, or a once-pristine creek is dirtied in what you thought was protected public land, well, so it goes.
Special thanks to Sierra CLub’s Frank Jackalone