Saturday, November 25, 2017

Bill Maxwell: Dismissing the environment


In 1973, Congress had the foresight to pass the Endangered Species Act. To amplify the need to protect the nationís plants and animals, a House committee wrote a report on the importance of the new law.

The report stated: "Manís presence on the Earth is relatively recent, and his effective domination over the worldís life support systems has taken place within a few short generations. Our ability to destroy, or almost destroy, all intelligent life on the planet became apparent in this generation. A certain humility, and a sense of urgency, seem indicated. ... From the most narrow possible point of view, it is in the best interests of mankind to minimize the losses of genetic variations."

The authors probably never thought that untold numbers of legislators one day would think little or nothing of destroying, or almost destroying, plant and animal life.

That day has arrived. All states in the union, even those with the most vulnerable wildlife, land, water and air, have elected officials who actively support and write bad environmental policies. And, of course, the nationís capital is dominated by anti-science and anti-environment lawmakers. The president leads the pack.

Americans who worry about this trend should monitor the ecological destruction in Alaska and Florida. Although thousands of miles apart, Alaska, bordered by the North Pacific Ocean, and Florida, bordered by the Atlantic, are prime laboratories for bad environmental policies and practices.

Lawmakers responsible for the Endangered Species Act, or ESA, clearly understood that protecting the environment protects people. Unfortunately, the 115th Congress has politicized the ESA and many other science-based laws and agencies that protect wildlife on federal lands. Opponents of environmental regulations are using either budget maneuvers or changes to the intent of original authorizations to open up public lands for use by private business.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the nationís largest refuge, has been politicized and is at risk of being opened to oil and gas exploration and drilling. Weakening or destroying Endangered Species Act will enable paving the way for exploration and drilling in the refuge. Although preservationists question the economic benefits of these actions and predict ecological degradation, Congress is determined to move forward.

Such shortsightedness is dangerous, said Laurie Macdonald, a Florida-based consultant for Defenders of Wildlife.

"Along with being the ancestral and sustaining home of the Gwichíin people, the Arctic NWR is a unique and truly wild ecosystem depended upon by polar bears, the porcupine caribou herd, musk ox, Arctic fox and nearly 200 species of birds," she said.

"Migrations take place to six continents and 50 U.S. states. Florida provides important winter habitat or resting and feeding points along the flyway for many species of Arctic birds. Besides the migration connections between the Arctic and Florida, we share in being two of the most vulnerable areas of the world to climate change."

Destructive policies for the Arctic NWR closely mirror those being concocted in Florida. During the last week of April, for example, Florida lawmakers approved a proposal to distribute $300 million to eight Panhandle counties to compensate for damages from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the gulf.

Several days later, these same people, including Gov. Rick Scott, mostly stayed quiet when President Donald Trump issued an executive order that could open up more waters of Floridaís coast to drilling for oil and natural gas. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, outright opposes Trumpís order, but Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has not leveled with Florida residents as he tries to satisfy his supporters in the oil industry.

Many Floridians do not know that the state already allows oil drilling, producing about 2 million barrels a year, a thimbleful in satisfying the nationís use of oil. In reality, there is no need for more drilling in the Sunshine State. The risks are too great.

Still, a major real estate company in southwest Broward County has applied for the rights to drill an exploratory well on its 20,000 acres that is part of the Greater Everglades ecosystem, which includes Big Cypress National Preserve. Elected officials in the cities that will be impacted oppose the project, but many officials in Tallahassee, including Scott, are poised to give the go-ahead.

Apparently, these lawmakers are not seriously thinking about the health of the Everglades and other vital areas that do not need more man-made intrusion. And, for sure, Scott could use his friendship with Trump to stop the project.

The trouble is that Scott, a climate-denying Republican, probably will be followed by another anti-science Republican. Until Floridians begin to care about the health of our precious environment and make their wishes known at the ballot box, the destruction will continue unabated.


Editorial: Strengthening the ties that bind in Seminole Heights following 4 killings

During this weekend of giving thanks, letís recognize the Seminole Heights community for remaining united and committed to their neighborhood as residents cope with the stress and fear following a series of murders. Their response as police continue ...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Editorial: St. Petersburg should revisit approach to historic preservation

St. Petersburg is headed down a slippery path in the name of historic preservation. After a group of 10 property owners in the Old Northeast neighborhood won approval earlier this year to become a one-block historic district, two more groups of neigh...
Published: 11/22/17
Updated: 11/24/17

Editorial: Senate should not repeal health insurance mandate to pay for tax cuts

There are all sorts of problems with the massive tax cut legislation the Senate is expected to vote on this week. Wealthy individuals and corporations benefit more than the poor and the middle class; by 2027, about half of all taxpayers would see a t...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Editorial: Congress should help Florida agriculture recover from Irma

Editorial: Congress should help Florida agriculture recover from Irma

Florida agriculture took a beating in September from Hurricane Irma, which caused hundreds of millions of dollars in losses across the citrus, sugar, cattle and dairy industries. Yet despite a personal plea from Gov. Rick Scott, the Trump administrat...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Editorial: Ken Hagan should drop effort to recover attorneyís fees in ethics complaint

Editorial: Ken Hagan should drop effort to recover attorneyís fees in ethics complaint

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan says heís standing on principle in his effort to collect $7,800 spent defending him against ethics charges that eventually were dismissed.If so, itís the wrong principle. But Haganís strident position rings ...
Published: 11/21/17
Updated: 11/24/17

Another voice: Wall isnít a lifesaver, itís a boondoggle

The first stage of President Donald Trumpís controversial border wall project ended last week, while the prospects for any more construction ó and even what type of wall ó remain uncertain.A Border Patrol agent was killed and his partner seriously wo...
Published: 11/21/17
Updated: 11/22/17

Another voice: Time for Republicans to denounce this tax nonsense

Mick Mulvaney, the phony deficit hawk President Donald Trump tapped to oversee the nationís budget, all but admitted on Sunday that the GOP tax plan currently before the Senate is built on fiction. Senators from whom the public should expect more ó s...
Published: 11/20/17
Updated: 11/21/17
Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

In a state with the nationís highest portion of residents over 65 years old and more than 80,000 nursing home beds, public records about those facilities should be as accessible as possible. Yet once again, Florida is turning back the clock to the da...
Published: 11/20/17

Another voice: A time of reckoning on sexual misconduct

Stories about powerful men engaging in sexual misconduct are becoming so common that, as with mass shootings, the country is in danger of growing inured to them. But unlike the tragic news about that latest deranged, murderous gunman, the massive out...
Published: 11/20/17

Another voice: Trump does the right thing for elephants; he shouldnít back down now

There is bad timing, and then there is this. Last week, an apparent military coup placed Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in custody, ushering in a new period of political uncertainty. A few days later, the Trump administration announced that Zimba...
Published: 11/19/17
Updated: 11/22/17