Tag Archives: tourism

A Commissioner of Environmental Protection; A New Day, Voting Florida’s Environment a Seat at the Table

Sunrise St. Lucie River 1-29-16, John Whiticar.

A new day could dawn for Florida, should Constitution Revision Commission proposal #24 go on the 2018 ballot. This ballot initiative would allow the electorate to vote for  a “Commissioner of Environmental Protection.”

I sponsored this idea, an idea brought to the CRC’s attention by two speakers during the public hearing process, as well as by public proposal #700012, submitted by Mr. Gamez.

Formally expressed Proposal #24 reads:

“A proposal to amend Sections 3 and 4 of Article IV and create a new section in Article XII of the State Constitution to establish the office of Commissioner of Environmental Protection as a statewide elected officer, to provide duties of the commissioner, and to include the commissioner as a member of the Cabinet.”

Full Proposal #24: (http://www.flcrc.gov/Proposals/Commissioner/2017/0024/ProposalText/Filed/HTML)

Why do I support this idea? Because it is my job as a commissioner to get some of the thousands of public ideas before the CRC, and because I believe the “time is now” for the Environment to have a seat at the table with other cabinet positions.

Yes, environmental protection of natural resources must rise to the top of state priorities just as the state’s oldest and number two economic driver, agriculture, has.  Our Natural Resources must be represented in the Florida Cabinet. This year, the Florida Chamber reports that Florida’s population, now at 20,000,000 will reach 26,000,000 by 2030, in just twelve years! It is tourism that is Florida’s number one economic driver. Much of this success  is  based on the beauty and quality of our beaches, rivers, and springs, and natural lands. We all know, growing incidences of algae blooms in lakes, springs, and rivers, some in areas of natural lands,  is not good for tourism.

For best image: http://www.oppaga.state.fl.us/government/storgchart.aspx

Let’s look at Florida government’s present hierarchy having to do with natural resources and discuss why it should be changed. The state’s present organizational chart shows a Commissioner of Agriculture as a cabinet position just under and to the right the Governor; a Fish and Wildlife Commission, and a  Department of Environmental Protection, as executive agencies under the executive branch of the Governor;  and the Water Management Districts in the lowest tier as  local government. Interestingly, the Water Management Districts are attached by a dotted line to the Department of Environmental Protection noting at “unique relationship.” This is qualified by the following sentence: “Water management districts have individual governing boards but the Department of Environmental Protection may exercise general supervisory authority over water management districts (s. 373.026(7), Florida Statutes).”

The Fish and Wildlife Commission much more independent, but the Water Management Districts are not. Because Water Management Districts levy taxes from citizens as a special district one must be cognizant  so that they not become “arm of the state.” But what would be even worse would be if the Water Management Districts were not answering to the people they tax…

Hmmmm?

It is time to have a “lead agency.” An agency that can answer to the people.

Let’s discuss leadership. Right now there is no clear environmental protection leader. For instance, in my opinion, for a citizen trying to get answers about why our environment is falling apart the Water Management Districts are pointing in one direction; the Department of Water Quality for the Commissioner of Agriculture’s Best Management Practices is pointing in another; and because the present Department of Environmental Protection is at the whim of politics of every new administration; they are weak, and afraid to lead. With every new governor the pendulum swings. The DEP is unable to fulfill its mission as the state’s lead agency of environmental protection.

And all the while our environment keeps falling apart…

On a personal note, for years, here in South Florida, I complained about the demise of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and surrounding environment and pushed for more action on behalf of the South Florida Water Management District.  After years of head nods, I was finally told by a Governing Board member that the District’s number one priority is not water quality, but flood control and that I should be speaking to DEP.

“Why didn’t you tell me that earlier,” I exclaimed.

When I contacted Department of Environmental Protection their response was lackadaisical noting that many entities of the state oversee water quality and environmental issues. For instance, Best Management Practices for Agriculture, and the complicated DEP Basin Management Action Plans/Total Maximal Daily Loads in coordination with the Water Management Districts, and all local governments including cities, counties, villages…

“But who is in charge?” I asked? “The St Lucie River has been labeled “impaired” by your agency since 2002. Why was it allowed to get that bad in the first place and why is it continuing to get worse?”

Again I asked, ” Who is in charge?”

There was silence…

I thought to myself,  “No wonder the Department of Environmental Protection is sometimes  referred to as the agency of “Don’t Expect Protection.” No wonder every year more of the state’s waters are reported as “impaired.” No wonder D.E.P., Agriculture, and the Water Districts collude to extend the Basin Management Action Plan deadlines instead of getting more serious about the detrimental ramifications of non-point pollution for the people.

Enough is enough. The time is now to give voters the opportunity to vote for a  Commissioner of Environmental  Protection and finally have a seat at the table.

This homemade chart shows a Commissioner of Environmental Protection being created from the present Dept. of En. Pro.

Proposal #24

The commissioner of environmental protection shall have
   63  supervision of matters pertaining to environmental protection
   64  that the Department of Environmental Protection or its successor
   65  agency and water management districts are required or authorized
   66  by law to implement and administer.

Full text:  (http://www.flcrc.gov/Proposals/Commissioner/2017/0024/ProposalText/Filed/HTML)

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Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch is a commissioner on the 2017/18 Constitution Revision Commissioner; *this proposal will go before the Executive Committee sometime in December or January. If it gets through that committee it will have to make it through both General Provisions and Ethics and Elections.  You can support or voice concerns about this proposal by first writing the Executive here: https://flcrc.gov/Committees/EX/

Follow here: http://flcrc.gov/Proposals/Commissioner/2017/0024 

Find all committees here:http://flcrc.gov/Committees

Jacqui can be reached here: https://www.flcrc.gov/Commissioners/Thurlow-Lippisch

Learn about the CRC here:http://www.flcrc.gov

Links:

Commissioner of Agriculture/Dept of WQ: Best Management Practices: http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Business-Services/Water/Agricultural-Best-Management-Practices

Department of Environmental Protection: https://floridadep.gov

Florida’s Water Management Districts: https://floridadep.gov/water-policy/water-policy/content/water-management-district

Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission: http://myfwc.com

Florida Chamber Water: (http://www.flchamber.com/advocacy/issues/water-solutions/)

Florida Chamber Tourism: (Tourism:http://www.flchamber.com/advocacy/issues/tourism/)

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Recent pictures of our Florida environment  that are NOT  good for tourist!

Alan Youngblood, Florida Springs, -when too much water is taken from the aquifer by permitted users it affects the health of Florida’s springs, 2013.
St Lucie River, toxic algae bloom brought into river from discharges from Lake Okeechobee. Best Management Practices and Basin Management Action Plans are not working fast enough. Tourism suffered in Martin County by millions of dollars in lost revenue and health issues for local citizens. 2016, JTL
Algae pouring in from Lake Okeechobee to St Lucie River at S-80—this water comes mostly  from polluted Central Florida waters; obviously DEP’s environmental protection is not working. 2016.

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screenshot 2.png

Learn about:

THE FLORIDA CABINET

http://cabinet.myflorida.com

In 1998 the Constitutional Revision Commission proposed a rewrite of Article IV, Section IV of the Florida Constitution that reduced the Florida Cabinet from six elected officials to three. Effective January 7, 2003, the Florida Cabinet consists of the Attorney General, the Chief Financial Officer and the Commissioner of Agriculture. The Cabinet offices of Secretary of State and Commissioner of Education became appointed offices and their respective agencies became the responsibility of the Governor. The revised constitution also created a new State Board of Education with seven members appointed by the Governor to oversee the Department of Education. The Cabinet offices of Treasurer and Comptroller were merged into the new position of Chief Financial Officer who serves as agency head for the newly created Department of Financial Services.

 

Agriculture, the Governor, the Florida State Legislature, “Blood is Thicker than Water,” St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Historic photo, Ca. 1800s, courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow, Thurlow Archives.)
Historic photo, ca. 1850s, Martin County,  courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow, Thurlow Archives.)

I come from a historic agricultural background, on both sides of my family, so I feel like I can criticize it.

My Thurlow great-great grandparents grew thistles in New York, and my Henderson great-grandparents, from a long farming line, settled in Madison, Florida. My grandfather, Russell Henderson, was a well-respected soli-scientist and taught in the Agriculture Department at the University of Florida, even getting a mural painted including him by citrus legend, Ben Hill Griffen…

I ate boiled peanuts while learning about different crops and cows during my summer vacations as a kid while visiting Gainesville.  I understand the connection and importance of agriculture to the success of both my family and to our country.

Gov Broward for which Broward County is named, led in draining the Everglades. (Public photo.)
Florida’s Gov Broward for which Broward County is named, led in leadership to “drain the Everglades,” for agriculture and development. (Public photo.)

Nonetheless, as a product of the Florida Indian River Lagoon region since 1965, I have chosen to focus my energies on “natural preservation.” This is often at odds with agriculture and development’s values.

Again, I respect agriculture; it feeds us….

I just think some aspects of the industry have gone “too far,” and are too coddled by our state, especially regarding the pollution and water resources destruction caused by their now “agribusiness giant-ness.”

Although Agriculture is a “giant,” today the number one income for the state of Florida is tourism. (http://www.stateofflorida.com/Portal/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=95)

Nonetheless, agriculture has a stronghold on our state government beyond comprehension, beyond tourism, or “quality of life or quality for tourists.” Agriculture/sugar brags that agriculture “feeds the world,” not just the state. I guess this is good, but why should my state and local area be “raped and polluted” to feed the world?

Money…

Power…

Greed…

History…

No where is this more evident than the in Everglades Agricultural Area where the sugar industry “reigns king.” As of late, the sugar industry is not supporting the purchase of option lands that are FOR SALE. They have been able to convince the governor, and so far the state legislature, that is it unwise to purchase these option lands to start creating an EAA reservoir to store, clean and convey more water south to the Everglades to begin the journey of saving the Everglades as well as the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and also the Caloosahatchee River. These estuaries and the people and businesses that live along them sufferer from the 1920 redirection of Lake Okeechobee’s waters east and west for the creation of the Everglades Agricultural Area or EAA.

Option Lands Map SFWMD River of Grass, Option 1 is 46,800 acres and shown in brown. (SFWMD map, 2010)
Option Lands Map SFWMD River of Grass, Option 1 is 46,800 acres and shown in brown. (SFWMD map, 2010.)

Honestly, I am not sure why sugar is so against this land purchase. Their land is for sale! Is because they are making money now and not going broke as they were in 2008 when the option lands deal was legally arranged? Or they do just want to hold out for more money on those lands in the future? In any case, they are doing everything they can NOT to allow the option land purchase to occur as part of the 2015 legislatures’ ability to use Amendment 1 monies while the “environmentalist” community begs….and lake O is getting higher every day.

We all know that the sugar industry gives millions of dollars a years to government officials to secure their interests. This is important, but it is not most important.

What is important for all of us to realize is that the influence of the sugar industry and agriculture in general is much deeper than money. It is blood. And this why our fight for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon requires new blood. A revolution of sorts. Don’t get scared by these words. Nothing is more “American.”

Let’s study the history of sugar and the state of Florida’s pact:

In a 1911 Washington DC publication, of the 62nd Congress, document no. 89, entitled:

“Everglades of Florida.” —-Acts,  Reports, and other Papers, State and National, Relating to the Everglades of the State of Florida and Their Reclamation,”

—we see that even in is  the first documents of the publication produced in  1845, the year of Florida’s statehood, there was a  resolution “recommending the adoption of measures for reclaiming the Everglade land in that state.”  (By 1847 in a letter from Washington DC’s Honorable James D Westcott, Jr. to the Secretary of the Treasury and shared with the Florida legislature….)

It reads in response to the idea of draining the lands south of Lake Okeechobee…

“What would be the value of the now subaqueous lands, reclaimed by such work, I will not pretend to say….all of those (military men) who have resided in this vicinity, and who have repeatedly informed my that many of these lands would be the best sugar and richest lands in the United States.”

This publication reprinted as SOUTH FLORIDA IN PERIL, can be purchased at Florida Classic Library in Hobe Sound. (http://www.floridaclassicslibrary.com) It documents the early days of the 130 year tie between the federal, and state government as they all organized together with the agriculture industry to create the state of Florida, a sugar haven, that reached its true peak in the 1960 and 1970, with the exclusion of Cuba’s goods…

Here we are today, almost fifty years later and Cuba is perhaps reopening…and our state water issues in south Florida are out of control.

Agriculture's UF UFAS sites to help with research for agriculture improvement. ( Source, UF/IFAS.)
Today’s agriculture UF IFAS sites to help with research for agriculture improvement. Note sugarcane research center in EAA.(Source, UF/IFAS.)

Anyway, the book goes on for 203 pages documenting the state and federal governments’ support for agriculture in the Everglades and “how rich they would all become…”

That they were successful, I am happy; however; they OVER DID it, over-drained it, and refuse to see their own destruction, and their unfair advantage.

Blood is thicker than water….but “blood can’t be blood” without water…time for a change.

Stats of Sugar in Florida, 1991, Source Hazen and Sawyer, 1993)
Stats of Sugar in Florida, 1991, Source Hazen and Sawyer, 1993.)

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Governor Broward ca. 1911: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napoleon_B._Broward)

Florida Dept of Agriculture: (http://www.freshfromflorida.com)

Fresh From Florida/Agriculture is the cornerstone of Florida’s 500 Year History: (http://www.freshfromflorida.com/News-Events/Hot-Topics/Agriculture-is-the-Cornerstone-of-Florida-s-500-Year-History)

IFAS Everglades Sugar Research Center, Bell Glade: (http://erec.ifas.ufl.edu/about/mission_statement.shtml)

IFAS/UF: (http://ifas.ufl.edu/about-IFAS.shtml)

Department of the Interiors (DOIs) report on EAA and historical destruction of Everglades: (http://www.doi.gov/pmb/oepc/wetlands2/v2ch7.cfm)

Florida’s  Agricultural  Museum: (http://www.myagmuseum.com/floridaagriculture.html)

“Florida’s major field crop is sugarcane (mostly grown near Lake Okeechobee), which enjoyed a sizable production increase in the 1960s and 1970s, following the cutoff of imports from Cuba.” (http://www.city-data.com/states/Florida-Agriculture.html)