Hunting in state parks 'disaster waiting to happen,' Latvala says
Gov. Rick Scott's top environmental regulator is pursuing plans to open state parks to hunting, and it's not getting rave reviews in the Legislature. Republican Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater on Tuesday blasted the Department of Environmental Protection's plan to allow hunting on Honeymoon Island State Park near Dunedin. DEP's plans, detailed in a Tampa Bay Times report, propose allowing hunting at all 161 state parks in Florida. Latvala wants the Pinellas park taken off the list.
"It's almost as if whoever added Honeymoon Island to this list has never actually been to the state park," Latvala said in a statement. "Our state parks are meant to protect the treasured natural beauty of Florida. I'm concerned that allowing hunting would be a disaster waiting to happen."
Latvala detailed his concerns in a letter to DEP Secretary Jon Steverson, and suggested possible legislation in the 2016 session to address the issue. It could flare up as soon as next Wednesday at a meeting of the Senate Environmental Protection and Conservation Committee where senators will consider confirming Steverson's appointment.
"Within rifle range of the park are a condominium complex for retirtees, boaters and beachgoers," Latvala wrote in his letter. "Honeymoon Island has won awards for being the best beach in the country as well as others around the state. Tourists do not visit beaches in Florida to go hunting."
When Steverson pitched the idea at an August Cabinet meeting as a way to maximize moneymaking opportunities at Florida parks, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam suggested the DEP boss "delete" it from his list of agency priorities.