Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Opinion

Dockery: Plenty of space for hunting besides parks

The perfect example of "if it ain't broke" is Florida's State Park System. At least it was before Gov. Rick Scott and his Department of Environmental Protection secretaries started to meddle.

Our park system was the envy of the nation, having been awarded the Gold Medal for outstanding park system an unprecedented three times.

But Scott and his latest DEP secretary, Jon Steverson, apparently don't see the value in managing and maintaining natural areas for the enjoyment of our residents and tourists. They also miss the importance of preserving these lands — owned by the people of Florida — in perpetuity for future generations to enjoy experiencing the real Florida and all its natural splendor.

Instead, they want to force incompatible agricultural uses into the parks. They tried to sell this scheme as "resource management" but nobody was buying it. Clearly it's an attempt to commercialize and privatize our state parks for private profit.

This is not their first attempt.

They tried to put golf courses in our parks, and there was a public outcry. Then they tried to push commercial camping at Honeymoon Island State Park and several others. Thousands showed up in protest.

Now they insist the parks must be self-sufficient. Park managers and those who have dedicated their professional lives to our parks have offered solutions to generate more revenue that would not be detrimental to our natural resources. Those ideas were dismissed.

Their real goal is to force cattle grazing and timber harvesting on state park lands. These are the very lands we purchased to preserve our natural resources. Now we're inviting others to exploit them for personal gain.

We have over a million acres of state-owned lands managed by the Division of Forestry. Why not look to them for sustainable timber harvesting?

It's disturbing that Scott and Steverson would risk ruining our parks with this façade of self-sufficiency. The parks are already 77 percent self-sufficient with $60 million generated by park users.

Here's a real head-scratcher. A bill (SB 570) was introduced that would create a state park entrance fee holiday for a year.

How does that achieve the goal of self-sufficiency? Where would that $60 million come from? Could it be that without entry fees more cattle grazing and logging would be permitted?

Steverson has not yet received Senate confirmation for DEP secretary. Wouldn't it send a strong message if the Senate postponed or voted down his confirmation?

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam advised Steverson to drop his self-sufficiency idea for state parks. He doesn't seem to be heeding that advice.

Now Steverson is pushing for hunting in state parks. Is it because we have a lack of adequate hunting opportunities on public land?

Many of my family members are avid hunters, and I support making public lands available for hunting where appropriate. State parks are not.

There doesn't appear to be a shortage of hunting already available on public lands. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, there are at least 5.9 million acres of public lands open for hunting in Florida.

These include 167 Wildlife Management Areas that are geographically spread throughout the state in five regions. The WMAs are a mix of federal and state-owned lands that are available for hunting.

Ocala National Forest has 383,000 acres where you can hunt deer or turkeys. Jennings State Forest in northeast Florida has 24,033 acres with good whitetail hunting. Osceola National Forest has 200,000 acres with excellent turkey hunting. The Big Cypress National Preserve has 720,000 acres in southeast Florida with deer, turkey and pig hunting.

Hunting is allowed on 3.5 million acres (72 percent) of state-owned land; 2.4 million acres (60 percent) of federal lands in Florida; and in total, 5.9 million acres (66 percent) of all public land in Florida.

The State Park System seems small by comparison, with 671,846 total acres representing less than 14 percent of all state-owned lands.

Why, then, do Scott and Steverson insist on pushing hunting into our parks? Not only is it incompatible with the mission of our state parks, it is also unsafe for our families who are enjoying them.

Shooting wildlife in our state parks is best done with a camera.

Paula Dockery is a syndicated columnist who served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years as a Republican from Lakeland. She can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

The federal Food and Drug Administration is bringing important scrutiny to the increasing use of e-cigarettes, requiring companies that make and sell them to show they are keeping their products away from minors. Vaping is the new front in the nation...
Published: 09/18/18
Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

The Senate and the nation needs to hear more about the sexual assault allegation against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Setting aside Kavanaugh's judicial record, his political past and the hyper-partisan divide over his nomination, a no...
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

The Tampa City Council has yet to hear a compelling reason to allow a private social club in a residential neighborhood off Bayshore Boulevard, and a final meeting on the matter scheduled for Thursday offers the council a chance to show the diligence...
Published: 09/14/18
Editorial: Focus on Hurricane Florence, not defending poor response in Puerto Rico

Editorial: Focus on Hurricane Florence, not defending poor response in Puerto Rico

Hurricane Florence began lashing down on the Carolinas Thursday and was expected to make landfall early Friday, washing over dunes, downing trees and power lines and putting some 10 million people in the path of a potentially catastrophic storm. Flor...
Published: 09/13/18
Editorial: Scott sends positive signal on Supreme Court appointments

Editorial: Scott sends positive signal on Supreme Court appointments

Gov. Rick Scott has headed down a dangerous path by announcing he has started the process to fill three upcoming vacancies on the Florida Supreme Court as he heads out the door. But to his credit, the governor indicated his "expectation’’ is that he ...
Published: 09/12/18
Updated: 09/14/18
Editorial: Stalled U.S.-Cuba relations hurting Florida business

Editorial: Stalled U.S.-Cuba relations hurting Florida business

After an encouraging start, the breakdown in America’s reset with Cuba is a loss for both sides and for the state of democracy across the region. Havana and Washington are both to blame, but the Trump administration’s hard line with Cuba is out of sy...
Published: 09/12/18
Lessons from Moonves’ ouster

Lessons from Moonves’ ouster

If the swift departure of CBS Chairman Les Moonves has a bright side, it’s that a major television network took accusations of sexual harassment against its chief executive seriously enough to hold him accountable and obtain his resignation even at t...
Published: 09/11/18
Updated: 09/14/18
Editorial: Banks should not shut down campaign accounts for marijuana ties

Editorial: Banks should not shut down campaign accounts for marijuana ties

Two banks have taken the retaliatory step of closing down the campaign account of a statewide candidate because she received contributions from the medical marijuana industry. Nikki Fried, the Democratic nominee for agriculture commissioner, has been...
Published: 09/10/18
Updated: 09/14/18
Editorial: Florida Supreme Court wisely kills misleading charter school amendment

Editorial: Florida Supreme Court wisely kills misleading charter school amendment

Voters should know what they’re voting on, which is why the Florida Supreme Court was entirely correct to strike the deviously worded Amendment 8 from the Nov. 6 ballot. The amendment would have significantly expanded charter schools in Florida by le...
Published: 09/10/18
Updated: 09/11/18
Editorial: Genshaft steered USF to new heights — and it should keep climbing

Editorial: Genshaft steered USF to new heights — and it should keep climbing

University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft, who announced Monday she will retire in July, will leave behind a remarkable legacy. The university’s longest-serving president led USF’s transformation from a commuter school to a destination univ...
Published: 09/10/18