Closing parks a poor way to save money
A family driving through Florida on vacation sees a state park sign and turns off U.S. 19 in search of Terra Ceia Preserve State Park. After winding back along Bayshore Road, they find the gate locked, with a sign: "Closed for 2009."
Unlikely? Not at all. To meet Gov. Charlie Crist's request for a 10 percent trim of their budget, Florida State Parks recommends closure of 19 state parks with low attendance and the "return" of three state parks to their original owners.
The state of Florida was just named the "Top Trails State in the Nation" by American Trails. Many of the parks at risk offer hiking and trail riding as well as birding. Others are archaeological sites, Civil War historical sites, and significant botanical sites.
It makes no economic sense to close these parks. In 2007, Florida State Parks attendance was 20.7-million, adding an estimated billion dollars to Florida's economy. Although tourism is down in most sectors, visits to parks and campgrounds are up, according to reports given at the December 2008 VISIT FLORIDA board meeting.
Closing parks is a dangerous precedent to set. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich attempted to do the same this year and backed off after a groundswell of public fury.
With our Legislature convening today, time is of the essence. Contact Gov. Crist, DEP Secretary Michael Sole, Florida State Parks director Michael Bullock, and your state legislators to express your displeasure with their plans, which would only save 0.003 percent of the $66-billion state budget. Better to raise entrance fees $1 statewide to cover the need for expense reduction than close parks.
Sandra Friend, Ocala
Mail-order tadpole swims into trouble Dec. 23, story
Crack down on exotic species in Florida
If the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission continues to ignore problems posed by exotic species until they become established in the environment, African clawed frogs may become next year's iguana and damage our ecosystem .
Iguanas, pythons and many other nonnative species have invaded Florida's neighborhoods and wildlife preserves, potentially displacing native species. Burmese pythons have eaten endangered Key Largo wood rats. Iguanas have become so prolific that several South Florida communities have urged the FWC to require a permit and microchip to keep them as pets. Almost 40 nonnative amphibian and reptile species have established breeding populations in Florida.
Florida's failure to regulate dangerous and potentially invasive exotic species has created a problem not only for our state, but for the rest of the country. States such as Nevada and Montana prohibit possession of African clawed frogs, only to find they are being imported from Florida. These frogs are large, voracious eaters and may carry a fungus thought to be decimating frog populations worldwide.
The FWC should ban the breeding and sale of African clawed frogs now, before it's too late. Let's learn a lesson from the iguanas: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Jennifer Hobgood. Florida state director, Humane Society of the United States, Tallahassee
Animal cruelty not easy to define | Dec. 29, story
All creatures have rights
As the United States gradually strengthens and clarifies laws regarding cruelty to animals, let us not presume to equate the decisions of trial juries with the wisdom of correct moral responses on this issue. For the benefit of mankind and animals, we must recognize that all creatures have a right to life whether or not they have an owner, whether or not they are typical companion animals or game animals or farm animals or wildlife.
We must understand that animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment or treat cruelly. They are not underlings. They exist for their own purposes, not ours.
Arthur Schopenhauer, a profound 19th century philosopher, had it correct when he observed: "The assumption that animals are without rights and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality."
Tom Bird, Tampa
Animal cruelty not easy to define | Dec. 29, story
Don't tolerate cruelty
I am a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for the state and have seen the results of both cruelty and ignorance of people toward wildlife. I will agree that the laws are not clear, but just because an animal is not owned by a human does not mean that it has no feelings or emotions.
I live my life trying to care for the wildlife of this state. Those of us who deal with these creatures know that they are sentient beings that have feelings and emotions. Cruelty should not be tolerated, whether an animal is owned, abandoned, wild or otherwise.
I am certain that in some of the cases talked about in this article the people meant well, but other times people just take it upon themselves to do whatever they want to with animals. Each case must be looked at on an individual basis to make sure that cruelty is not tolerated.
I think the laws do need to be made more clear but they should continue to include wildlife, farm animals and pets with no regard to whether humans are involved in the daily lives of the animals. All animals deserve our respect, and if someone harms wildlife in a cruel way they should be charged with whatever crimes are allowed by our judicial system.
Karen Clark, Tampa
New puppy, Luke, heals Bondi's heart Jan. 2, story
Are we supposed to feel sorry or happy for Pam Bondi? She adopted Noah (Master Tank to his original family) through a mistake by the Humane Society and made the true owners, who lost everything in Hurricane Katrina, go to court and fight to get their dog back. Court proceedings brought by Bondi lasted almost a year and were a tremendous expense to the Couture family.
And now, you promote her, the woman who caused this family so much grief, because of her own selfishness. Pam Bondi's past behavior was reprehensible.
Gail Randle, Clearwater
The voucher deception Dec. 22, letter
The letter writer asks, "How are private schools held accountable?"
Private schools are held accountable by the parents who pay $9,000 or more per year for tuition, $500 or more per year for textbooks, hundreds for uniforms and hundreds more for participation in sports and activities.
Those same parents hold the school accountable for providing a learning-centered, disciplined environment that demands personal, social and moral responsibility.
Private schools also are held accountable to SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools), the same organization that gives accreditation to the public schools.
The letter writer is correct in stating that most children who fail at school have been failed by their parents and community. In a private school, parental involvement and responsibility are required within a school community that supports the student and family.
Vouchers do save money, they do offer students the opportunity for an exceptional education, and rather than "skim the cream off the top," they help the cream rise to the top.
Beth Lani, Largo
Cut rates, don't raise them
I find it almost impossible to believe that at a time like this, with our country in the throes of a severe recession (and possible coming depression worldwide), the people who regulate the electric companies would see fit to grant a request for a 25 percent rate increase so two more nuclear power plants can be built.
In hard times like these, a 15 to 20 percent decrease in the electric rates is needed and would be justified, not a 25 percent increase.
It is my opinion that with as many people leaving Florida as moving in, we really don't need any new nuclear power plants!
George W. Strebler, St. Pete Beach