Unhappy hunting grounds | Aug. 30, editorial
Hunting is part of Florida culture
I disagree with your skepticism about whether hunters and the nonhunting public can share publicly owned lands.
Florida is home to 2 million hunters and anglers, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come to our state to enjoy our woods and waters. Sportsmen spend $4.8 billion each year and support 85,000 jobs. This generates $484 million in state tax revenue. Sportsmen buy gas, food, bait and gear from local businesses and they fill hotels.
The biggest complaint by hunters in Florida is the loss of access to lands that have been acquired by public entities, such as Florida's five water management districts. Hunting has been a part of our culture since before Florida was a state, and it's safe to say that the lands that hunters are asking to be considered to be "opened back up" were hunted before being purchased by the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
Sportsmen and nonsportsmen can and do coexist on many publicly owned properties all across Florida.
Finally, there is no record of a single person who was hiking, birding, horseback riding or picnicking being harmed by any type of hunter on publicly owned lands in Florida.
Lane Stephens, executive director, Allied Sportsmen's Associations of Florida, Tallahassee
Unhappy hunting grounds | Aug. 30, editorial
Hunters are land's stewards
According to a Department of Environmental Protection study, 1.5 million people participated in some form of hunting activity in Florida in 2007.
Most hunting lands in Florida require the user to apply for a special quota permit, which is nontransferable and has to be drawn months in advance. The permits allow hunting only for a short period of time.
Hunting and hunting-related revenue account a large share of funds spent by states in maintaining public recreational lands. Hunters are conservationists first. We are inherently concerned about maintaining balance within nature or we lose the ability to practice our rights to hunt. Legal hunting has never and will never cause the endangerment of any species.
Hunters are stewards of the land who wish to share in its bounty with everyone else. We ask for no exclusions to any other groups and seek only to be able to participate in the quiet enjoyment of our hunting heritage.
Chuck Echenique, southwest regional director, United Waterfowlers of Florida, Tampa
Burden of added costs
Who will pay for the preparation and management of these preserves for hunting? This means improving, grading and mowing roads, adding culverts, creating parking for hunt vehicles, doing pre- and postgame counts, checking takes and collecting trash, providing extra law enforcement, and surveying, fencing and posting boundaries.
Already limited funds for management of resources, fire, exotics and endangered species will be diverted to management for hunting.
Less than 2 percent of the population of Florida hunts. Hunting contributes much less to the Florida economy than other recreational uses of public lands.
Julie Wert, Aripeka
Give hunters access
I have both hunted and hiked Swiftmud lands. Hunters have very limited access and only for a short period of the year. Most of the hunting is available only to a limited number of hunters who are lucky enough to be drawn through a quota lottery. I have never seen a conflict between hunters, hikers or horse people.
Please do not try to paint hunters negatively. My experience is that most hunters truly love the wild places and wildlife, and want to preserve it. Give them access.
Dan Hundley, St. Petersburg
Heed the majority
Hunting by its very nature is not compatible with passive uses, no matter what the hunters say. Additionally, hunting is already allowed in many of the preserves and, as many passive users will avow, it can and does cause problems.
One can only wonder why the more than 5.8 million acres of public hunting land in Florida is not enough for a small and dwindling number of hunters.
As hearings and negotiations continue, I hope Swiftmud will respect the wishes of the great majority, conduct meetings and negotiations in plenty of sunshine, and ultimately make the right decision to deny expansion of hunting in the preserves.
Nancy Kost, Homosassa
It works on other lands
Opening land to waterfowl hunting would not be dangerous to the general public. The opinion that these lands are unsuitable to hunting is ridiculous, since there are vast areas of swamp and hidden tributaries. I personally have not seen a horse, jogger, birder, or picnickers swimming in the back areas of the mentioned tracts that Swiftmud operates.
Waterfowlers do not shoot arrows nor bullets. The range of a shotgun using steel shot is no more than 100 yards. Safe recreation can include duck hunters — it works in all the other areas that hunters presently share with all Floridians.
John T. Wilson, Tampa
Learn history, get organized
Christmas is not the only holiday for which its original observance has been subverted. Ask around and see how many people know why the first Monday of September was established as a national holiday in 1894.
A knowledge of American history is incomplete without an awareness of the contributions of Samuel Gompers, George Meany, Mary Harris "Mother" Jones and Cesar Chavez. Especially at this time when the middle class is threatened, it would behoove Americans to remember that unions grew stronger during another period of economic crisis, when workers were told to be grateful even to have a job, regardless of exploitative circumstances.
It is understandable that the minions of billionaires and mega-millionaires spout labor union myths, but it is disheartening to see the working class fall prey to their tactics of perpetrating fear and resentment toward those who have decent compensation and working conditions. Fair contracts negotiated in mutual good faith and due process are not subversive to a democracy.
This Labor Day, American workers should reflect upon our labor heritage and celebrate by getting organized.
Gail A. Reynolds, Dade City