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Pasco residents fear land swap for golf course would endanger bears

Activists to fight land swap Feb. 3, article

We need bears, not golf courses

The article describing the SunWest/Southwest Florida Water Management District land swap missed key points. To swap land purchased with Florida Forever funds, state law requires that the land gained must be shown, at the very least, to be of equal environmental value to the land gained. The swap might be defensible if bears were not involved, but they are.

Within the last two months, sightings by civilians and biologists in the area immediately north of the swap property indicate that a large male is currently active in this area. Since the swap property was a den site during the five-year study, it is likely that a female is also resident in the area.

The water district Land Resources director Eric Sutton's reported statement that bears were also found on the property to be acquired is misleading. Since bears can reach the land to be acquired by the district only by traveling across the proposed golf course and through the 2,500 housing units to reach those lands, the environmental worth of the acquired land is severely compromised. The district and SunWest cannot demonstrate equal environmental value. Connectivity is severed.

Wildlife biologist and Ph.D. Dave Maehr, who studied this population for five years, wrote passionately about the need to preserve large contiguous areas of habitat, saying: "The Greater Chassahowitzka Ecosystem black bear population is in a crisis from demographic collapse and genetic impoverishment. What this population needs is expanding suitable habitat not the continued fragmentation and outright loss of the unique forests in the region."

At a meeting June 23, 2008, Sutton said, "If you take the bears out of the equation, the swap makes pretty good sense." Mr. Sutton, does it not follow that if you leave the bears in the equation, then the swap does not make good sense?

Loss of this land will endanger the survival of the population, which is in grave need of new blood. We should be extending every effort to add habitat for this bear population. We need bears much more than we need new private golf courses.

The water district's charter requires it to be in the environmental preservation business. Nothing in that charter permits the district to be in the land development business. The public should be up in arms over this developer-initiated boondoggle.

Mac Davis, Aripeka

Any way you look at it, nature loses

Florida seems a state doomed to not learn from the mistakes of our past. How many times have we been sold a bill of goods from a fast-buck developer promising the moon and leaving communities with only debt and the loss of the natural beauty that used to define the southern Nature Coast?

We have built up and out our coastlines for years with no thought as to what happens when you destroy coastal wetlands, sea grass beds, fisheries habitat and the last places for species like the Florida black bear.

It's bad enough when it is a developer, or their consultants, with dollar signs in their eyes who stand ready to pave over the last pieces of paradise. It's even worse when it is the very government agencies who are charged with protecting natural Florida who promote reckless land deals that will only lead to ecological loss.

As evidence of this look no further than the proposed SunWest Harbourtowne project in Aripeka. It would seem the last place Florida would want to site a large development of regional impact, or DRI, yet developers are proposing a massive project right on the coast. Even worse, the Southwest Florida Water Management District is not only a co-applicant with the developer for the permits needed to build this environmentally destructive project, they are actually willing to swap away public lands to make it happen. The district argues that they will come out ahead with the land swap, but it simply not true. Critical habitat for Florida black bears will be lost as developers win and wildlife loses. It is a sad, old game in Florida that has been played out a thousand times and this time it is even more egregious as the district is doing the developers' work for them.

Anyone who cares about the future of wildlife, Florida black bears, growth management, or the Nature Coast needs to stand up and oppose both the proposed SunWest Harbourtowne development and the land swap public employees are pitching to make it happen. Taxpayers, who fund the district and paid for the land they seem so eager to swap away to developers, deserve better and should let district director David Moore know how they feel. The bears will thank you for speaking out for them.

Joe Murphy, Florida program director, Gulf Restoration Network,

Ridge Manor

Protect our park and its creatures

I am very concerned about the destruction I see taking place at Pasco County's Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park.

For years I have enjoyed walking the trails seeing hawks, wild pigs with babies, deer, turtles, turkeys and sometimes coyotes.

Over the past several months acres of trees have been cut down, destroying the beauty and the animal's natural habitat, leaving behind debris scattered over what used to be shaded walking trails and woods which were once enjoyed by so many.

Also, much land has been purposely burned, leaving behind charred turtle shells. Now I hear that the pigs were recently removed. Why and how? Where were they taken?

Here's hoping that someone with the knowledge, authority and fortitude will personally investigate the so-called park projects. Please put a stop to the loss of the precious creatures and the desecration of the land.

It is stipulated in the deed restrictions that the land would remain in the present natural state and that hunting would be prohibited. I don't believe that Mr. Starkey's vision of the use of his land is being honored.

Joan Clark, Port Richey

Time to change law enforcement | Feb. 4, letter

Sheriff's Office will respond

I am a retired police officer who worked 36 years. I read the letter sent from a retired detective and his complaints against the Pasco sheriff .

The retired detective was the losing neighbor in the neighbor conflicts when the sheriff decided the conflicts. He also mentioned that a deputy sheriff in another county shot a dog.

These concerns troubled him and he warned the residents that they are not safe with the current administrators in law enforcement.

I have faith in law enforcement that if a neighbor trouble call is received at the same as a shooting call, they will respond to the shooting.

Van E. Vergetis, Holiday

Substitute not the same as a teacher

''In loco parentis,'' the doctrine whereby schoolteachers are given authority over their young students "in the place of the parent," has application most probably only in the case of contract teachers who are full-time, certified educators.

A substitute teacher is in all cases serving at the pleasure and comfort of the local principal. Therefore, although we can call the plaintiff against the school district a teacher, he is at best a stand-in for the contract teacher, with little legal protection if any at all. In loco parentis gives a teacher who knows better the role of protector of the children entrusted to him, but it doesn't deny the need for sensitivity on a teacher's part to first enroll the help and opinion of the students' parents.

The big mistake, as I see it, in this masterful magician's case, is that he let his good judgment disappear when he asked the peer to have a public role in the classroom, apparently without the approval of the parents who later objected and complained.

Tread lightly as a substitute, because "in loco parentis" almost never covers the rear end of substitute teachers, who can be well-intentioned, creative and thoughtful individuals, but who are unpracticed in being sensitive to the role of parents who will always compare the sub to the regular classroom teacher.

And that is why I agree he probably does not have a good case at all.

Kathy Lambert, Dade City

Pasco residents fear land swap for golf course would endanger bears

02/05/09 [Last modified: Thursday, February 5, 2009 5:21pm]
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