Florida’s Amendment 1 stall and Trump’s monument grab have parallels

Sometimes seemingly disparate events are more related than they may seem at first.

Nearly three years after Florida voters overwhelmingly voted to amend the state constitution to provide the money to restart the Florida Forever program, the Florida Legislature once again has thwarted the people’s will by deciding to spend the money for something else, according to preliminary reports on state budget talks this week.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump this week has ordered a review of Barrack Obama’s decision to protect large tracts of federal lands in the western states by designating them as national monuments.

Both decisions reflect a political philosophy that is antagonistic to the idea that conserving natural resources for their own sake is a worthwhile public policy goal.

Both also present disingenuous arguments to justify their positions.

Florida legislators have taken advantage of the perhaps necessarily general language in the ballot language to argue that they can spend the money for projects to exploit natural resources—water supply projects come to mind—to further development interests instead of projects to protect them or to play fiscal games with state budget trust funds.

Trump’s monument decision, which he claimed was aimed at reversing a “federal land grab” without answering —or perhaps being asked by the press–how can federal officials “grab” land they already own?

What it’s really about is the disagreement about whether conserving land is worthwhile is useful or wasteful.

When federal public land receives monument status it is no longer open for mining, logging and other types of commercial exploitation.

The Trump administration’s real intent is to allow that exploitation, usually at cut-rate return to the federal treasury.

Critics of environmental land acquisition often ask us how much is enough?

It’s appropriate turn the question around and ask how many forests have to be clear cut and how many mountains have to be turned into rubble and how much of the aquifer, rivers and lakes need to be depleted before someone yells “ENOUGH!”

Think about Circle B Bar Reserve as a golf course development or Iron Mountain upon which Bok Tower sits as a sand and clay mine to support the road construction industry or the Green Swamp as the site of new suburbs for the Tampa and Orlando areas and it may be clearer where the philosophy that has been revived could have led if that philosophy had governed in earlier times.

We need to be vigilant.

Posted in Group Conservation Issues.