Editorial: Public must protect parks

Editorial: Public must protect parks

Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Jon Steverson should have gotten the message about allowing more grazing, hunting and logging in state parks.

Steverson has heard opposition to the plan from state lawmakers, members of the Florida Cabinet and the general public. About 300 people rallied Saturday in Gainesville against opening up Paynes Prairie Preserve and other state parks to such uses.

Rather than dropping the idea, Steverson has changed his rationale. He no longer talks about making parks self-sufficient, now portraying his plan as expanding resource management tools already in use.

Don’t fall for it. The only way to stop Steverson’s plan is for the public to continue to speak against it and encourage others to do the same.

“We’ll win or lose either on action or apathy,” said Jim Stevenson, a former chief naturalist for the Florida Park Service who spoke at Saturday’s rally.

It’s no wonder why the DEP secretary altered his approach. It was ludicrous to suggest parks weren’t pulling their weight because they covered just 77 percent of their expenses, as Steverson last year told a state Senate committee.

The figure is higher than most other park systems and leaves out the Florida system’s $2.1 billion economic impact on the state, according to the DEP’s own analysis. Florida’s park system has been recognized three times as the nation’s best and last year attracted more than 31 million visitors.

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