Our opinion: The nature business

Our opinion: The nature business

(Photo: Florida State Parks)

We’ll admit, Tallahasseeans reflexively get a little nervous when Florida officials start talking about running state government like a business.

It’s not a business. There are things in state administration that business can help with, and certainly business efficiencies can improve public services, but making a buck is not what government is about.

That’s why Floridians should be very wary of the current push by the Department of Environmental Protection to squeeze some profit out of state parks. DEP wouldn’t phrase it quite that way, but what other reason can there be for allowing increased logging, cattle grazing and hunting in the state’s roughly 800,000 acres of park lands?

DEP Secretary Jon Steverson says the concerns of environmentalists and many citizens who enjoy Florida’s natural beauty are overblown. He expressed surprise at “people who are taking very small pieces of information and twisting it into something that it’s simply not.”

Well, if Gov. Rick Scott and his administration did not have such an “anything for a buck” reputation, a lot of people would not believe “DEP” stands for “Don’t Expect Protection.” If the department hadn’t ordered its employees not to use the terms “climate change,” “global warming” or “sustainability,” perhaps we wouldn’t have this nagging suspicion that Florida’s fragile environment is in the hands of vandals.

Scott and the Legislature are the guys who looted Amendment 1, the land-acquisition amendment approved by three out of four Florida voters just last November. That’s the “Florida Land and Water Legacy” mandate – put on the ballot and passed over the opposition of state leaders – requiring the state to spend one-third of real estate development taxes for conservation purposes.

Of course, legislators who like campaign contributions from developers get to decide what constitutes “conservation” – which is like letting Bonnie and Clyde make banking policy […]