Florida State Parks in Peril

Florida State Parks in Peril
« on: January 17, 2016, 09:36:26 PM »
In out COC meeting on January 17, we talked about supporting our State Parks in this time of need. We discussed inviting our legislatures to visit our state parks. Here are some of the talking points you need to know. At the end of this post, I also share additional links to articles that you will want to read.

According to a Tampa Bay Times article, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Jon Steverson, told state legislators he is proposing hunting, timber harvesting and cattle grazing in the state parks to make the park system pay for itself. "I want to maximize value for the taxpayers, but also for the environment," he said.

Why fix something that is not broken?: Florida’s State Park System is a the only three-time winner of the prestigious National Gold Medal Award for Excellence. Presented by the National Recreation and Park Association and the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration, this award recognizes “communities that demonstrate excellence in long-range planning, resource management and administrating a complex system of state parks.”

What they are proposing goes against the park’s own rule!: In their own words, as printed in the ALL the park brochures: All plants, animals and property are protected. Collection, destruction or disturbance is prohibited. What part of that statement allows hunting? The hunter disturbs, destroys and collects wildlife. Furthermore, animals in the parks have lost much of their fear of people and will be easy targets for hunters. which not only seems unethical, but is hardly a fair sport!

Attendance will decrease in our state parks!: Last year 27 million people from all over the world visited our state parks. Birders, hikers, nature photographers, native plant enthusiasts, and campers make up a large portion of these people. They go to the state parks to see (and photograph) wildlife. As one who has been volunteered with the Florida State Park system for many years, I have spoken to many of these people, and beautiful landscapes and wildlife sightings are the most memorable part of their stay, and what keeps them coming back.   

Cattle grazing and timber harvesting will destroy the natural plant communities and the beautiful natural landscapes. Agricultural and pasture land is very sterile. It is of very little value to wildlife.

Hunting will not only reduce the number of wildlife in the park, but will make wildlife less likely to tolerate people. The wildlife that now hangs around the visitor centers and campgrounds will disappear and so will the visitors.

Our parks will not be safe for wildlife or people!:State Parks are here to protect wildlife, and provide a safe, gun free zone for people to see and enjoy nature. From one who unwittingly choose to camp in a state forest during hunting season, it is a somewhat frightening experience. Families with children will certainly not feel safe if they hear gunshots, even at a distance. Hikers in the remote areas of the park will be at risk of an accidental shooting. Closing all or part of the park during hunting seasons would be worse. Hunting seasons coincide with the times the state parks get the most visitors, so closing all or part of the park during those times will give people reason to go elsewhere and many will not return.

The money for the parks is already in the budget!:According to the DEP, the reason to allow hunting, cattle grazing and timber harvesting in Florida’s 174 state parks, is to generate more money for the state and make the parks pay for themselves.  According to the DEP, the parks only cover 70% of their operating costs.

Besides the 27 million visitors and $2.1 billion the parks add to Florida’s economy each year, Governor Rick Scott's FY 2014-2015 budget states there is more than $31.5 million dollars available for managing state parks and coastal aquatic managed areas. Since the parks are largely staffed by volunteers, where is all the money going?

Furthermore, after proposing they want the parks to be self-sustainable, the legislature has proposed to waive park entrance fees in the future, thus setting the parks up for financial failure and additional crime. According to the Hillsborough County Parks dept, fees at the county parks lowered crime by 90% in the county park system. A no-fee state park system is an invitation for criminal mischief or worse.

Other links:
http://www.standunited.org/petition/fdep-no-hunting-in-state-parks
http://fl.audubonaction.org/site/MessageViewer?em_id=65942.0&pgwrap=n
http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20160106/COLUMNIST/160109769/2080/OPINION?Title=Jono-Miller-DEP-still-trying-to-commercialize-state-parks
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Board Representative for Council of Chapters

Juliet Rynear

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Re: Florida State Parks in Peril
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2016, 10:01:56 AM »
Thank you Donna!  It is good to have this information here where everyone can easily access it.
Chair Conservation Committee