Editorial Response - Charlotte Sun Herald
Your description of the approach of Standing Watch is as false as it is inflammatory. Our mission statement begins,"To organize boaters in a proactive, environmentally responsible force."
The pro-active part concentrated on educating boaters and legislators throughout the State over the past two years. We're headed down a never-ending gauntlet of regulatory initiatives that are lawsuit driven, politically motivated, and have little or nothing to do with the health of the environment. People are losing their jobs, businesses, and simple access to the aquatic resources of the State one canal system at a time.
Since the inception of Standing Watch, we've stated that we will support reasonable, enforceable environmental protection initiatives that are based in science, and common sense. We have also stated, from the beginning, that we will fight politically driven regulations, and those that use our Fish & Wildlife agencies to carry out thinly veiled "growth control" measures.
Save the Manatee Club is on record, on many occasions, stating that the manatee is "the best, most effective growth control tool that exists." (Pat Rose, New York Times, Feb. 2002 - by Andy Revkin). In Florida Sportsman, in February of 1994, he stated, "People in Florida have to realize that youıre going to have to put a lid on growth. And if this animal is the vehicle to do that, then so be it!"
We fully support the regulatory plan drafted by the Charlotte County Marine Advisory Committee. This plan was drawn up by Charlotte County voters, with scientific input from Florida Sea Grant, and took five years to put together. This plan was approved by your County Commissioners, sent to Tallahassee, and ignored.
A plan was recently implemented in Lee County, and concentrated all boats in the channel to run on plane just like FFWCC's plan for Lemon Bay and the Peace River. During the first recording period following the implementation of this rule, Lee County set a record for water-craft related manatee mortality. It was a recipe for disaster.
Even with the record setting mortality that ensued, FFWCC staff and Save the Manatee Club refused to re-visit these regulations for reconsideration. They had achieved two objectives - the first being the regulation of the entire Caloosahatchee River. The second was putting a plan in place that exacerbates the mortality figures - in order to demand more stringent regulatory measures.
I attended the Manatee Population & Ecology Workshop in Gainesville in April. A three day conference, it attempted to address the entire issue. In a break-out session, Brad Hartman - Resource Manager for the FFWCC stated that "99% of my departmentıs resources are spent regulating boats." In the full session, I learned that there has never been a population model developed for the past, present, or future of the manatee species in Florida.
Where is the science? Where is the outrage from the scientific community, and the press, over the fact that we are spending "99% of our resources" on ~25% of the manatee mortality problem? Where is the indignation over the fact that nobody has ever even attempted to accurately assess the population of the species? Where is the accountability of a charitable "non-profit" organization that employs five lobbyists in Florida alone, influences legislation (against IRS codes), and files lawsuit after lawsuit against Government agencies, property owners, business owners, municipalities, and resource users?
As long as the press continues to give our "professional conservationists" an unlimited pass on accountability, and the lack of science to back up their politically-driven agendas, editors can expect more and more people to become involved. Some will be more vocal and outspoken than others. Not all are Standing Watch members. But all share a common concern - the current program is not about manatee protection. It is about limiting access to the aquatic resources throughout the State of Florida.
When small groups of people sue the Government in order to mandate how others live their lives, are they being democratic? Do they believe in representative government? Are they working with, or against, the current legislators - or the people? Our Standing Watch Boater Voters will assure a level playing field.
Jim Kalvin President & CEO Standing Watch
P.O. Box 296, Estero, FL 33928 E-mail
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