Nasty bill for the environment coming up in the Florida Senate on Monday, March 5th. Contact Florida State Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff (District 25) as soon as possible and ask her to pull her amendment – #832626 – from Bill HB 4003 (Growth Policy). Senator Bogdanoff’s email is:
Phone: (850) 487-5100 – for an alternative way of making contact. You should be able to leave a message off hours or when there’s no answer. Sunday and Monday is the window of opportunity we have on this.
Whether you live in Florida or not, please see below for a summary of how this bill will impact critical federal lands (you own them wherever you happen to live) and wildlife habitat in one of our planet’s most unique ecosystems – the Florida Everglades. Senator Bogdanoff’s legislation is meant to accomplish one goal – encourage more residential and commercial growth in still undeveloped areas of Florida including lands outside the Miami-Dade Urban Development Boundary and adjacent to Biscayne and Everglades National Parks. Hopefully, asking Senator Bogdanoff to pull amendment #832626 – for the sake of the little which remains of natural Florida – will get the job done.
Urgent action is needed to protect Everglades National Park and other wildlife habitat in Florida.
This Monday, March 5th, the Florida Senate will take up a bill called HB 4003. If passed, the bill will terminate a state program intended to provide grants for the redevelopment of urban centers. Not surprisingly, the grants were never funded. However, the truly harmful part of the bill is in an amendment introduced by Florida State Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff. This amendment would strip all local municipalities in the state of their current ability to require a super majority vote in changing comprehensive land use plans. Senator Bogdanoff’s amendment would require only a simple majority of elected officials – often flooded with political contributions from the very developers who benefit from land use changes – to convert more of natural and semi-natural Florida into the urban and suburban sprawl for which the Sunshine State has unfortunately become famous.
The timing of this amendment does not appear to have been random. Only last Tuesday, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez publicly backed a plan which would make it extremely difficult to change the Urban Development Boundary (UDB) surrounding two iconic pieces of public land located in the county – Everglades and Biscayne National Parks. In supporting a recommendation to make any changes dependent on yes votes from 10 of 13 commissioners (a three-fourths majority), Mayor Gimenez said, “Once and for all, this ensures that future commissions and future mayors have the strictest standards for making any changes to the line.”
Apparently, certain circles found this attempt to protect land around two of the most beloved parts of south Florida unacceptable. Senator Bogdanoff’s legislation (Amendment #832626), introduced in the Florida Senate only 2 days after the mayor’s speech, contains the following language:
“A local government may not adopt or impose any supermajority voting requirement, by charter provision, ordinance, or otherwise, for the transmittal or adoption of amendments to the comprehensive plan.”
Books can and have been written on the subject of the decline of the Everglades and the reasons for it. Tim Will, a former mayor of the Town of Surfside – one of the many municipalities in Miami-Dade County – summed it up this way:
“In Miami, you have a system where the rules are stacked in the developers’ favor…They want to spend your tax money building more and more subdivisions in the only place that water can drain to… More development out west would replace natural drainage area with concrete while additional houses would put even more pressure on what is already a strained system.”
Mayor Will was absolutely correct when he asserted that the tax dollars of existing residents fund the new development – but they also contribute to increases in the cost of services (water, fire departments, law enforcement, public transportation, schools, etc.) as new residents move in to a formerly undeveloped or agricultural environment. Municipal borrowing – and increased public debt – in addition to cuts in services – complete the bleak equation. It’s also highly doubtful that the 85.9 million visitors to Florida – number one tourist destination in the world and the largest source of Florida’s tax revenue – are coming to see new roads, subdivisions and strip malls – or to swim in the billions of gallons of semi-treated sewage south Florida unloads off its southeast coast annually through sewage “outfall” pipes.
And despite numerous distinctions – the first “biological park” in our nation’s history, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Wilderness Area, an International Biosphere Reserve, a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, and a World Heritage Site – Everglades National Park was nevertheless rated bottom of the barrel when National Geographic Magazine conducted its survey of national park destinations in North America:
“Clearly a paradise in jeopardy, the Everglades is dying of thirst and other maladies. Upstream demand for water by the sugar industry and growing cities has slowed a much-heralded restoration program to a crawl…Rapid development on all sides has created an unpleasant, unattractive gateway to one of the planet’s unique places.”
The degradation of south Florida’s amazing ecosystem and the diverse wildlife it supports has been one of the ecological tragedies of our era – and perhaps the most well documented. There is no need to compound it with more of the same. A simple note to Senator Bogdanoff – Hands off Miami-Dade County and other municipalities trying to protect what’s left of natural Florida – should do the job. Pull amendment #832626 now!
Once again – Senator Bogdanoff can be reached via email at:
South Florida Wildlands Association currently carries out our aggressive program of habitat and wildlife protection with little funds and no paid staff. If you’re able, contributions in any amount are always appreciated and allow us to continue this important work. You can donate online or by regular mail by going to the following webpage:
Thank you as always for your support and help.