There are lessons galore for all states to ponder as Florida sinks into the quagmire of Federal intrusions on behalf of animal rights fanatics and environmental extremism. Florida has always had a particular problem with all manner of tropical and semi-tropical harmful and injurious plants arriving on everything from storms and freighters to tourists' bags and ballast discharges. This endemic problem has much to do with Florida's tropical climate. But the lesson for the rest of us lies not with all their newly arrived plants and animals but rather with the big critters that have been there for awhile and the ways they are manipulated by the Federal government at the expense of Floridians to benefit radical national agendas.
Three women killed in recent weeks in three separate incidents. The papers report "only 17 official deaths had been recorded in Florida since 1948" and "351 recorded attacks" recorded in the same period. "Official" reports of alligator attacks like sharks and wolves and coyotes and cougars (called "panther" in Florida) are always questionable. Up until recently such things were reported locally if at all. Often when the child or jogger or hiker or whoever failed to return and could not be found their picture wound up on a milk carton or they were called "missing" in a police file. In the past 35 years a "green" media and agenda-driven activists and bureaucrats have manipulated such reports for their own benefit and to protect the nonsensical lies being used to expand radical agendas.
- Alligators are said to be "shy" and "less aggressive than related species such as Nile crocodiles". If "official" numbers are as above, where does "shy" let off and "aggressive" begin? Nile crocodiles drag untold numbers of women and kids into African rivers every year but they are said to be less aggressive than the salt water crocs in N. Australia where they run you down and eat everything that "walks, crawls or flies". So calling alligators "shy" is supposed to be justifiable? "Shy" is as "shy" does and three women in such a short period is intolerable in our society anywhere. Public employees and professors that put out such propaganda should be fired.
- "There are 1 million to 2 million alligators in Florida". Given the growth of the human population in Florida that is about 1 ½ million too many. Back in the 1970's when the Federal government Listed the Alligator on the Endangered Species List every biologist and wildlife law enforcement officer I knew in Florida and Louisiana (another big alligator state) and adjoining states believed there was NO justification to list them and that were hundreds of thousands more than were being claimed. But Listed they were and Florida and Louisiana learned that they HAD TO PLAY ALONG with the Feds or they would be forced to, and they could lose funding and some state employees would lose their jobs. So now that they are "delisted" (like the feds propose for wolves) the States know they can be put back on with a new activist President if the States don't do only minimal control and push the animal rights nonsense. So they are managed not for Floridians but for national radical organizations using the hammer of Federal power.
- The 3 deaths are merely excuses for the radicals and extremists to pour propaganda all over with the cooperation of the papers. We are told "encounters with humans can also increase as more natural habitat is lost to development" and "We are building more and more into wild territories". This perverted reasoning emerged in the past 35 years (since they got these very un-American Federal environmental and animal rights laws passed). Had anyone believed this tripe before the Asians, (American Indians) or Europeans arrived no one would have set foot on this precious "natural habitat" (North America?, Africa?, South America?)
- Florida should have fewer alligators. Alligators should be as absent as possible in large sections of the state. A commercial market for the hides and skins should be encouraged. Size limits should reduce numbers of dangerous alligators in some areas and year around open seasons in other areas should minimize their presence there. Manage by county or by N or S of certain highways or in zones designed with human safety as the primary goal - not some Federally-imposed animal rights Nirvana. Hunter license fees and commercial licensing should provide funds for continually monitoring and sustainably controlling alligators. Save all the he-man photos of live-trapped alligators for the tourists on the alligator farms. Floridians should not have to fence back yards to keep alligators from killing children or from coming into houses. All Floridians suffer when some are afraid to fish or canoe or hike or swim or golf or own a pet or let children or grandchildren outside or live their daily lives. If the anti-gunners got their way, think of living with these deadly wild animals all around. All this really depends on getting sensible, management-oriented State employees and State politicians that will stand up to Federal pressures. Ultimately it depends on supporting and electing Congressmen and Senators like Representative Pombo, the House Resources Committee Chairman that has been targeted for defeat because he tried to reform the Endangered Species Act and set reasonable marine mammal by-catch standards for tuna fishermen in spite of all the invertebrate politicians in the US Senate.
Florida black bears and Louisiana black bears have been "Listed" by the Federal government as "Threatened". This authority for the Federal government to regulate nationally abundant species based on animal right's criteria as to how many of any State-controlled species each State should have was never imagined or mentioned in all the hubbub when the Endangered Species Act was passed. But assume this power they have and so Florida can't hunt the numerous and annually more destructive and dangerous black bears. As more are hit on Florida highways (because there are "more" bears, actually too many of them) the cry is to regulate traffic and reduce flows and speeds and build dubious and costly "crossings". No one dares mention the need for bear population control and active bear management. Again the Federal hammer and presence hovers anyone daring to suggest active management. Bear seasons should have been started years ago and bears, like alligators, should be in numbers and distributions that are in consonance with the residents of Florida, not the daydreams of Bostonians or Chicagoans.
3. Mountain Lions
They may call them "panthers" to imply uniqueness and claim them as Federally "Endangered" but they are merely mongrel (genetically) cougars on the absolute margin of cougar range. Like the little "Key Deer" the "panthers" get by in poor habitat and because they don't get "big and strong" like their brothers and sisters elsewhere, they get all the publicity and emotional sympathy of Shamu or Flipper or one of those pandas at the National Zoo. So they attack the animals of Floridians and then the Floridians are arrested for trying to protect themselves and their property. Now the cougars are moving North as they expand in their marginal habitat and are getting hit on mid-Florida highways so, as with bears, the problem is the traffic and "development" and well you know, you and me and our houses and notions that animals are supposed to be secondary to human requirements, especially in a Republic with guaranteed freedoms.
4. Ivory-Billed Woodpecker
These birds have been extinct for 60 years and based on two and a half years or searching and millions of our tax dollars and Lord knows what else (since much of it is "secret"), they are still extinct despite some "kayaker" claiming he "spotted" one in Arkansas almost three years ago. (Question: Does a large black and white woodpecker that has been "spotted" become a very large hairy or downy woodpecker? Answer: Only a University professor on a government grant knows!) While Federal and State bureaucrats, Cornell University, and The Nature Conservancy spend millions of our tax dollars searching Arkansas and Texas and Georgia; and national extremist organizations talk of the "need" to get government control of 5.5 MILLION ACRES of southern bottomlands: Floridians are hearing rumbles of Ivory-billed Woodpecker "HABITAT" that should be "saved" and how the poor cougars "need" that same habitat too for their "expansion". And thus does modern animal worship blend the faux endangered cougars with the non-existent Woodpeckers and government employee money and power "needs" to further restrict Florida's private property and Floridian activities by Federal environmental and animal rights flackery.
5. The Everglades
Overlaying all the above scandals, like a religious or ethnic overlay of Iraq, is the "Save The Everglades" campaign. We have all heard about how "important" it is to "restore water flow", etc. in Southern Florida. So the Federal government is unleashing Millions (Billions??) of tax dollars through the US Army Corps of Engineers to "save" whatever. But what really happens? Well The National Park Service (the "greenest" government agency west of Limerick and Cork), the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the EPA, and all the "green" Florida State agencies and organizations are in the "saving" operation up to their necks and thus we have proposals for wilderness, ORV elimination, no-hunting areas, water management to restrict fishing and access, road closures, sanctuaries, and expanded cougar/woodpecker government areas, less access to do things like plink or control (i.e. kill) alligators, and on and on. The "public comment" obligations alone on Floridians concerned about outdoor activities are overwhelming. Add to that the federal agency skills and experience at making it appear they sought and considered "comments" plus the chicanery of the national environmental and animal rights organizations plus the money to be made by the like of The Nature Conservancy plus the pressure from reprobate State politicians and bureaucrats and the desires of Federal politicians to brag about all this at election time and you have a witches' brew of enormous proportions.
You, out there in the West and up North. Recognize what is going on with wolves and elk and cattle and sheep? How about grizzlies that kill campers and have put sheep operations out of business? How about cougars in South Dakota and Iowa and Missouri or coyotes in Massachusetts? Recognize the players? Recognize the line of blarney about how unusual attacks on humans are and how they know EXACTLY how many attacks took place decades and centuries ago and how "we" are in "their" habitat? Recognize how cheap human life is? How unjustified any rural living or rural economy is? How government should control everything and all of us in the name of animals and an indefinable "environment" manufactured by radical extremists? Recognize the pusillanimous State bureaucrats and politicians? Recognize the "there's no end to it" nature of the "needs" and "proposals"? Recognize the few Floridians fighting here and there (hunters, ORV'ers, air boaters, fishermen, etc.) without national support against national organizations and Federal bureaucrats with job security and unlimited access to the Federal Treasury whenever an election is coming up? Recognize the "take no prisoners" nature of extremists and bureaucrats and the honest and simple fight by local folks to preserve their culture and traditions and freedoms?
What about you New Jersey folks living with over-populated bear populations or "Highlands" feel-good restrictions on private property? How about E Connecticut/W Rhode Island rural communities targeted as "Borderlands"? How about all you rural communities with spotted owls or pygmy owls nearby? How about all you rural waitresses that have heard rich yuppies dressed in their expensive Orvis duds mention "Wildlands" or "Wildlife Corridor" or "Native Habitat" or any of dozens of New Age environmental terms as they sat in a booth at the local diner with a map and sipped coffee? How about you Mainers considering "protecting" bears or hoping for wolves or lynx to show up at some "habitat" near you?
Keep an eye on Florida. It isn't pretty but it is revealing. We just might see how we will be able to save our freedoms or how we will lose them.