Fish, wildlife panel is developers’ fan club
By A TIMES EDITORIAL
Published August 10, 2007
Environmentalists left giddy by Gov. Charlie Crist’s recent stance on global warming were brought back to reality the other day. In filling three openings on the state commission that protects
Yes, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is dominated by developers. This is the same commission that until recently allowed developers to bury rare gopher tortoises alive. The same commission that wants to downgrade manatees from an "endangered" to a "threatened" species. The same commission that will have two members who listed on their applications membership in the controversial Safari Club International, whose motto on killing animals with antlers is: "If God grows it, we score it."
One of Crist’s appointees, Weston developer and mine operator Ron Bergeron, already has firsthand knowledge of the commission he will help lead. Bergeron was investigated for harassing a protected alligator when he jumped on it during a tour of his ranch, but no charges were filed.
Kathy Barco, whom Crist reappointed, runs an engineering firm that builds golf courses among other things. She is also chairwoman of the Southeastern Legal Foundation, a group that tends to favor private property rights over environmental regulation. Joining them is Kenneth Wright, an Orlando-area lawyer who specializes in helping developers overcome land restrictions.
The four remaining members are Chairman Rodney Barreto of Miami, a lobbyist for developers; Richard Corbett of Tampa, a mall developer who once said that "there are a lot of people who feel there are way too many manatees"; Brian Yablonski, a vice president with the giant land development firm, St. Joe Company; and former Miami Dolphin and current construction company president Dwight Stephenson.
Sounds more like a commission to promote development than to protect wildlife and its habitat. Which is not to say that developers, contractors and hunters can’t also be conservationists. Yet where’s the balance? Crist should have added at least one person whose career and expertise are in conservation.
Maybe Crist is making up to developers for his recent campaign to fight climate change in
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