Assault on environment led by the ill-informed, shortsighted

The plans to weaken DCA and roll back decades of growth planning has already cleared the House.

But the assault on our natural resources doesn't stop there … which brings us back to the manatees.

For decades, Florida has also run an aquatic-preserve program.

Preserves are hundreds of thousands of acres of protected waters, submerged lands and seagrass beds where fish breed, life-nurturing plants bloom and manatees seek refuge.

They range from 350,000 acres in Pinellas County to 4,700 acres in Mosquito Lagoon.

These preserves support Florida industries from sportfishing to tourism — and, of course, wildlife. So a bare-bones staff patrols these waters, looking for pollution, damaged nesting areas and healthy root systems.

Yet the budget calls for closing four of the 11 offices that monitor and safeguard these preserves — mostly in north and west Florida, leaving more than a dozen preserves unprotected.

State officials make no pretenses about the impact. "Although the aquatic preserves will remain designated, all coastal education and resource-monitoring programs at these locations will likely be eliminated," said Kristin Lock, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The savings netted by abandoning these waters? About $800,000.

Legislators have spent that much money renovating their offices.

Heck, you could find that money 50 times over by simply taxing bottled water the same as we do soda. That break alone costs the state more than $40 million.

"These preserves are the basis for the entire coastal ecosystem," said Julie Wraithmell, the director of wildlife conservation for Audubon Florida. "They are the nursery for our birds. They help assure the rest of the nation that our seafood is safe to eat. They are essential."

Yet you probably haven't heard anything about these office closings until now.

That's partly because the carnage in Tallahassee is so bad this year that there aren't enough reporters to track all the body parts.

But that's also because we have a new breed of politicians and "leaders" for whom the environment simply isn't a priority. It's more of an obstacle to be conquered … even if they can't really explain why. or 407-420-6141