It’s the environment, stupid!

The President’s Hoot
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
October 2011

Currently, people are primarily concerned about JOBS.  One major industry for Florida and Indian River County is Eco-Tourism.  Why do tourists as well as residents come here to fill our restaurants, buy our gas, stay in our motels, and shop in our stores?  For the environment, Stupid!  It is our beautiful Indian River Lagoon, Blue Cypress Lake, St. Sebastian River, Sebastian Inlet State Park, Pelican Island & Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuges and all our parks.  These venues provide the birds, gators, manatees, and other wildlife to watch and photograph.   These publically owned lands also provide the clean waters for the tourists (and locals) to catch our snook, redfish, spotted seatrout, tarpon, and other fish species.

Thus, we must protect our waters and our environmental lands.  This is Audubon’s mission, but it should also be the mission of all our citizens and leaders.

Jane Schnee on her scrub property. Photo: Richard H. Baker.

Receiving an award Wednesday 9/28 night from the Sebastian City Council, Jane Schnee, one of our board members, sets a wonderful model for what a citizen can do to protect our scrublands.  Jane purchased, with her modest savings, ten acres of scrubland in the City of Sebastian that was scheduled for development.  She noticed that this parcel with one family of four scrub-jays was in foreclosure with a Texas bank.  She offered $100,000 for the piece once purchased for millions.  It will now be preserved forever.  Over the years some folks, ignorant of the environmental and social consequences, had dumped junk and trash on the property, which a number of volunteers helped Jane remove.  Anytime Waste provided a free dumpster, which needed to be emptied a couple of times.

Why kill our Eco-Tourism Jobs?  To save money (duh), the State has decided that we do not need to protect our great fishing, swimming, birding, and other recreational waters.  Instead, they want to ignore the new EPA numeric nutrient criteria (real hard numbers of nutrients present) standards for Florida’s degrading our waters, mainly Nitrogen and Phosphorous from fertilizers for lawns.  This EPA rule is a real step in getting polluters to stop polluting by having some enforcement.  Hard to believe, “It’s the economy stupid”, but Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) is now proposing a replacement rule that weakens Florida’s already ineffective nutrient pollution standards! FDEP is backing away from any stringent numeric criteria, and intends to stick with the narrative standards they have used for the decades during which they did little to enforce water quality standards. Fish, birds, and manatees depend on healthy seagrasses and mangrove swamps, which are also the nurseries for our fish.  High Nitrogen and Phosphorous levels in our waters lead to harmful algae outbreaks and fish kills.  These pollutants produce toxins and pollution levels that are unsafe for humans and the environment.  This, in turn, will kill Eco-Tourism and jobs.

Even the EPA is backing off due to political pressure.  Please write a letter of support for eco-tourism jobs by October 18th to:

Mr. Eric Shaw
Environmental Manager
Standards & Assessments Section
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
2600 Blair Stone Road, MS 6511
Tallahassee, FL 32399-2400

 If you are “on line” you can easily send your comments to

Sample talking points:  We need:

  • clean water and nutrient pollution, enforceable controls, e.g. numeric nutrient criteria like EPA has proposed and can be enforced.
  • numeric nutrient criteria for all of Florida’s fresh and estuarine waters so they are safe for swimming and fishing.
  • to protect Florida’s lakes, rivers, and beaches, we need numeric limits to protect all downstream waters.
  • to ensure that any waterway exceeding numeric criteria or downstream protective values receive pollution reduction requirements to prevent further degradation. 
  • to oppose the FDEP draft rule.
  • FDEP to implement EPA’s numeric nutrient criteria or to rewrite its current draft rules to create similarly protective criteria for all of Florida’s fresh and marine water bodies.

It is unacceptable to wait until a waterway becomes unhealthy or covered with green slime before we require actions to reduce nutrient pollution.

Thank you Jane for a wonderful example.  Let’s protect our waters as well.

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