|Former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator |
In a letter published this morning by the Florida Conservation Coalition, former Florida Governor and U. S. Senator, Bob Graham, expressed concern that, “Our prized and supposedly well-protected rivers and springs are ‘sick’ from pollution and in need of restoration and protection by our state agencies and a legislature that shares our citizens’ concerns and determination to correct the current abuses of negligence.”
He described the situation as, “… one of the greatest emergencies in Florida’s modern history.”
Referring to an earlier letter published by the Orlando Sentinel and Tampa Bay Times, Graham’s letter today is an urgent appeal for all concerned Floridians to contact their state legislators and urge them to restore and protect what's left of Florida's natural environment.
“Our State legislators will more likely act to protect our environment if they know that concerned Floridians are paying attention to how they perform and will hold them accountable,” he said.
“The upcoming 2013 legislative session will be a critical juncture in the movement to protect and restore our natural resources” – Bob Graham
He asks for summaries of citizens’ visits with legislators along with their comments and concerns to be forwarded to the FCC.
Governor Graham’s letter is published here in full with the permission of the Florida Conservation Coalition followed by his letter of January 30, cosigned with Nathaniel Reed, FCC Vice Chair and former South Florida Water Management District Board member. Reed is widely known for his concerns for natural Florida and served as Assistant National Secretary of Interior for Fish, Wildlife and National Parks under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
Dear Florida Conservation Coalition Member,
“We now face one of the greatest emergencies in Florida’s modern history. Our prized and supposedly well-protected rivers and springs are "sick" from pollution and in need of restoration and protection by our state agencies and a Legislature that shares our citizens' concerns and determination to correct the current abuses of negligence.” These are the words of Nathaniel Reed and myself in a recent guest column in the Orlando Sentinel and in the Tampa Bay Times. As Florida Conservation Coalition (FCC) members, members of affiliate organizations, and concerned citizens of Florida we need your help to remind our representatives in Tallahassee that Florida’s water and natural resources sustain our economy and quality of life and define who we are as Floridians.
The upcoming 2013 legislative session will be a critical juncture in the movement to protect and restore our natural resources. Already, many bills that will define the future of Florida’s environment have been written. Our State legislators will more likely act to protect our environment if they know that concerned Floridians are paying attention to how they perform and will hold them accountable.
The FCC is comprised of over 50 environmental organizations and over 1,000 dedicated individuals. There is no membership fee to join and the FCC has never solicited a donation.
The FCC has asked little, but we are asking you now to contribute to our mutual mission by contacting your local legislators and sharing with them your passion and concern for protecting Florida’s environment. Attached for your information and use (and to leave with legislators, if you wish) are 8 key FCC principles for environmental stewardship. Please give us a summary of your visit with legislators and their comments and concerns.
The legislative session starts March 5, so now is the time to act.
If you have any questions or need any assistance, feel free to contact Ryan Smart, Director of Operations, at email@example.com.
Here’s the letter by Governor Graham and Nathaniel Reed published in the Tampa Bay Times and Orlando Sentinel January 30th:
Bad policies pose historic threats to Fla. environment
By Bob Graham and Nathaniel Reed | Guest columnists
January 30, 2013
Recent investigative reporting by Kevin Spear in the Orlando Sentinel reveals the dramatic and widespread pollution and flow problems facing so many of Florida's rivers and springs. These reports were echoed by editorials across the state calling on Florida's governor, Department of Environmental Protection and Legislature to take action to protect and restore our impaired waterways.
Yet instead of resolving the serious problems that threaten our state's most precious natural resources, efforts in Tallahassee have focused on rolling back environmental safeguards and growth-management guidelines, cutting funding for conservation and regulation, reducing enforcement against polluters and liquidating public lands.
Severe budget cuts are seriously compromising the ability of Florida's DEP and water management districts to adequately protect our state's natural resources. Funding for many important conservation, restoration, monitoring, research, enforcement and education programs has been drastically reduced or eliminated.
Our state has also lost decades of valuable knowledge and expertise from significant layoffs, resulting in less capable agencies with insufficient resources and demoralized personnel. Although the DEP recently claimed "these reductions have done nothing to erode the agency's role in regulating industry and protecting the environment," it is not hard to find evidence to the contrary.
In 2012 the St. Johns River Water Management District cited "staffing capabilities" when asked why it reduced the number of monitoring stations in the St. Johns' lower basin by nearly two-thirds.
In addition, the recent decision by the Northwest Florida Water Management District to delay setting minimum flows and levels for Wakulla Springs for 11 years raises serious concerns about the ability of Florida's water-management districts to perform their critical missions at current funding and staffing levels. Reduced monitoring and legal protections endanger our environment and public health, while polluters profit.
Efforts are under way now by the DEP to streamline permitting requirements for large water users that will result in longer permits, less oversight and no additional requirements for conservation and efficiency. These changes benefit select industries at the expense of our water resources and the majority of Floridians.
On Gov. Rick Scott's watch, unwise policy decisions, draconian budget cuts and the excessive influence of special interests have put Florida on the brink of losing 40 years of progress on environmental protection, land conservation and growth management. This is bad water-management policy and even worse economic policy for our state.
We now face one of the greatest emergencies in Florida's modern history. Our prized and supposedly well-protected rivers and springs are "sick" from pollution and in need of restoration and protection by our state agencies and a Legislature that shares our citizens' concerns and determination to correct the current abuses of negligence.
The Wekiva River, north of Orlando, is designated as an Outstanding Florida Water and a national Wild and Scenic River, and is protected by two major pieces of state legislation. Tragically, the Wekiva remains sick in terms of both water quality and quantity. The three major springs in the Wekiva River have reported nitrate concentrations 480 percent higher than the maximum levels for healthy waters.
And while the largest of Wekiva's springs, Wekiwa and Rock, have reported flows below established minimum flows and levels for the past two years, the St. Johns district refuses to meet its statutory duty of restoring flows to these natural jewels.
As a result, the Florida Conservation Coalition and our partners are hosting "Speak Up Wekiva" at Wekiwa Springs State Park on Feb. 16. We are organizing this event to celebrate our outstanding water resources, educate and engage the public and policymakers about the challenges facing the river and the springs that feed it and advocate for the protection and restoration of all of Florida's impaired waterways.
It's time for Floridians to speak up for our environment and ensure its protection for generations to come.
Bob Graham, a former U.S. senator and Florida governor, chairs the Florida Conservation Coalition. Nathaniel Reed has served seven governors and two presidents, and is the coalition's vice chairman.