With much fanfare, President Obama ventured into the Florida Everglades last week to put “climate change deniers” in their place. All he did, though, was drive home an even scarier reality: that property rights in the Sunshine State are under attack.
“Here in the Everglades you can see the effect of a changing planet,” Obama said during an Earth Day speech that urged Americans to make environmental issues priority No. 1.
He no doubt chose to deliver his message in Florida because the Sunshine State has become ground-zero for battles over green policies.
“This is not some impossible problem that we cannot solve,” Obama said. “We do not have time to deny the effects of climate change.”
We can solve it if we have some political will.”
Critics of Obama’s heavily regulated environmental plan argue that political will isn’t the solution; it’s the problem.
Despite its status as the fifth wettest state in the nation, Florida has limited access to fresh water – a problem that is only likely to worsen in future years as excessive rainwater runoff and booming population growth continue unabated. Political and environmental leaders are struggling to find ways to avoid impending water shortages.
Now they think they’ve found a solution in a public purse that’s about to be opened wide, thanks to Amendment One, a land conservation initiative passed by voters in the last election cycle.
Amendment One will allow state officials to spend nearly $1 billion to buy and improve conservation easements, wildlife areas, wetlands, forests parks and other preservation areas. The money will come from dedicating 33 percent of net revenues gained from existing excise taxes on documents.
Environmentalists say Amendment One money should be used to buy land so that natural areas can be protected from future development. The property rights advocacy group, Property Patriots, disagrees, arguing that a whopping one-third of Florida’s land is already owned by the government – and much of it is neglected.
The U.S. Army Core of Engineers already has more than 350 current or future water projects in the works according to the East Orlando Post.
Those who oppose government land acquisition would rather see those current plans completed before adding to a backlog of unfinished and underfunded projects.
“President Obama needs to live up to his commitment on the Everglades and find a way to fund the $58 million in backlog funding Everglades National Park hasn’t received from the federal government,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said in a press release before Obama’s Earth Day speech.
“We also need the federal government to step up their commitment to Everglade’s restoration by immediately requiring the Army Corps of Engineers to repair the Lake Okeechobee dike.”
Floridians who are skeptical of government overreach see California’s disastrous drought as an example of a local water apocalypse in the making.
California Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this month mandated that Golden State residents restrict their water usage by as much as 35 percent. Some argue that the drought wouldn’t have hurt Californians so severely if land and water had been properly managed in the first place.
“This is a manmade disaster,” said Bonner Cohen, senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, according to Fox News.
“Southern California is an arid part of the world where droughts – even severe droughts – are commonplace, and knowing this, you’d think the government of California would have included this mathematical certainty in its disaster preparedness planning, but the government has done nothing, not even store rain, as the population has continued to grow.”
Property-rights advocates and the Associated Industries of Florida’s H20 Coalition agree, saying that buying more government land is irresponsible because it will take that property off local tax rolls, putting the burden on taxpayers to make up the difference in revenue.
Those who value the Constitution’s property-rights protections would rather see Amendment One funding go toward technological advances to improve existing and neglected conservation projects, instead of opening the floodgates for a California-like scenario.
“Right now, 70 percent of California’s rainfall washes out to sea because liberals have prevented the construction of a single new reservoir or a single new water conveyance system over decades, during a period in which California’s population as doubled,” Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard and likely GOP presidential candidate, wrote in an April 7 Time magazine op-ed.
Judging from the empty seats at Obama’s Earth Day speech, his short trip – burning 9,180 gallons of carbon-spewing jet fuel along the way – didn’t seem to have much of an impact.
Private citizens who are concerned about property rights, rising taxes, and the environment, are digging in their heels. The last thing Florida needs is to follow California’s disastrous example.
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