SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT: MIAMI HERALD COLUMNIST FRED GRIMM ON STATE CONSERVATION LAND ASSESSMENT
~Incorrect information attempts to discredit DEP's transparency and scientific assessment ~
CLAIM: "The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has deemed as surplus more than 5,000 acres.
FACT: The Department has not deemed any land as surplus, but conducted a scientific assessment resulting in a very preliminary list of sites, which is currently undergoing further site-by-site review. To date, the preliminary list of sites has been reduced from 169 sites and roughly 5,300 acres to 113 sites and roughly 4,200 acres, which represents 0.14 percent of the 3 million acres of state-owned land. The purpose of this assessment is to identify land that may be sold in order to purchase more valuable conservation land. In the interest of transparency, a draft list was posted on the Department's website in order to keep the public updated about the process.
CLAIM: "So much hell had been raised that DEP removed 474 acres from the "surplus" list."
FACT: The Department has received public comment and continues to encourage the public to provide input on the process or specific sites. However, sites have been removed for a variety of reasons, most of which are tied to title issues, such as joint ownership of a site, or other legal issues. DEP staff continues to do its due diligence to review the sites in order to make sure the ever-changing site is correct.
CLAIM: in Jacksonville... "locals were stunned the state might gut the Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park."
FACT: Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park is located in Haines City, in Polk County, roughly 180 miles from Jacksonville. Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park is an 8,000-acre park and two small, disconnected sites totaling 5.4 acres are on the list.
CLAIM: By mid-summer, it had become clear to DEP officials that the definition
of “surplus” had to expand mightily for the sell-off to come anywhere
near $50 million.
FACT: The Florida Legislature provided DEP the authority to spend up to $50 million based on what land is sold through this process. The Department is focused on determining what land on the list may have a lower conservation value. Proceeds from any land that is sold will be used to purchase more valuable conservation land protective of springs, water sources and conservation land that buffers military zones. The list has not expanded at all, but actually the acreage has been reduced by about 21 percent in the last month.
CLAIM: A few days after the controversial list went public, the Public
Employees for Environmental Responsibility released a startling
assessment of the state’s environmental enforcement record.
FACT: Over the last two years, regulatory compliance rates have improved dramatically resulting
in a drop of enforcement cases and associated fines. The result is an overall
compliance rate of 96 percent -- the highest level ever achieved.
CLAIM: ..."Scott decided to get rid of financially inefficient state parks,
planning to close 53 “unprofitable” parks."
FACT: Those were budget proposals developed in October 2010, a month before
Governor Scott was elected. The previous
administration’s proposal was opposed by Governor Scott & DEP Secretary
Vinyard and therefore never implemented.