IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...
~DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard's featured editorial~
Doing more with less, state's employees protect nature Orlando Sentinel
We all know that public servants such as police officers, firefighters and teachers make Florida a better place to live and raise a family. It's time to add the employees from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to that list.
DEP has made a concentrated effort to develop a more effective method to protect the diverse ecosystems spread throughout our great state. The employees at DEP are undertaking this mission by actually doing more with less, despite skeptics fearing that new and innovative protection methods could have a negative impact on our state forests, rivers and beaches.
We have thrived. In the closing months of 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved the most comprehensive set of water-quality criteria this state has ever seen, rules which were developed by DEP's own scientists in our own labs.
These rules are designed to address the most common problem in our freshwater resources — an overabundance of nitrogen and phosphorus. To counter these excessive nutrients, we are developing action-driven restoration plans that set forth management strategies with tangible, goal-oriented processes.
DEP continues to improve its emphasis on protection for Orlando area waters. For example, DEP has set a restoration goal and is working with the St. Johns River Water Management District to improve Silver Springs, and Gov. Rick Scott along with the Cabinet also took the bold step of converting the Silver Springs attraction into a Florida state park. The kickoff meeting for restoring the Upper Wakulla River was held Jan. 18, which will go along with the announcement in the coming months of a suite of projects to improve the health of the Wekiva River system.
DEP was also able to secure a conservation easement over Seven Runs Creek as part of a $10 million recovery effort from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, including more than 2,300 acres of land and $5 million in stormwater-treatment projects. Our agency is using a targeted approach to land acquisition so that the emphasis is only on land that aids in improving water quality, quantity, military buffering and springs protection.
In addition, DEP and its water-management-district partners are looking for ways to reward communities that invest in water conservation, thus implementing a philosophy of preventing environmental harm rather than simply reacting to it.
Moreover, by increasing our focus on properly educating air, waste and water-processing facilities about state rules and regulations, 2012 was the best year for statewide environmental compliance in the past five years. These are all examples of the diverse range of efforts put forth by DEP employees to better protect Florida's environment.
My family and I spent part of this past weekend on the beautiful St. Johns River. It was a picture-perfect day, and the river was teeming with wildlife. The fishing reports were good, and we spotted a bald eagle, in addition to several white pelicans. I couldn't have asked for a better day with my family, and I happened to notice quite a few fellow Floridians enjoying their day as well.
The health of the St. Johns River is improving, but like many other water bodies in our state, there is more work to be done.
The issues that Florida's natural resources face have been compounding over decades and cannot be pinned on a single group of offenders. DEP employees venture every day into our ecosystem to address these problems so that Florida's ecosystem can thrive into the future.
It may be popular in some circles to criticize the 4,000 DEP employees or the 3,000 employees from the water-management districts, but if you've enjoyed one of our beautiful rivers, beaches or state parks on this or any other weekend, I would prefer that you thank them.
Herschel T. Vinyard Jr., Secretary, Florida Department of Envrionmental Protection