ECOSWF member Miakka Community Club presented Becky Ayech, Community Club and ECOSWF president, a plaque that recognizes her years of dedication to preserving the 107 year-old, wooden, one room schoolhouse and the rural community of Old Miakka and gives her the Community's thanks.
The Community of Miakka was founded in 1850 as a rural community. Even today, Miakka continues as a rural community, where people can live off the land and preserve small-scale agriculture that has all but disappeared elsewhere.
The Community is committed to the preservation and conservation of the rural area.
ECOSWF Board member Patty Whitehead honored
The Village of Estero is less than 7 years old and yet is the premier place to live in Southwest Florida. Many individuals, families, organizations and businesses have had significant influence in making this a great place to live, work, play, worship and visit.
Several Estero residents believe that Patty Whitehead, ECOSWF Board. member is one of these influencers who have helped Estero to become a desired destination. You have been nominated for recognition in the inaugural Top 25 Persons of Greatest Influence in Estero
FL wetlands and waterways face development and potential harm as vacated Trump rules linger
Swaths of wetlands and waterways in Florida left unprotected when the Trump administration weakened federal standards in early 2020 are being developed in Florida — despite a federal ruling that struck down the Trump rules eight weeks ago.
At least 300,000 acres of wetlands and waterways in Florida alone are likely subject to regulation under the stronger, pre-Trump standards, say a trio of environmental lawyers and scientists, but state regulators have announced no change in course since the Aug. 31 federal ruling.
One of those wild, watery places is being cleared for construction right now in Orlando: a 63-acre site known as Princeton Oaks II in Orlando.
“The developer has started clearing that property,” Earthjustice attorney Christina Reichert told the Phoenix.
“This was the last forest in Orlando,” said ecologist Wanda Jones, who said she grew up alongside its trees and wetlands, which inspired her to study, teach and practice environmental conservation.
Florida’s awful Bert Harris Act is for the birds - Craig Pittman (excerpts from linked commentary)
I have lost count of how many times over the years I have heard local government officials say some variation of this sentence: “Gee, we would really love to reject this terrible development that none of our constituents want, but we’re worried we will get socked with a lawsuit under the Bert Harris Act and have to pay millions of dollars and raise taxes.”
This was, by the way, a completely unnecessary law. Under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, any time the government takes your property, say, for use as a road right-of-way, then you have to be paid. It’s called a “taking,” and it’s an established piece of the law just like the Second Amendment (which Marion Hammer loves more than mockingbirds). But, under the Bert Harris Act, the definition of a taking expanded to cover a whole lot more than just the government seizing your land. Instead, if the government imposed some regulation that was so burdensome it prevented you from using your land in a way that you wanted to use it, then that counted as a taking too, and the government had to pay you. And by “the government,” I of course mean “the taxpayers.” Because all that money comes out of our pockets.
Not only is the Bert Harris Act confusing and expensive, but it ties the hands of local governments as they try to combat climate change. How can they tell people not to build homes in areas that more frequently flood if the Bert Harris Act says they can’t impose such “burdensome” regulations?
There is irony here. The Bert Harris Act was supposedly created to protect family farms and ranches. In reality, it has rewarded the speculators who wipe out farms and ranches, explained Wayne Daltry, who before retirement was Lee County’s smart growth coordinator.
Meanwhile, the landowners who didn’t want to change a thing, but just wanted to enjoy their woods or prairies, were out of luck, Daltry told me. The law gives them no tools to block a developer with designs on the property next door, someone ready to use the Bert Harris Act to clobber any local government standing in the way.
When the Legislature first passed the Bert Harris Act 26 years ago, the law “had a big chilling effect” on local governments trying to control growth, recalled Jim Beever, a retired regional planner and biologist from Fort Myers.
The Bert Harris Act was supposed to protect the poor, beleaguered landowner from burdensome government regulations by granting them the right to sue for damages if, say, a zoning change hurt their plans for their property.
Instead, it became a cudgel for developers who wanted local officials to say yes to the most destructive of projects.
“There weren’t a lot of Bert Harris Act cases,” Beever told me, “but whenever developers wanted to fill a lot of wetlands or build on the water side of the mean high water line or up the density on a piece of land, that’s the law the city or county attorneys would cite, and say, ‘If you don’t give them what they want, you will have a Bert Harris Act suit on your hands.’” And then the local government would cave.
The law itself is a mess. A 2015 analysis published by the Florida Bar Journal said that “there appears to be a great deal of ambiguity as to what is protected under the act, how it should be applied, and what exactly constitutes a vested right, an existing use, or an inordinate burden.” The only way it could be more confusing is if it were written in Esperanto.
As a result, when Bert Harris-related lawsuits do hit the courts, they tend to be lengthy and expensive.
Florida environmentalists seek legal rights for water and wildlife through constitutional amendments
By Laura Cassels -July 20, 2021
Florida Panther. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
A network of environmentalist underdogs who proved last year they could beat the system at the local level is taking its pro-nature campaign in Florida to voters statewide for 2022.
The network, through a political action committee called FL5.org, is petitioning to have five proposed constitutional amendments placed on the 2022 general ballot.
Four of the initiatives demand stricter protections for Florida’s waters, wetlands, wildlands in the path of new or expanded toll roads, and iconic species such as the endangered Florida Panthers, Florida manatees, right whales, sea turtles, black bears, and bottlenose dolphins.
A fifth initiative would ban “captive wildlife hunting facilities,” also known as game farms, that peddle hunting of animals such as deer, hogs, rams, antelope, and water buffalo enclosed within their boundaries. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission reports there are 443 licensed game farms in Florida.
The campaigns are led by Charles “Chuck” O’Neal, father of Florida’s Rights Of Nature movement, which aims to establish legal rights for natural features such as rivers, springs, and wildlife.
O’Neal and his allies made waves last year, when Orange County voters, as reported by the Orlando Sentinel, overwhelmingly approved their “Right to Clean Water Initiative” — an amendment to the county charter granting citizens the right to file lawsuits on behalf of polluted local waterways. The backers said it made Orange County the largest municipality in the nation to adopt a rights-of-nature law and the first one to do so in Florida.
Orange County voters also deposed an incumbent county commissioner, Betsey VenderLey, and replaced her with environmental lawyer Nicole Wilson, who helped write the language of the Clean Water Initiative.
Homebuilders and developers urged lawmakers in the 2020 Florida Legislature to ban the granting of legal rights to natural features, arguing they would be bad for business.
“They tried to preempt rights of nature in Orange County. In 2020, they snuck in a preemption in the Clean Waterways Act,” O’Neal told the Phoenix in an interview.
Associated Industries of Florida, industry lobbyists, endorsed the waterways legislation and its rights-of-nature preemption, saying in 2020 it “addresses water quality and protects Florida businesses from lawsuits by defining that people cannot sue on behalf of inanimate objects, i.e. rivers, lakes, streams etc.”
Environmental groups widely panned the legislation, which passed, saying it protects polluters and is too weak to make Florida waterways fouled with blue-green algae and red tide clean again.
“I got frustrated with the way special interests manipulate environmental regulations in Florida,” O’Neal told Phoenix columnist Craig Pittman last summer. “We’re basically handcuffed here at the local level when it comes to protecting our water supply.”
O’Neal countered with the five citizen initiatives, for which his allies must secure nearly 1 million voter signatures to make ballot in 2022. They are not soliciting campaign contributions to bankroll marketing campaigns but are counting on Floridians to vote in support of the natural wonders they love about Florida.
“Ours is all-volunteer,” O’Neal said, adding that 35 environmental allies so far are endorsing FL5’s efforts. Those include the Florida Springs Council, Save Our Rivers, Waterkeepers Florida, Campus Climate Corps, and Physicians for Social Responsibility.
FL5.org’s proposed amendments to Florida’s Constitution are:
Florida Right to Clean Water, 21-03
Florida Wetlands Protection Amendment, 21-04
Florida Toll Road Expansion Ban, 21-05
Florida Iconic Species Protection, 21-06
Captive Wildlife Hunting Ban, 21-07.