Killing The Goose
|Note: The following article was published in the Charlotte Sun Herald, but has been omitted from their on-line archives|
We slowed and turned off US-41 at Monroe Station onto Loop road, the fifteen mile dirt road that years ago had been a logging road back into what is now part of the Big Cypress Preserve. We thought we would help the South Florida economy by taking a Thanksgiving weekend vacation in Key West, and we were going to show our friends who had accompanied us a different view of the glades by taking a short detour off of the beaten track. We had only gone a few, slow, dusty miles when our friend Joanie jokingly asked if we really "saw wildlife back here." No sooner had she asked when a bear blustered onto the dirt road not thirty feet in front of us. The bear looked up, than scampered across the road into the hammock leaving only ripples in the shallow water next to the road. It took several seconds before everyone yelled, "A Bear!!!" It was gone before anyone could open a camera bag.
You might as well tell people you saw a skunk ape as tell them you saw a bear, no one is going to believe you. I didn't want to tell anyone anyway, especially the Park Service. They might pass a rule requiring 37 per cent fewer driveways as a means of reducing automobile traffic that endangers wildlife.
Our daughter and her husband-to-be flew in from Atlanta on the newly inaugurated daily non stop flight to meet us Thanksgiving evening and helped us celebrate my coincidental birthday. I couldn't help but tell of my marvelous birthday present of seeing the bear. My daughter has spent time out there with me in the past, seeing alligators and otters, tree snails and pigs, a multitude of wading birds, but never a bear. We began to discuss the future of our beloved Florida and the wonder of ecological recovery. We had made trips years ago to see the wood stork, then endangered and remembered not too long ago when even alligators were endangered. The discussion turned to the organizations that supposedly exist to protect and enrich our environment when the subject of phosphate mining came up.
All of the so called "environment friendly" 501C3 tax free organizations are conspicuous by their absence from the fight against phosphate mining, yet oddly enough, these tax exempt organizations are beginning to dictate how the average citizen will live on a daily basis.
Florida's precious future is more important than a few ill conceived laws designed to restrict rights of individual property owners and taxpayers. There is room here for people and the creatures that make our state so unique. Every boater I know has gone out of his or her way to avoid porpoises and manatees. What is more thrilling than watching wildlife that can be seen in your own backyard or from your own boat. Hopefully, Florida will respond with the intelligence required to balance growth and our environment. But that has to be now, not in the future.