In the past week, we saw two unfortunate interactions between people and black bears on both sides of Volusia County.
These human-bear contacts are increasingly frequent occurrences in Central Florida, and, when they happen, things never end well.
For the bear, that is.
In my view, the idea of paving over wildlife habitat to make way for another damnable strip center, wood frame apartment complex, or theme housing development, then destroying bears who have become desensitized to the trappings of human beings, wild animals with nowhere to go, is wrong – epitomizing the arrogance of those who don’t give two-shits about preserving our natural places and sensitive ecosystems – choosing instead to profit from destroying habitat and killing off any wildlife that stands in their way.
As a young man I enjoyed deer hunting – more for the social aspect of sitting around camp enjoying the company of friends – or spending time with my late father on traditional dove hunts in South Georgia, learning from the yarns spun by my elders, as copious amounts of good bourbon were sipped in front of a roaring fireplace on cool fall evenings.
From experience, I can report that there are few things more rewarding than spending time in the woods at daybreak, quietly attuned to the sights and sounds of nature all around, watching the grace and majesty of wild animals in their natural habitat.
Unfortunately, almost to the acre, the forests and swamps where I enjoyed nature in my youth have been paved over – making way for “theme” communities where speculative developers have created an escapist façade for retirees seeking to live out an artificial lifestyle that no longer exists – pine scrub and hardwood forest ground into a black muck, the wetlands drained and filled, now chockfull of zero-lot-line wood frame cracker boxes from the “low $300’s” serviced by godawful half-empty strip centers.
And We, The Little People – hapless rubes led to believe the “system” still serves us – watch helplessly as glib real estate attorneys, powerful developers, and marketing shills smooth off the rough edges – ensuring more “inventory” for the never-ending influx on the I-95 conveyor as we transition from subdivisions and gated communities to “Cities within a City.”
The out-of-control overdevelopment of Volusia County is no longer an exercise in shaping growth – the art and science of planning neighborhoods, revitalizing downtowns, enhancing civic assets, ensuring adequate transportation and utilities infrastructure, making room for cultural and creative space, while preserving our historic places.
Now, those quaint ideas have been replaced by the disastrous idea of growth at all costs – which has resulted in the endless spread of placeless sprawl and the wholesale destruction of our remaining greenspace – further separating communities by income and demographic, all conveniently rubberstamped by malleable politicians all too eager to please their benefactors.
With $1 of every $5 contributed to select Volusia County political campaigns in recent races originating from real estate development interests – prove me wrong.
In a recent article in the Palm Beach Post, we learned that the State of Florida is considering increasing fines on developers who steam over gopher tortoise burrows as the cost of rehoming the endangered animals “…outpaces penalties for burying them alive.”
Estimates show the cost of “rehoming” a single gopher tortoise is now between $5,000 and $6,000 – while fines for destroying a burrow remains at a paltry $500 plus court costs.
You read that right.
According to the disturbing report:
“Last year, housing giant Pulte Group paid $13,790 after pleading guilty to annihilating 22 burrows on land slated for an age-restricted community in Marion County.
At the Pulte site, investigators found a juvenile gopher tortoise that had been cut in half “by something large, presumably heavy equipment,” as noted in a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission report. Another tortoise was spotted digging in a machine cleared area “attempting to repair its collapsed burrow.”
With malignant growth churning habitat into a moonscape across the width and breadth of the Sunshine State, last year, the Florida Wildlife Commission issued just 118 warnings and 49 citations statewide for gopher tortoise violations. . .
Now, paving over a threatened species or cutting them in half with heavy equipment has become the cost of doing business. In short, gopher tortoises, black bears, whitetail deer, and other species lost out to the voracious greed of speculative developers who hold the political paper on the souls of the craven politicians who facilitate it.
To ameliorate their guilt and mitigate the political damage – the same elected officials who rubberstamp land use changes and literally pave the way for more “planned unit developments” and industrial warehouses that interface with residential neighborhoods, pouring traffic onto already congested roadways – beat their chest and crow about “wildlife corridors,” narrow patches of contiguous natural space that allow wild animals a chance to run, fly, or swim from the vice-like growth that is rapidly destroying their last remaining habitat in the perverse name of “progress.”
In my view, the 2022 election cycle is our opportunity to purge these blowholes from the dais of power – those who asked for our sacred vote – then did nothing to address the destruction of our natural places, voted to approve more, more, more growth and sprawl, while shrugging their shoulders and telling us “there’s nothing we can do,” allowing “growth management” bureaucrats to run interference for developers in a tragic tail wagging the dog scenario they think we are too stupid to see through.
It is not hard to figure out a candidates allegiances.
Rather than listen to what they say – simply read their campaign finance reports – and review the record of how incumbents voted while in office.
In my view, if we leave these same compromised assholes at the helm – there will be no end to the cancerous sprawl that is metastasizing like tumors along the spine of Volusia County from Farmton to the Flagler County line.
We cannot say we were not warned.
The gopher tortoises and black bears did everything possible to get our attention.
When will we listen to them?