The dirty little secret of environmental protection in the Florida Keys is not “lack of commitment on the enforcement side” as your editor maintained in the editorial of February 7, “Weekend clear-cutters should pay higher price” but a failure to admit that condemning private property without paying for it is simply theft with a high-toned environmental coating. The only difference between condemnation and confiscation is that the owner of condemned property still has to pay rent in the form of taxes.
Your suggestion of jail terms to end illegal lot clearing is an idea that both “got-mine” environmentalists and power seeking officials will support enthusiastically. Once we accept the fascist notion that problems we can’t solve with fines, forfeitures or prison terms are not worth solving, we are ready take the transcendental leap to bureaucratic Nirvana where everything not forbidden is compulsory.
Following the logic of government by threat and intimidation, one must wonder if increased fines and penalties are enough. Owners have powerful financial incentives to protect their property from confiscation. Heavy fines are seldom paid. The county ends up taking the land and losing the tax revenue. Where’s the profit in that?
If jail terms will bring back the snails, rats and bunnies, summary executions should bring back dirt roads, outhouses and yellow fever. Let’s mobilize the county’s often idle paramilitary forces, the Sheriff’s Special Response Team, for nighttime and weekend raids on the offending taxpayers. Let’s send a message even a knuckle dragging landowner can understand. Let’s blow away a few sneaky habitat wreckers and nip this problem in the bud. Hanging their remains from environmentally sensitive trees in front of the property should prod the most callous, greedy developer into the embrace of the nearest endangered hardwood.
Ninja raids would also clarify the relationship county property owners now have with the local authorities, clearing the smoke screen of “Special Masters” and “sensible regulations.” Ignore the commands of your “Masters” special or not and ultimately you will have to deal with an armed public employee.
But wait a minute, maybe we could change the regulations ― regulations which even the eloquent, entertaining editor of Solares Hill, a man who has never seen a tax or regulation he didn’t like, said were “strange.” How about regulations that offer incentives for preservation rather than destruction. The present clear cutting is a direct result of laws that make it easier to build on cleared land. If the rules favored building on treed lots, people would plant trees.
Or, hey, maybe those who are wringing their hands over the fate of snails, rats and rabbits could raise some money and buy the land they want to preserve instead of urging the county to steal it.
Naa, you’re right. People will never do the right thing without being threatened. Environmentalists will never willingly pay for what they want. Forget voluntary solutions. Way too complicated. Way too expensive. Fines, forfeitures, prison terms and raids by masked gunmen are the way to go. Why pay for what you can just steal? It’s for a good cause. The pack rats are counting on us.