On Monday Florida’s new governor, Rick Scott, will release his 2011 – 2012 state budget proposal. Until then, environmentalists across Florida are holding their collective breath to see if Scott has incorporated a proposal to close 53 state parks and six aquatic preserves. The proposal to close the parks and preserves comes from the Department of Environmental Protection itself in an effort to cut its operating budget by 15 percent, something Scott wants all state agencies to do.
The 53 state parks include the Barnacle, a 120-year-old house that sits on five wooded acres in Coconut Grove. Built in 1891 out of the lumber of wrecked ships by yacht-designer Ralph Munroe, the Barnacle House looks out on the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve, one of the six preserves the DEP proposed closing.
This morning, I talked to Laura Reynolds, executive director of the Tropical Audubon Society, about exploding sea grass, tar balls, and the potentially “devastating effect” of deregulating Biscayne Bay.
How will closing the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve impact Miami?
LR: I don’t think this county has ever really understood what Biscayne Bay means to our economy. Everyone trashes it, takes advantage of it, but doesn’t spend the time [to protect it]. Some people are starting to realize that it is on the brink of crashing just like Florida Bay did a decade ago because of tons of algal blooms and too much nutrients. In fact, sea grass exploded and died, and that caused anoxic conditions in some areas.
If you ask any one who has lived here for a long time, you can’t catch fish anymore [in Biscayne Bay]. It’s not really as productive as it used to be. As far as shrimpers, the fishing industry, the boating industry — that’s an economy that we need to worry about.