Florida Gov. Rick Scott during his State of the State speech Tuesday, March 4, 2014.
Phil Sears/AP Photo

The wrong way to honor Florida’s Rick Scott

After five years in office, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has not made many friends among those concerned with the environment, the climate crisis, or the state’s natural resources.
 
“By most expert accounts, Gov. Rick Scott’s tenure in Tallahassee has been a flat-out catastrophe for the Sunshine State’s already-fragile environment,” the Miami New Times reported this week. “He slashed water management budgets and stacked regulatory boards with developers. He battled tooth-and-nail against new clean water mandates. Even muttering the words ‘climate change’ was banned in state offices.”
 
With this in mind, the Tampa Bay Times’ Craig Pittman found it curious when a Florida group announced that the far-right governor is receiving an award for his work on the environment.
The award, announced via email last week, is being given to Scott later this year by the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida, which functions as a support group for the state’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is run by gubernatorial appointees.
 
In the announcement, the foundation’s chairman, Miami real estate developer and lobbyist Rodney Barreto, hailed Scott for being “instrumental in helping develop a strong connection between fish and wildlife conservation and traditional outdoor activities like hunting and especially fishing.”
The Sierra Club’s Frank Jackalone told the Tampa Bay Times, “No one in their right mind would give Rick Scott an award for protecting wildlife.”
 
Asked for an explanation, Brett Boston, the foundation’s executive director, insisted the group is “very apolitical.” And what about the governor’s critics, who find it ridiculous that Scott would receive an environmental award?
 
“People complained about Mother Teresa,” Boston said.
 
I’m going to assume that this is the first – and quite likely the last – time anyone has tried to draw a parallel between Rick Scott and Mother Teresa.
 
As for the Republican governor’s environmental record, the Tampa Bay Times’ report added:
Scott has cut funding for the state’s water districts, vetoed funding for all the state’s regional planning councils, and eliminated money for a University of Florida lab considered key to stopping invasive species from ruining the state’s agriculture and environment.
 
In addition, Scott’s Department of Environmental Protection has shifted away from punishing polluters with fines and other penalties to instead assisting polluters with getting back into compliance. Scott praised the DEP last year for cutting the amount of time it takes to get a permit to a mere two days – down from 44 days when Jeb Bush was governor.
 
Scott’s DEP has also made several controversial moves to alter the award-winning state park system – selling off some land as surplus, for instance, or opening some parks to timber harvesting and cattle grazing or even hunting.
Alan Farago, president of Friends of the Everglades, told the Miami New Times. “In terms of the environment, I think [Scott is] the worst governor in modern Florida history.”
 

Environment, Florida and Rick Scott

The wrong way to honor Florida's Rick Scott