It’s downright shameful when elected officials forget about their constituency when deciding important issues. We’ve all seen the results of apathy towards the public demonstrated by our senators and congressmen. They can’t get along with members of the opposition party, they pander to special interests, and nothing ever gets done. It seems to be the new normal for the United States.
We’ve seen it time and time again. A terrible tragedy attracts the attention of the public and the accusations fly. The old saying “if you were paying attention, you’d be outraged” was never truer than it is today. We hear of a school, movie theater or other ostensibly safe public place being the site of mass shootings and bombings and for a while, we raise our collective voice in sheer indignation that such an abysmal act can take place in what some call, with great irony, the greatest country in the world. But even though studies have shown over and over again that the general public wants more gun control laws, nothing ever happens, things settle down, and all is quiet on the Western front until the next atrocity.
It’s all because our legislators are swayed the behemoth NRA lobby. They fail to act on what the majority wants because lobbyists are calling the shots. And before you become outraged and start reciting parts of the second amendment, know this: This isn’t about gun control, this is about who gets a say in how things are done.
Here in Florida, we don’t need the NRA or anyone else to ensure the minority will get what they want. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission decides which laws get passed and which laws are trashed. And here’s the problem: each one of those commissioners is a hunter; yet only a small percentage of Florida residents are hunters. According to The Center for Biological Conservancy, “More than 175,000 people reached out to the commission in opposition to the hunt….”
Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director of the Center said “It’s clear the majority of the commissioners were simply dead-set on approving a bear hunt, regardless of the science, the facts or public opinion,” said Lopez. “How telling that they refused to just wait a year until they completed surveys so they could know how many Florida black bears are even left.”
The commission doesn’t reflect the demographics of our state. So they aren’t going to pass any laws that will cause them to alter their own personal recreational choices; even in the face of strong outspoken public opposition.
Because of their thoughtless action, 304 bears were tragically and unnecessarily killed. The FWC claimed they knew the number of black bears living in Florida but there is no evidence to support that claim. So, we really don’t know how this hunt affected the black bear population. Their actions also puts other animals at risk, including Florida’s panthers, because the FWC has proposed weakening protections for other endangered animals.
Under the Florida Constitution, the FWC has unilateral authority to write regulations governing the populations of fish and wildlife. They’ve already proven they have no interest in saving the Florida black bear, so what’s to stop them from making decisions that will adversely affect other animals indigenous to Florida such as manatees, sea turtles, gopher tortoises, and alligators? The flora and fauna of Florida is here for everyone to enjoy and a select few are making decisions that are not taking into account the desires and interests of Floridians who care about sentient beings. Doesn’t the public get a say in conservation?
Nick Atwood, Campaigns Coordinator for the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, said “Last month’s bear hunt was an eye-opening event for a lot of people about the power of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Currently, the Commission is dominated by hunters. If we can convince Governor Scott to appoint non-hunters, we might have a chance in the future to stop horrible ideas like the bear hunt.”
So consider this a call to action. In the near future, some of the commissioners will either resign or retire, leaving seats open for the Governor to fill. If Gov. Scott wanted to be fair and ensure the FWC represents ALL Floridians, he would fill those seats with people who truly respect the animals in Florida. Avid birdwatchers, nature photographers or wildlife conservationists are all good candidates for a seat on the FWC.
Get in touch with Gov. Scott and let him know you want him to even the playing field, giving Florida’s wildlife a fighting chance. Consider writing an old-fashioned, snail-mail letter to be sure to get his attention. Ask for his thoughtful consideration when appointing commissioners who will decide the fate of Florida’s sentient beings.
For more information on how you can help Florida’s wildlife have a voice in their own future, contact the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida.