Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Lessons From Gatorland

My May 17 'All in Perspective' column for the Hill Country News and Jarrell Star Ledger.

I must reveal a dark, personal secret: I am not a native Texan. The truth is that I grew up in...Florida. I know for some this will be an unforgivable sin, but I beg your pardon while I share from my Sunshine State childhood.

Florida is known for great beaches, gorgeous flora and fauna, and lots of alligators. Due to over-hunting, the state's official reptile (no, really) had gotten pretty scarce in the last century, so in 1967, the alligator was listed as an endangered species. Later, under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, gators gained higher protection under federal law than pre-natal humans. With extensive prohibitions on hunting and habitat, these reptiles rebounded with a vengeance. By 1988, there were more than a million alligators in Florida alone. We had plenty of gators, and I have to tell you, I hate alligators.

Now I know Central Texans occasionally have to shoot some critters, and carrying a Ruger 'Coyote Special' like the Guv's is a badge of honor. But having grown up around alligators, I'll take the coyotes any day. As a child, I had several encounters with wild gators and will never forget the day my younger brother and I nearly stepped on a 9-footer sunning himself near our home. I think I still suffer from gator-induced PTSD. The fact is, gators get hungry and Florida Moms know they'll eat your kids as well as your pets.

Did I mention that I hate alligators?

But none of the dangers of gator overpopulation mattered to environmental activists. Until 2008, citizens were not permitted to kill alligators on their own property. Efforts to remove alligators from the Endangered Species List were met with howls of protest, and when lawmakers moved to allow very limited hunting in 1988, the gator protectors were fuming. Despite intense controversy, common sense eventually prevailed and although alligators are still highly protected, about 7,000 gators are legally harvested in Florida each year.

While it's true that I loathe, detest, and fear alligators, I really don't want them to become extinct. Contrary to what radical environmentalists would have us believe, Conservatives like myself are not out to “pave the earth.” I believe in being a good steward of our resources, and in the Teddy Roosevelt tradition, I consider myself a conservationist. The problem is that many environmental activists prefer radical 'solutions' and are unwilling to strike a balance between human needs and preserving nature.

Unfortunately, radical attitudes run rampant in federal agencies, as evidenced by the now former EPA administrator Al Armendariz's controversial plans to 'crucify' American energy producers. Citizens and elected officials alike dread having local species declared 'endangered,' because the federal red tape and control is inevitably costly and damaging to local economies, and sometimes it's just outright dangerous.

Here in Williamson County we do not have alligators (I'm here, aren't I?) but we do have a couple of cave bugs and three bird species that are considered 'endangered.' Consequently, the county has been at the mercy of costly red tape and federal oversight that curtail private property rights and limit activity.

Williamson County has its own Conservation Foundation and is currently studying and working to implement protections for local species. Unfortunately, liberal activists are attempting to circumvent the county's efforts and have demanded the federal government take emergency action to list three local salamanders as endangered. If they succeed, the county will face a whole new level of federal control over our local activity, and frankly that's not something we can afford.

Williamson County is a great, gator-free place to live, and we should work to preserve our local flora and fauna. However, our conservation efforts must be based on a common-sense balance between the needs of residents and environmental concerns. Let us allow the Williamson County Conservation Foundation do its work and keep the federal government out. And no alligators, please.

1 comment:

Lisa Birkman said...

Great article, Holly!