This new concept is such a good solution to our problem of lack of leadership in protecting our waters, that it is rapidly and effectively being attacked not only by the Florida Farm Bureau, but by all industry-based lobbyists who recognize it as a real threat. Bills in Tallahassee with hastily-added amendments to thwart nature’s rights are being ramrodded through committees as this is written.
But because it is a good solution, we will continue the fight and we will eventually win. And we will win because we are right and there are enough good people in Florida who will realize this.
Thanks to John Moran for permission to use his photo. That slimy algae should not be in the water at Rum Island Spring. Forty years ago it was not there. Our water district and our DEP have failed and are still failing in their job. They have just proposed to draw down the river even more, when what is needs is less pumping.
Read the complete article here in the Gainesville Sun.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum
Thomas Linzey: It’s time for new laws to protect Florida’s waters
Posted Jan 30, 2020 at 2:01 PM
Across the state, Florida waterways are under siege.
In North Florida, the Santa Fe River is threatened by proposed phosphate mining while being impacted by agriculture and nitrate pollution. In South Florida, the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers are routinely assaulted by toxic releases. Pensacola Bay is choked from nutrient and sediment dumping, while the Wekiva and Econlockhatchee rivers struggle to breathe from nitrogen and phosphorus loading.
Couple that with Nestle’s proposal to pump 1.1 million gallons of water a day from one of Florida’s most popular springs, and it becomes clear that our current laws are failing us.
In response to those threats, however, people in nine Florida counties, including Alachua, have begun to demand stronger water protections.
These community leaders are proposing new county laws that recognize people’s rights to clean water as well as the rights of Florida’s waterways to exist, to flourish and to be restored.
While their work represents a seismic shift in how our system of law views nature, the people of Florida are not alone in advancing these rights.
Since 2004, over three dozen communities across the United States, including the city of Pittsburgh, have adopted similar laws. In 2008, Ecuadorians became the first to drive those rights-based protections for nature into their national constitution. Following in their footsteps, courts in Ecuador as well as in India, Bangladesh and Colombia have declared that the Amazon basin, the Ganges River and other waterways possess legal rights of their own.
Opposition to these laws and decisions has, of course, risen from every industry that would be affected by heightened legal protection for rivers, bays and estuaries.
In Toledo, Ohio, following the overwhelming vote to recognize Lake Erie as having certain rights, an agribusiness corporation sued the city to overturn the law. In Grant Township, Pennsylvania, where a similar law was adopted protecting a watershed, an oil and gas corporation filed suit, contending that the corporation’s rights to dump frack wastewater in the township outweighed both the rights of the people to clean water as well as the right of the watershed to not be polluted.
Here in Florida, this “rights of rivers” movement has now been attacked by some of those same interests. The Florida Farm Bureau has openly challenged the authority of the Orange County Charter Review Commission to even consider moving such a measure to the ballot for a vote, and members of the state Legislature now seek to preempt Florida’s municipalities from adopting those laws….
It’s time for a new approach — one that recognizes legally enforceable rights for bays, rivers, and estuaries — rights that can’t be shoved aside by the highest bidder.
This emerging frontier of environmental law will be highlighted on Saturday, Feb. 8, when the first statewide Rights of Nature Conference will be held at the University of Florida Levin College of Law. It will feature speakers from Colombia, Pittsburgh and Minnesota, as well as local individuals speaking on behalf of these Florida initiatives.
For more information or registration, go to the “Florida Rights of Nature Conference” page on Facebook.
Thomas Linzey is the co-founder of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund and serves on the board of the Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights. He will be a keynote speaker at the Florida Rights of Nature Conference.