We touched down late Tuesday night after flying close to nine hours of tortured travel thanks to the lowest fare! We are fighting a battle that is well into its 11th hour. Like so many that define conservation, the human element stands over the proceedings, doing it seems all it can to tear away at the very fiber of life that makes our planet or our community whole. After battling the Game and Fish Department one would assume that other battles would be easier, more focused on common ground. Yet with the toxic brew of money and ego, common sense is lost, even when the fight involves less than 100 acres on an inlet in southern Florida.
This fight is one that deals with people. Nature plays a role because these people possess a million dollar view, on the Loxahatchee River, the inlet that flows to the Atlantic less than a mile from where I type. The waters here define the wildness, for the land has been pulverized by those that have made this part of the world their home. There are lots and lots of these people, many with accents that define a former northern latitude. Jupiter has become a prosperous community, one that thirty years ago had homes without floors, places void of air conditioning. Today this inlet is filled with multi-million dollar homes, just down the road one can find the home of Tiger Woods, Burt Reynolds, restaurants and malls fill the interior and there is not a sense of poverty to be found. Yet, some years ago a small and by all accounts the oldest trailer park in the state-Suni Sands and some lands that surround this area were declared "blighted."
This area qualified as a Community Redevelopment Authority (CRA) District. In essence it’s a fast-track and a golden parachute for a developer. CRA's will allow the developer to build and will give generous incentives that often last up to twenty years to build. In this case the plans call for construction of a massive shopping mall, condo's restaurants and a high end hotel, that they like to refer to as an Inn. The billionaire developer is a man that in 1976 graduated from college and the following year his father bought him a University, be it one in Grenada. You may recall that in 1983, then-President Ronald Reagan sent in some Army Rangers to save these students under dubious circumstances and flew them home. Naturally, this cost many millions and the benefactor was this same developer: Charles Modica.
If you come to Suni Sands the first thing you understand is that rather than being a blight, it is a small village that defines ones sense of old Florida. Its funky, but far from run down. Many trailers have been here 30 or more years and the people, a community of 55 and older are like a fine tapestry, they fish, they work, they share and laugh. They are a generation of people not taken by showy wealth, though many could afford a home, they prefer the charm and simplicity that life here has afforded. In Jupiter take a drive and you will come to a stop light opposite a Rolls-Royce or Bentley, perhaps (if you are in a lesser neighborhood,) a Porsche.
Yesterday I spoke at length with a widow, whose husband served in the Army, she spoke of times here where everyone liked to have parties on the beach, "with the wine flowing she said someone would play guitar and sing, we would all be having fun, while the manatees floated to the surface to share those fun times with us enjoying the sounds and joy of a seemingly lost piece of this state.
That inlet where the manatees came to enjoy the music are still filled with their presence. They along with Leatherback turtles and the endangered sawfish depend on the Johnson's seagrass and the protection of this part of the inlet for their survival. Yet, city officials here could care less. Those in the Federal Government we have spoken to continue to say that no permits have been filed, so there is little they can do.
For his part Mr. Modica, continues to buy luxury homes in the area, just purchasing the home of Burt Reynolds and giving generously to politicians, while making sure that those veterans in this small piece of heaven are thrown out quickly.
For those who signed his agreement, he will give them $1000 dollars and they can stay until April. For people like Marcia Arsenault and her husband Roger that refuse to sign, he has said be out by November 30th. For them the cost of even moving their trailer will be in excess of $20,000, the view they have spent years enjoying, will be gone. For the manatees that once shared the pier to enjoy music, the plans call for a massive dredging of the inlet to allow for Mr. Modica's collection of boats.
Most of the people I filmed on my last visit are gone, broken -hearted they have been sent to nursing homes, or collected by family members to live out their lives in Las Vegas, New Jersey, Michigan...
Several veterans simply died here before they could be taken away. Many here say, "well, they knew the time would come, or that’s life." Yet, to a person they also say, "it’s a shame, a crime that these people and that community must go to make way for yet another mall."
Yesterday’s big news was of the fish caught off the deck by Jan West, we all heard the story over wine on a deck that was made of simple wood. As the sun set, the clouds billowed and stood like sentinels over the multi-million dollar homes to the north. In the week ahead we will meet with the media, interview more residents and take in this small park that still holds a large mound that was once the home of the Jobe Indians. The City and state it seems do not care that those remains are here, construction it seems is the golden rule in Florida, it keeps them working.
We come to this place becomes it represents so many places across our nation, the deadening of emotions that define the haves and the have-nots. In this case we are simply talking about a solid middle-class, but in a town filled with million dollar homes, middle-class is defined, well viewed, in a different light. The term "mobile home" conjures up many stereotypes, but here that can be defined as generous, kind, loving and well it is truly community.
The trailer park is now seeing some its trailers removed, the ground is broken in places but the resolve of the people here remains solid. Yesterday a Bald Eagle flew overhead being chased by an osprey. It is just another day here in a waterway that is stunningly beautiful, and vibrant with so much life. This fight involves protecting a place or a part of our heritage from a group of people that define life by possession, by what they can get, rather than in the sense of the true beauty that comes from knowing your neighbor, sharing time as a community and enjoying as one the commons that define our shared lands and waters. Suni Sands for many may seem like nothing, but in reality Suni Sands defines us as a people. When we are willing to destroy that which is more than adequate, to create more luxury for a select few, we are once again destroying the wild and the common sense that as a people we continue to lose and abuse.
What we are losing is the ability to live with less, compassion too is being lost, as we are emotionally being deadened by the 24 hour media and our own sense of entitlement. Saving Suni Sands may not change your life , but it will help so many that feel they have lost the ability to fight, to stand up for justice in a world that is lawyering away our connection to decency and each other.
We are here to fight, to fight hard and smart against those that use their personal greed and lack of humanity to "get more", and define their life in the victories that come, so is the story of one Mr. Modica. This week we will challenge his right to cause such harm to people and the environment.
By this time next week, we hope to have received the first 1500 window stickers that will make a statement against the State Game Commission. They are designed with the business community in mind, as our goal is to sign up as many businesses as possible to a coalition that supports disbanding the Commission.
Our goal remains to keep constant pressure on this commission and to raise the public’s awareness about this group of thugs that has the goal of destroying wildlife in our state and frankly continue a tradition that goes on nationally.
With the recent decision to expand the killing of bears and the trapping of cougars, this commission once again made it clear that it is far from the mainstream, and moving forward with a radical and deadly agenda that serves only one special interest: the livestock industry!
We hope to build a coalition of businesses that will help us press the governor to stop this madness and help force our state representatives to take action to reign in this commission and hopefully move to strip it of any power or oversight. From Santa Fe to Carlsbad to Las Cruces to Taos, our goal is to see the windows of businesses proudly displaying this emblem for all to see. The bottom line people in our state love and support all wildlife species, from coyotes to, prairie dogs, to wolves! The State Game Commission is completely out of step with the mainstream and represents only the 4% of people in this state that actually hunt.
In other words, over 96% of our state does not hunt and while all 96% may not support our objectives, polling shows that a vast majority do. If we are to change the system, then we must impact those that run this commission; they work in the shadows and must be forced into the light. No governor wants to hear from the business community or large numbers of citizens that they are out of step, but this governor is currently hearing and ignoring the cries from so many, while allowing animals to whither in pain caught in traps, snares and being shot for trophies. Her actions and continued support for such carnage remain appalling and are part of her legacy of destruction to our state.
We are the majority, all of us committed to saving wolves, bears and cougars. We are the voice for the coyote and the prairie dog that continue to suffer at the hands of ignorance. But this time we are creating our own trap, one that will catch those that seek to harm, and not let go. We will hold them and allow their suffering to continue until at last we break their will. Justice takes time and requires commitment.
If you have a business in New Mexico please contact us at once, and let us get a sticker to you! A donation will help, but we will send it for free, if you commit to putting in a highly visible location and sign onto our coalition! If you love wildlife, if you believe that trapping and the unsustainable killing of wildlife should be stopped, then join us in this and the many efforts including our film that we are working on every day.
The State Game and Fish Commission must be abolished and we must find new revenue streams to fund this byzantine agency if we are to ever bring it into the 21st century. We can help by keeping a spotlight on their misdeeds. Please join us in our fight!
These stickers are available to members for pre-order today too! ($5 donation requested)
(use the comment field to request the 'Help us' or 'Science' sticker)
CLICK HERE TO USE OUR VOLUNTEER FORM TO REQUEST
A STICKER FOR YOUR BUSINESS!
For the past week we have seen anything but politics as usual. In what can only be described as extraordinary, we have witnessed a man of simplicity and caring; speak to a Congress, a President and a Nation. The message the Pope shared was one of love, understanding, compassion and giving. He looked the Republican Congress in the eyes and made clear that climate change was real and that taking care of the earth we inherited was not just a saying, but rather a duty.
In recent weeks the Pope has spoken about the importance of animals and the fact that they too will find heaven. All of this at a time when the airwaves and our souls have been saturated with the Donald Trump and Republican parties’ impassioned plea to ignore climate change; to build more walls, spend more on defense, while cutting taxes and eliminating things like the Environmental Protection Agency. Animals, wildlife, that does not even warrant a comment, if they are willing to destroy the planet and people; animals are not even an afterthought.
Then suddenly our teary-eyed Majority leader John Boehner announced after his meeting with the Pope that he was quitting at the end of October. Not that he has ever done anything for the environment, enjoying a lifetime 2% score from the League of Conservation Voters. Yet, he has swallowed some Democrat’s efforts to create new wilderness and to support some levels of clean energy. Now we are about to experience Republicans 2.0. The new, more radical team is poised to take a hammer to anything that is common sense: deals with energy independence, wilderness, or the logic that comes from acts of kindness to your fellow man.
It is ironic that with the Pope spreading talk and actions of love and compassion that we witness a group of people that cannot be penetrated with compassion. They appear to be on a mission, one that involves filling their egos and coffers with the right mix of arrogance, power and muscle. This mix is what gave us the war in Iraq and has leveled many great forests. It has found oil in the ocean and spilled it to levels that destroyed the magic that was the life of dolphins, whales, turtles and so many other vital species. It is with such reasoning, that we find those that kill big game to fill their trophy rooms, or send photos across the internet of themselves and the animal that they just slaughtered. Love and compassion, it seems, is not universal.
The Pope and the Republican Party, the contrast is stark. It has been on display all week. Yet as a nation the division remains. Climate change and the Pope are not what the Republican mind wants to adhere to. They want only to hear of restrictions on our personal lives as a means of accepting that the earth should be subjected to equal pain, suffering and natural control. This Pope is asking us to reexamine such thinking, as many before him in conservation have asked the world to reexamine our old, tired relationship with this planet.
Love, compassion and a willingness to respect all life forms is not new. What is, are the people that are asking for us to hear the message. The Pope was vocal and profound in his push for the planet. Republicans still have a serious learning curve before them on such issues. Protecting nature is in their DNA, but it has been lost to the power and greed inherent in all politics and their efforts to control.
It has been quite a week in our nation, wildness was on full display, perhaps not in the way we generally think of it. One thing is clear; the war we face is not in the Middle-East, but rather one that involves a future that is filled with compassion and understanding, or one woven with control and personal manipulation. Unlike many other elections, this one seems to be heading towards a resolution of epic proportions. One you might say could define life on this planet. If this week offers any insight, one party still has a lot of understanding to reconcile.
In the end, what is most clear is that it is the human that remains truly the Wild Thing in this equation.
I find myself still on the eastern seaboard, fighting for some simple justice for a group of people, an estuary and for the sanity of a community that is far too enriched in cars, boats and massive homes than the sharing and spirit of working together that one might find in a cold, northern Wisconsin community, or on the Great Plains of Nebraska.
While here I continue to feel the push of our own New Mexico Game and Fish Commission, as they stonewall and ignore the vast majority of people, disgusted by their actions that allow the torture and slaughter of so many innocent animals, and allow a livestock industry that is devoid of a soul to dictate policy on millions of acres of land that belongs to all Americans.
At their core these two issues seem both different and in no way related. Yet, they share a common ground. That ground is the tone deaf response from elected officials who stand by and witness injustice on a massive scale, one that goes beyond state borders and begs the question- Since when is it acceptable in our country to give away millions to an already filthy rich developer to destroy an estuary, dislodge seniors from their modest housing, demolish archaeological ruins and show a level of arrogance that infuses your town council, mayor and frankly the press.
Equally shocking is the arrogance by which Commission Chairman Paul Kiezlel III stands up and say 'aye' when the vote comes to kill more than half the bears in our state, the lack of feeling that others on the commission display when faced with wolf killings or that of cougars. Other elected officials make clear their disdain, but real actions seem to be slow and completely lacking in substance.
So while this seems like whining, lets add some meat to the bones of this debate. First, when you activity seek to destroy a community, a estuary, or a species you must feel a blow-back that is far more intense than the wake you have created. In this case, despite our congressional delegation consistently saying that Game and Fish reform is a state issue, let's remember that all funding cycles through the Pittman-Robertson Act, which is the tax on firearms and bullets. In that case, it seems that federal intervention or a legislation to restructure this act is completely within the rights of our congressional delegation and that of every state, all of whom generally speaking, suffer at the hands of their State Game and Fish Departments. So while excuses are understandable, the time for action is now.
Here in Florida, our job remains to expose the complete disregard for people and the environment that this local Mayor and Town Council have shown to shower the developer Charles Modica with money, guarantee of permits, and to threaten and console those with legitimate concerns about the construction of yet another unneeded shopping mall, and multi-million dollar condos on the shore of an estuary filled with manatee, dolphin, sawfish, and an array of sea turtles. As an attorney I met with here said-"In this part of Florida, with all the money involved, the politicians that are connected at the hip to projects such as this and the lack of solid coverage by the media, a word of caution...when you stir a pot like this and seek justice, you often are the guy driving down the road who's car is pulled and suddenly they find cocaine in the glove box, be careful."
In New Mexico and in Florida, we face different challenges, different sets of elected officials. Yet, they remain content to stay aligned with even rather than with what many would argue is simply doing the right thing. In the coming week we will meet with state and federal elected officials to press our case, we will continue to speak with the media, and in New Mexico we will begin to reach out to the religious community to gain their support for reforming the Game and Fish Department. As the pope recently stated, "Every act of cruelty towards any creature is contrary to human dignity." We will also continue to build our business coalition and next week will begin to showcase those businesses that have the principle to stand with us in the fight against the torture of all wildlife.
In Florida, we are meeting with all parts of this community to educate and gain their support in what is a very uphill battle, but one that demands a real fight for justice. Please take a moment to help us as we move forward, you can donate, or you can help us go door to door and met with business owners and ask for their support. If you own a business you can simply call and we will send you a sticker for your front door. In Florida, we could use an army right now as we move towards the final aspects of this fight.
Two parts of the country, one simply goal: justice. Fighting for justice is never easy and rarely comes overnight, but without the fight, we are complacent in the slaughter of so many animals, without the fight the wholesale loss of dignity for so many, for the loss of our stunning marine environment.
Justice is never a given, it is an act we must constantly fight to ensure, and fight we will.
For the past month, (and since our inception,) Bold Visions Conservation has worked to end the madness that is the New Mexico Game and Fish Commission. During this month, we have also been in southern Florida working to save a vital estuary; one filled with manatee, dolphin, sea turtles and the rare sawfish. In New Mexico, we’re trying to protect predators like wolves, bears, mountain lions and coyotes from an inhumane Commission. In southern Florida, that same lack of humanity is on display with the local Town Council and in state officials, who live off the nectar of developers to stay in power; although our Game Commission feeds from a different teat, the results are similar.
Volume in this case is a metaphor for pressure. The recent decision by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to resume the release Mexican wolves into the wild is a result, not just of common sense, but of the pressure that activists and citizens of New Mexico succeeded in through letters, calls, media pressure and imploring the agency to do its job! Relaxing now is not an option, rather now is the time to use this reprieve to build the pressure on this Commission, and the very concept of the Commission.
Our volume might come in the form of ramping up the input the Governor receives. We are busy signing up businesses to support our push to reform the New Mexico Game and Fish Commission. This is important and we need the number to grow! We have begun outreach to the religious community, for it is clear that destroying “God’s Creation” is not a fitting or logical aspect of humanity; nor for that matter is the wholesale destruction of the environment. So if you know a religious leader of any stripe, we would like them to please support our effort.
Volume must come in many forms, to that end the upcoming legislative session will be important for introducing new ways of looking at how this agency spends its money, or how commissioners are allowed to spend time on ranches clearly being lobbied without more sunshine. Why the commission itself has no environmental representation and why the agency still does not believe in using peer reviewed science?
But this fight must be waged on a national level as well. As we have seen when things are left to states to decide, the results are rarely in the favor of wildlife or our environment. Now there are exceptions to this; think California, or decisions like that of Washington State’s Governor Jay Inslee, who recently challenged his Game Commission on their decision to expand mountain lion killing.
What we want is for these exceptions to become the rule. One feasible way for that to happen, is to revisit the federal legislation known as Pittman-Robertson, the law which designates an 11% surcharge on firearms and ammunition. As a major funding source for state game agencies nationally, a revision of this law that could state that “no funding from this surcharge can be used to promote the killing of predator species” or “no funding from this federal grant can be used to license, support or encourage trapping” or “such funding cannot be used to permit animal killing contests or support their function” or “states must now use 25% of this government issued funding for the study and protection of predator species.”
The script can be written, but what is important is that we must push on every front to create a “volume” that is loud enough that Governors, legislators, and those working on a federal level understand that people want to end this cycle of 19th century game management, that does nothing to support healthy wildlife populations, or make for healthy ecosystems.
The fight to reform or remove these agencies will not happen overnight, but it is a fight that requires energy that is designed to generate humanity, not allow the lack of it, to continue to hold court. From manatee to bears, from turtles to wolves, there remains a human dimension that somehow sees them as a nuisance, rather than a gift. For this is the mindset of the modern savage: a group of people consumed with self-interest that see a world devoid of nature, and a wallet full of endless possibilities. Their wallet -and desire for more- is the poison that the modern savage uses to kill wildlife in the name of progress, in the name of the sickness which they make legal through their actions.
It is this modern savage we must destroy: we do it by turning up the volume so loud and the sunshine so bright that they, not us, are forced to change their ways and become (ironically) civilized.
by Stephen Capra
There once was a conversation in society, I remember it well, it was an honest look at our population and why slowing our growth was so important. The impact was tremendous and I remain a person with no offspring. I mention this because in my youth I do not remember the level of ignorance we witness today on our planet. Some will say that education has failed, others will point to a myriad of other reasons for this, no matter, the outcome has put us on a collision course with the destruction of our environment and while depressing, some aspects are worth noting.
The killing fields- Since when has it become an acceptable norm to allow killing contests? We now have them for coyotes, wolves, bobcats, lions you name it. With more people and more concern about our resources, a small but determined group has found comfort or their niche in society by calling in wildlife and summarily executing them for cash and prizes. In addition, as we have witnessed the slaughter of so much precious wildlife in places like Africa at the hands of slobs or boastful woman who have a fan base that it defies any sense of humanity. Which is at the root of what begins to happen when we overwhelm our planet; you see everyone’s reaction is not the same.
While many of us look to conserve, eat less meat, not tolerate the killing of an endangered species for trophy, others seemingly push down the gas pedal and what even more of what they know will soon be gone. They see in themselves the right to choose what lives or dies and for wildlife, these people (think Ted Nugent) make an already difficult situation of living, impossible. Random killing for fun, random trapping for fun and pelts is destroying not only our wildlife, but it is destroying our contract with the planet. We are stealing life for ego, for treasure and for an inherent barbarism that an increasing population has allowed to grow and it is the poster child of our disconnection and ignorance of all things wild. The blood of innocent wildlife, symbolizes the tears of our planet, as ignorance destroys vital life.
Land, Water and Life- Since the early eighties we seem to have been on a gorge of the planet, tearing away at the last roadless areas, fishing our oceans to the brink, damming precious rivers in a high-speed chase to keep up with the demands for all the people that we continue to place on a planet that is overweight and tired, exhausted by our endless need to take, without giving. How can we ever think that wolves, lions, turtles, bears and other precious wildlife can be protected when we rip apart their habitat, drill it, fill it with concreate and spill not just garbage but oil, nuclear waste and other human designed byproducts into their homes? Tearing apart forests in the Amazon to a point where the public has accepted this as normal, and has lost their energy to fight.
In this new world order, developers, oil men, bankers and the like are still viewed with honor and prestige. This furthers the disconnect that people have with our natural world and rewards those that kill, with cars, homes, wives, large family, yachts, inspiring our next generation into the desire to have what those that ironically kill the most, somehow obtain the right to possess. Such sickness and societal pressure thus sets in motion a further erosion of our planet so that another generation can consume even more.
Politics and War: Another aspect of population comes down to defending capitalism and our right to consume. Perhaps no party does it better than Republicans, but in truth both parties are churning out legislation that is destructive to life as we know it. From demanding that climate change is not real! To introducing legislation to eliminate the EPA, to making clear that Sage Grouse have no rights when compared to oil rigs, our elected officials are doing their part to crush our planet. But perhaps the focus on stopping abortion or the endless bashing of Planned Parenthood is the most damming for the planet. If woman cannot have access to a doctor and get birth control, then naturally more children will be born. When congress does the same with our foreign aid (placing restrictions on birth control), as republicans have demanded during republican presidencies, then once again more children are born, most of whom will spend their lives below the poverty line. This impacts the planet and allows for the great suffering of wildlife. Then there is war, the natural outcropping of too much population as we fight over natural resources and control. Africa has literally been torn apart with civil wars, so too the Middle East. These wars over natural resources will continue and their costs for lions, grizzly bears and other precious wildlife are one of the great sadness’s of our lifetime.
Alternative Energy: While alternative energy is the key to protecting our planet and stopping the destruction of climate change, it also can be viewed by some as allowing the population status quo to continue. My Aunt once said, “No need to worry, God will take care of the planet.” In alternative energy we have the greatest opportunity to stop the “slaughter” of our planet, but only if we combine a sensible measure of birth control to allow for less consumer demand.
Creating a new design…what if we could look at the planet and begin to ask questions: If we stabilize the population and say drop it by a billion, what could we do? If you believe in the power of rewilding, you can begin to see how man can finally pay penitence to wildlife, begin as we have seen with so many social issues of our day, and begin to treat wildlife and all animals with a respect that is still lacking in so many parts of the planet and here at home. It will also allow for the respect that our forest, deserts, mangroves and other precious land forms need, then too the dams can come down and allow our waters to revitalize, all because the pressure to get every ounce and every acre is removed by the combination of less people and new technology. That could be a really exciting time!
Population is the core issue of conservation today. Most corporate conservation groups will not even mention it. Politicians will not mention it. The religious community somehow feels that having children is more important in the scriptures than protecting “God’s Creation”. Let me be clear, while I do not have children, I love children and like many of you believe they are our future. Bold Visions Conservation continues to work on a project that we hope will bring kids into our organization in a profound way. Yet, the conversation about population is one that we must have, for one way to look at it is for every beautiful child’s face we see, we must begin to understand there is an associated cost: in lions, oil spills, new development, or a loss of species.
The planet is crying out to us, we are watching a new ignorance be permitted to not only harm the place we call home, but to humiliate it at the same time. We live in a paradise called earth, a place that we own the key to, our actions or lack of actions are allowing this place of dreams and inspiration to die. People, the endless hordes of people are the culprit and controlling the amount of them allowed to share this special place is a conversation we must continue to have.
Bold Visions Conservation