THE BLOG
01/15/2015 11:25 am ET Updated Mar 17, 2015

Florida Doesn't Need Trees

Florida is the land of the palm trees, sunshine and beautiful beaches. It boasts one of the most diverse flora and fauna in the country. One would think that the establishment would want to protect this precious resource - that being the environment. But the answer, sadly, is a resounding no. It's not cost-effective to protect the diverse swamplands, endangered wetlands and forest that thrive in the state. After all, the protection and conservation of natural wonders don't pay for election campaigns.

One prime example of how little importance is given to the Florida environment is happening in Miami-Dade County -- home to Miami and 2.6 million residents.

One of the world's rarest forests, the Pine Rocklands, boasting several endangered plant and animal species, will soon have a Walmart built over it. A total of 88 acres of the endangered Florida Pine Rockland Forest will be cut down, paved over and filled with concrete to make way for this big box retailer. It is estimated that less than 2% of the original ancient forest remains today - and 88 acres of it are about to be permanently destroyed.

The distinguished University of Miami was the original owner of the land and decided to sell it. Though the university has been "committed" to protecting the environment, selling it to the highest paying bidder was apparently the better option.

The rare forest is home to many animals and endangered species, which include the Bald Eagle, The Indigo Snake, the Florida Bonneted Bat and several rare plants and butterflies. This past summer, several additional rare plants - including the critically endangered polygala smallii were discovered. Also, a butterfly species that almost went extinct in the mid 20th century, the Atala Hairstreak is thriving in these woods. Currently, there are almost 10,000 signatures on a MoveOn.Org petition demanding the protection of this endangered forest in South Florida.

Florida is going backwards. Those who are supposed to protect the best interests of the state are caving to big money. The environment in Florida is a delicate ecosystem that is being destroyed. Instead of investing in green energy and conservation measures, the state chooses instead to roll out the red carpet to the highest bidder. That's what's happening here in good ol' Florida. Big corporations and corrupt leaders have run the state like their own private trust fund.

Florida's farce of a Republican governor, Rick Scott, publicly made statements on how his administration believes in protecting the environment. "Florida has successfully reduced its environmental permitting time down to just two days, and that's great!" Governor Scott said. "We take care of our environment, but when we know we're going to give a permit, give it to them quickly." Because handing out permits to build over forests, swamps and grasslands should be a speedy, no delayed process. Great accountability and review process there, Governor.

This is but a microcosm of what is happening all over Florida and other parts of the country. Thankfully, many citizens realized the perils of forsaking the treasures that make Florida great. On November 4th, 2014, 75% of Florida voters approved a state constitutional amendment that would bring over $10 billion a year to land conservation, restoration and protection efforts. With the passing of the Water & Land Conservation Amendment, billions of dollars will go to keeping Florida's water clean, protecting the plethora of bodies of water, restoring the wetlands, forests and beaches and protecting national treasures such as the Everglades National Park. Guess who was against it? The Florida Chamber of Commerce and *drum roll please* Governor Rick Scott, who refused to publicly take a position. Shocker.

Despite the new amendment, a rare chunk of the Pine Rocklands is still slated for demolition and our climate change-denying, anti-environmental governor refuses to take a solid stance on the environment. When will our elected officials step in and do what is best for their state? Probably when you tell them that money grows on trees. After all; money, power, and glory seem to be the only motivating factor in our current political landscape.