Anthony’s Seminole County Commission Testimony
Good Afternoon Commissioners. My name is Anthony RogersWright, I am the policy director for Environmental Action, a national nonprofit with nearly 1,000,000 members. I am here on behalf of our members to urge you to adopt a resolution that would ban the hunting of Black Bears in Seminole County.
Commissioners, I have been fighting this issue with a coalition of animal lovers and advocates of environmental stewardship for almost two years now. I frequently travelled from my former home in New York City to stand with my friends and other organizations. During this time, I learned that the hunt, that was fecklessly approved and carried out by your state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission, was just as much an issue of justice and democracy as it was an issue of environmental stewardship and protection.
FWC’s actions can only be described as insurgent and antithetical to the will of the people of Florida. Poll after poll after poll showed that the majority of Floridians, 75 percent to be exact, were opposed to the hunt. Still FWC proceeded using specious and meretricious reasons that were perpetually altered over time, when each reason was proven to be meritless. Their first argument was associated with public safety – but this paradigm was dispatched of when our coalition presented studies that show nonlethal management techniques like bear proof containers and public education are more effective that hunts. Ironically, at one of the final meetings on this issue, FWC bear scientist conceded during a presentation that nonlethal management practices actually work better – but FWC had already made their decision to carry out a Black Bear Bloodbath…even after Environmental Action presented them with a check for $5,000 to purchase Bear Proof containers. I would add, that we would be happy to do the same for Seminole County, because our members are passionate and serious about arriving at solutions that don’t include unnecessary blood and death.
When we disproved their “public safety theory” FWC regrouped and developed a new reason – to control the Black Bear population. But here’s the thing, FWC had not, in some cases completed a statewide Black Bear census since the early 2000s. In other words, they didn’t even know the actual population of Black Bear in Florida. Even the judge who ruled against an injunction of the hunt during a lawsuit lead by Mr. Chuck O’Neal of Speak up Wekiva and candidate for State Senate District 11, he castigated FWC for incomplete science, strongly recommending that they complete their census before commencing the hunt. By choosing to disregard the public, base decisions on ambiguous, incomplete science, and even ignore the recommendations of a judge who ruled in their favor, FWC showed themselves to be an intransigent, obstinate and run away commission more interested in serving a minority of hunters instead of the majority of the people.
This disregard had major consequences that may have irreparable consequences. Right here in Seminole County, which is part of the Central Bear Management Unit, a quota of 100 bears was set by FWC. That number, commissioners, was exceed by nearly 40 percent. And a similar situation occurred in the Eastern Pan Handle where the allotted bear kill quota was exceeded by nearly three times. FWC Director Nick Wiley had to suspend the hunt after only two days, even though the hunt season was slated to last a week, because even he saw the writing on the wall…that is, this hunt was more akin to a Black Bear Blitzkrieg. And even after this occurred, in a move bereft of compassion, FWC announced plans to have a second hunt this year only two days after the cessation of their botched hunt from last year.
This is the result of basing decisions to proceed on unsound science and against the will of the people. If counties in Florida like Seminole do not stand up to FWC, I promise you will soon realize a case of necessary federal intervention from the US Fish and Wildlife Service the same intervention that was necessary for Black people to overcome oppression due to State segregation and draconian voter laws, may soon be necessary for Black bears to be emancipated from the brink of extinction.
For these reasons, I urge you to draft and approve a resolution that would ban Bear hunting in Seminole County, at least until FWC demonstrates to you and the public that they are using sound science and even know the ACTUAL population of Black Bear throughout the state. You have the power and ability to preserve and maintain Florida’s beautiful natural resources for generations to come, and I beseech you to exercise that power. Thank you for your time and consideration.