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FL Wetlands expert suspended by Rick Scott's DEP after she refuses to approve permit [View All]

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seafan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-28-12 02:41 PM
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FL Wetlands expert suspended by Rick Scott's DEP after she refuses to approve permit
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Source: Tampa Bay Times

Florida's top state wetlands expert has been suspended after she refused to issue a permit on a controversial project one that she said her boss was willing to bend the rules to approve.
The project: turning a North Florida pine plantation into a business that attempts to make up for wetlands that are wiped out by new roads and development. At stake: millions of dollars in wetland "credits" that can be sold to government and developers.

The problem, according to a May 9 memo from Department of Environmental Protection wetlands expert Connie Bersok, is that the owners want the DEP to give them lots of wetland credits for land that isn't wet.
After being told by Deputy Secretary Jeff Littlejohn to ignore the rules she had followed on other permits, Bersok wrote, "I hereby state my objection to the intended agency action and refusal to recommend this permit for issuance."

The application that led to Bersok's suspension came from the Highlands Ranch Mitigation Bank, which has repeatedly tussled with permitting officials.

"They're scrappy, these guys," said Glenn Lowe, who lost his job with the St. Johns River Water Management District after he refused to give Highlands Ranch what its owners wanted. Former water district executive director Kirby Green said Lowe and other employees lost their jobs because Gov. Rick Scott's pro-business administration didn't like the way they treated Highlands Ranch.

Read more:


Let all of this sink in:

Florida's top state wetland expert, Connie Bersok, widely respected and experienced, was suspended by Rick Scott's administration for refusing to issue Rick Scott's Big Business buddies at Highlands Ranch Mitigation Bank a controversial permit.... that would have issued a large amount of "wetland credit" for DRY LAND.

Her boss, Deputy DEP Secretary Jeff Littlejohn, instructed her to ignore the usual requirement for detailed plans for how Highlands Ranch would help the environment, and to just set some "goals" for assessing the bank's "progress" instead. Oh, and issue a large amount of "credits" for land that was high and dry. Neither of those actions could be supported ecologically, Bersok declared.

In her written statement, Bersok stated that to do this would be a violation of state law that requires "a reasonable assurance" that the environmental mitigation plan would help the environment, before a permit is issued.

She refused to ignore state rules for wetland protection, and two days later, was suspended from her job.
Science be damned, in Rick Scott's administration.

Two more searing facts from this article:

Her boss, Deputy Secretary Jeff Littlejohn is the son of Florida Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Chuck Littlejohn. The elder Littlejohn has negotiated with the DEP on wetland issues, including on how to change the way credits are calculated.


Highlands Ranch Mitigation Bank was formed in 2008 when the Carlyle Group formed a joint venture with a Jacksonville company, Hassan & Lear Acquisitions, spending $15 million on a 1,575-acre pine plantation in Clay County next to Jennings State Forest.

Ah, The Carlyle Group. The nest of Bushes.


Floridians, our state government is shot through with Big Money Bloodsuckers; inside the Legislature, Governor's office, including a particular ex-governor sitting down in Miami, and scheming together with their Big Developer/Big Privatization cronies, they are destroying our state's resources, wetlands, water supplies, economy, public schools, university system and social safety nets.

We are VERY unfortunately stuck with Rick Scott for two more years. But we can slow down this filthy bulldozer sooner by voting every Republican out of the Legislature in November. That will effectively tie Rick Scott to the wall.

At that time, Scott's impeachment and removal from office will be attainable.

Here is the award-winning series on Florida's vanishing wetlands, from the-then St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times).

When dry is wet, by Craig Pittman, December 17, 2006 (Part 1 of 2)

The 'bad apple' of wetlands banking, by Craig Pittman and Matthew Waite, December 18, 2006 (Part 2 of 2)

Times writers win award for series about wetlands, September 7, 2007

Remember what we must do in November, Floridians.

We do not have much time left to preserve what is left of Florida for our children.

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