0012 – A Critical Analysis of the FWC’s Approach to Conservation

  • Post published:2023-05-19

In the realm of conservation, actions often hold more significance than mere words. This is particularly relevant when assessing the role of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), entrusted with the vital duty of protecting the state’s invaluable natural resources. However, upon closer inspection, a disconcerting reality emerges: the Commissioner’s Chairman, whose professional background lies in property development, may be placing personal and political interests above the very conservation objectives the FWC is mandated to pursue. It is evident that Rodney Barreto possesses qualifications and has achieved success, as evidenced by his charitable fundraising efforts. Nonetheless, these factors do not guarantee common sense or decency, as demonstrated in his unfortunate handling of the Holy Thursday Massacre incident involving Daniel from USARK Florida. In my opinion, this incident highlights his unsuitability for the position.

This article seeks to examine the approach taken by the commission, making a comparison to the proverbial saying, “Shallow brooks make the most noise.” Through this exploration, we aim to shed light on the contrast between the words expressed and the actual actions taken in the field of conservation.

  1. The Commissioner’s Background: A crucial starting point in understanding the commissioner’s approach is examining his background as a property developer. While expertise in real estate may have its merits, the question arises: does this background truly align with the core principles of conservation? It is essential to explore whether the commissioner’s priorities are driven more by personal gain or by a genuine commitment to preserving Florida’s natural beauty.
  2. If one looks at the other appointed commissioners by Governor Ron DeSantis, one has to but wonder as to the motivation of the appointments. Votes, influences, and money would appear to be more likely in my opinion.
    1. S. Rood is married to a previous commissioner and no specific qualifications listed
    2. A. Maury has a degree in finance and is CEO of a medical based firm.
    3. R. Barreto, Chairman is a former policeman and now CEO of a development / real estate firm
    4. S. Hudson, Vice-Chairman is CEO of a real estate and development firm with a degree in business economics
    5. P. Farrier is CEO of a motor car company
    6. G. Lester has a background in appearances of judicial and community relations
    7. G. Nicklaus has a degree in business administration and is a managing partner of a technology and financial services company.
  3. To be frank, it is evident that all the appointed commissioners possess their own individual successes and valuable expertise in their respective fields. However, I personally struggle to understand why there is a lack of representation from individuals with a formal education or degree in the natural sciences. It seems essential to have at least one decision-maker who possesses a deep understanding of nature and its intricacies. With the number of members in the commission, it would be reasonable to expect a balance of expertise, including one focused on legal matters, communications, and public relations, while the majority should have a strong background in the study of nature. Considering that the FWC’s core mission revolves around the protection of nature, this absence seems contradictory, as development often leads to the destruction of the environment for personal gain.
  4. A notable issue that arises with the commissioner is the perceived absence of substantial conservation initiatives during their tenure. Despite occupying a prominent role within the FWC, there seems to be a scarcity of meaningful actions aimed at safeguarding and revitalizing Florida’s ecosystems. This situation prompts inquiries into the commissioner’s commitment to conservation and their actual efforts in tackling urgent environmental challenges. It is important to note that this observation specifically pertains to reptiles, and further elaboration will be provided.
    1. Iguanas were allowed to be caught and shipped out of Florida, a benefit to the state and some lucky survivors. Now this has been stopped, effectively increasing the population of iguanas in Florida
    2. The same is said for the Burmese Python, but it too from what I believe has been stopped. This is also allowing wild populations to increase and put people out of work.
    3. While the FWC has implemented kill programs to address the issue of Burmese Pythons, it raises the question as to why similar programs have not been initiated for invasive cats, birds, pigs, and other problematic species. Is Chairman Barreto now apprehensive about potential uncontrollable backlash? It appears that killing reptiles receives approval from the public, considering they are generally disliked. However, the FWC seems reluctant to introduce regulations targeting similarly or more problematic species that could be euthanized with comparable ease. It would be important for Barreto to adhere to a fair and consistent approach.
  5. Political Interference and Stakeholder Engagement: While public meetings and stakeholder involvement are integral components of any conservation body, it is essential to differentiate between merely hearing and genuinely listening to the concerns and recommendations of those directly affected. In the case of the FWC commissioner, there is mounting evidence suggesting that political considerations may be influencing decision-making processes, potentially overshadowing the vital input of the public and stakeholders. This raises concerns about the efficacy and transparency of the FWC’s operations.
  6. During the public meeting, it became evident that Barreto, as Chairman, attempted to halt Daniel from USARK Florida’s discussion on a matter where the FWC had made apparent errors. Barreto abused his position of power by disregarding the conversation, failing to listen to the points being raised, and deflecting or manipulating the narrative to fit his own agenda. As the meeting progressed, Barreto grew increasingly boisterous, confrontational, and disrespectful in a public setting. It is important to note that the salaries of government officials, including Barreto, are funded by the very individuals present in that room, although this fact often goes unnoticed by those in positions of authority.
  7. The Impact on Conservation Efforts: The consequences of an ineffectual commissioner reverberate throughout the conservation landscape. With limited progress being made, critical conservation efforts may be hindered or compromised, jeopardizing the welfare of Florida’s diverse wildlife, delicate ecosystems, and natural habitats. The efforts by the commission have not shown any significant gain in conservation but have shown a to be successful in alienating itself from stakeholders.
  8. It makes no sense this conservation body has successfully instilled fear in keepers and businesses through their regulations, a lot of which are in my view draconian. If Barreto can tell me what time I am going to shower etc… for the rest of the year, then they can say it is an infringement if there is defecation in a water bowl. To go on about animal care and cruelty, but then to have your official kill snakes the way they did and as a chair you try defend and skirt around it. When that fails you get abrasive with Daniel (USARK Florida) and then threaten to end the meeting cause you now getting threatened by the truth.

In conclusion, the role of the FWC commissioner carries immense responsibility, requiring a deep commitment to conservation and the protection of Florida’s natural heritage. However, the apparent disconnect between the chairman’s background as a property developer and the commission’s conservation goals raises important questions. By critically examining the commissioner’s approach and drawing parallels to the phrase, “Shallow brooks make the most noise,” we shed light on the need for genuine action, transparency, and a commitment to listening to the voices of the public and stakeholders. Ultimately, the goal is to foster a culture of conservation that prioritizes the long-term well-being of Florida’s environment over personal and political interests, while actively involving and engaging the public and stakeholders for a more effective and inclusive approach.

We can all hope political egos will take a backseat to conservation efforts for once, or maybe just get to a parallel. Good luck to USARK, USARK Florida and the keepers/ businesses in the region in working with them and hopefully getting a respectful and decent resolution that can benefit all parties and the environment, not just politicians.