This Sanctuary “restoration blueprint” is a fatally flawed document that is not supported by the majority of our local residents. This document did not go through an open and honest public process for creation, and that’s why it does not reflect the will of the majority of our residents.
And while this document isn’t one that our residents support, our residents actually care a lot about our marine environment and have good ideas on what the focus of this document should have been.
The public feels that water quality issues, brought on by pollution from the mainland, are the biggest threat to our Florida Keys marine ecosystem.
The public supports more artificial reefs to enhance and support marine life and take the pressure off of coral reefs, additional mooring balls at our reefs and popular dive sites to help reduce anchor damage, and adding channel markers to prevent prop scarring the sea-grasses.
And the public feels that tourists are a major contributing source of the problems. They’d like to discuss the elimination of the 2-day mini-season. And they’ve suggested required certification for tourists renting boats and better education and outreach to make tourists aware of sanctuary rules.
Yet, this current draft of the Sanctuary Restoration Blueprint does nothing to address any of these issues.
Instead, some of the Sanctuary’s proposed regulations actually favor high-intensity tourism activities over low-intensity local usage. Many feel that some on the SAC board have used this document to unfairly create advantages for themselves. And, most feel the Sanctuary’s proposals to restrict access to local reefs, back-bay-sandbars, and waterways, will not solve any problems — but will instead create a new one by transferring and consolidating pressure onto other areas.
Opposition to the Sanctuary’s “preferred plan” at public meetings and on the regulations.org website has been tremendous. Of the more than 450 people who’ve submitted online comments thus far, most are in objection.
Our County and incorporated cities have voiced concerns through resolutions and some Chambers of Commerce have sent letters of objection. FWC has voiced its jurisdictional objection, and the Chair has written that “the Blueprint takes conservation efforts in the wrong direction and not much in the proposal would help the Keys ecosystem or fisheries”.
The public backlash in our County has become so overwhelming that the Sanctuary started a “Stand Up for Florida Keys Sanctuary” Facebook page to beg people across the Country to submit public comments of support.
How ridiculous is it that because the people of the Florida Keys do not support this Restoration Blueprint, the Sanctuary is instead asking people from the northeast, the west coast, the mid-west, anywhere but here, to chime in. They’re asking people outside of the Florida Keys, who don’t operate boats, and who wouldn’t know the difference between a horse-conch and a queen-conch, to support the plans our own Keys citizens have rejected!
This new strategy to develop artificial support for this document does not instill public trust in the sanctuary or this process.
With a document that is so fatally flawed and unsupported, it is crucial that the promised rewrite represents the will and the voice of the majority of our local FL Keys residents.
For the past few months, the Sanctuary has been telling us “they are listening”. The results of this rewrite will let us know if we’ve been heard or ignored.
Beth Ramsay-Vickrey, Former County Planning Commissioner District 2
Beth Ramsay-Vickrey is a long-time Keys resident, she grew-up in Marathon and now resides in the Lower Keys. Beth represented her district as a County Planning Commissioner, and sat on the Keys Energy Advisory Board, focusing attention on utility and conservation issues. She currently sits on the Lower Keys Chamber Board of Directors.
The Restoration Blueprint is available at floridakeys.noaa.gov/blueprint. NOAA is taking public comment on the proposals through Jan. 31, 2020. Comments may be submitted online at www.regulations.gov (docket number NOAA-NOS-2019-0094).
To review the Weekly’s coverage of the Restoration Blueprint and community opinions about it, visit https://keysweekly.com/42/category/sanctuary-blueprint/.