A blog dealing with Sarasota County and the City of Sarasota.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Hunting in Sarasota County Parks??


We all like to interpret words to our benefit. Once, when my mother was on the phone, I interrupted her to ask if I could have some Oreos. "A handful", she replied. I made a beeline for the kitchen, and using my outstretched hand as a foundation, created three or four precarious towers of Oreos -- basically emptying the package. The two or three my mother had envisioned had multiplied due to my liberal interpretation of "handful", which I apparently was. 

The Sarasota County Commission has embarked on another creative experiment in meaning. Led by Commissioner Robinson they have gone through the looking glass when it comes to hunting on lands acquired by taxpayer authorized dollars.

“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”

― Lewis CarrollThrough the Looking Glass

Hunting is pretty clearly consumptive since it involves a "take" of a wildlife species, but let me address the chain of thinking evident on April 22nd.

At least one Sarasota County Commissioner disputes a staff (and common sense) finding that that hunting is a consumptive use. The commissioner’s logic was that if we burn, trap hogs, and allow cattle to graze on ESLPP lands, how can we consider hunting to be any different than those arguably consumptive activities?

Many county departments apparently have been involved in trying to figure out what “non-consumptive” means or what was intended when that wording was adopted.When trying to deduce what was meant, it is usual process to refer to the legislative history -- how the word/s have been used previously.

So it is instructive to look at the history of the county's “non-consumptive” language, that first appeared in connection with recreational use on the Carlton Reserve and was subsequently applied to the Pinelands Reserve and all ESLPP lands. 

Prior to the vote on the then Ringling-MacArthur Tract, a small group working with Mabry Carlton developed the three part test, (ecologically benign, non-consumptive, and resource-based) in order to clearly communicate to the voting public what kinds of recreational uses would be allowed. Mabry knew that clearly defining what would be allowed was necessary in advance of the vote. When the language was subsequently applied to ESLPP lands the “recreational” modifier was lost, but the history of the phrase and common sense argue that the test was meant to apply solely to recreational use. 

We know this because virtually all management actvities are consumptive in nature: installing fences, roads, fire breaks, etc. all consume habitat. And flames and hogs consume forage. And trapping hogs consumes hogs. And when hogs were shot on county preserve land, that was a management activity and not a recreational activity. 

Management activities are conducted by paid staff (sometimes volunteers) or contracted out to reach management goals. And all these management activities would be completely inappropriate if undertaken by citizens visiting the preserve in a recreational capacity. You just cant wander onto a county preserve and set the woods on fire as a recreational activity. But we do burn as a management activity.

If deer were over-populating a county preserve or doves were breaking branches with their weight, the county would undertake thinning or harvest as a management activity, not a recreational activity. 

The applicable wording 54-87 deals with USE. Management is not use. The scope of activities involved in professionally managing Ed Smith Stadium, for example, is completely different from how Ed Smith Stadium may be used by the public or private groups. 

So to be clear, the original intent and consistent practice on ESLPP lands has been that management activities may be consumptive, but recreational activities may not be.


During the BCC discussion of recreational activities permitted on the Walton tract there was discussion of the meaning of “consumptive use.” Only non-consumptive recreation is permitted when ESLPP monies are used, due to voter approved bond referenda carried out according to Florida Statutes F.S. 100.201100.221100.281,Florida Constitution, article VII, sec. 12(local bonds). The ESLPP Bond Referendum 99-004 is codified in SC 54-87: "Uses of the Environmentally Sensitive Lands protected pursuant to this article will be limited to those activities that are ecologically benign, nonconsumptive and resource-based, except for those uses prescribed within the deeded Use Restrictions.” 

County Counsel DeMarsh suggested that the legal definition of “consumptive” begins first with common usage.
Here are some examples of standard legal use of the term from US code, other state environmental documents, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service:

Source 1 U.S. Legal 

Pursuant to 16 USCS § 3743 (6), [Title 16. Conservation; Chapter 57A. Partnerships for Wildlife] 

the term nonconsumptive activities means “fish and wildlife associated activities other than harvesting of fish and wildlife and includes, but is not limited to, photographing, observing, learning about, or associating with, fish and wildlife.”

Source 2 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

High school textbook: US Fish and Wildlife Service , published by Council for Environmental Education:

Public Access and Wildlife Compatibility http://atfiles.org/files/pdf/BCDCwildrpt01.pdf
(includes extensive annotated bibliography of works related to effects of recreation on wildlife) March 2001 

CHAPTER 2 BIOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF PUBLIC ACCESS ON WILDLIFE: a complete bibliog- raphy for this chapter is provided in Appendix D.
Conceptual Framework. Human activities in areas of wildlife habitat can be generally grouped into two categories: consumptive and non-consumptive. Consumptive activities are those that directly remove wildlife such as hunting and fishing. Non-consumptive activities, such as observing and photographing wildlife, or recreating near wild- life, do not. 

Source 4 U.S. Legal 
A passive recreation area is generally an undeveloped space or environmentally sensitive area that requires minimal development. Entities such as a parks department may maintain passive recreation areas for the health and well-being of the public and for the preservation of wildlife and the environment. The quality of the environment and "naturalness" of an area is the the focus of the recreational experience in a passive recreation area.
Passive recreation may be defined as a non-motorized activity that:
Offers constructive, restorative, and pleasurable human benefits and fosters appreciation and understanding of open space and its purpose
Is compatible with other passive recreation uses
Does not significantly impact natural, cultural, scientific, or agricultural values
Requires only minimal visitor facilities and services directly related to safety and minimizes passive recreation impacts

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