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.