Let’s say you are the head of an organization committed to protecting the environment. Let’s say you wish to give an award to someone who has gone above and beyond in the fight for “fish and wildlife conservation.” Who might make the short list? The Riverkeepers organization has spent 25 years protecting our nation’s waterways from corporate polluters. The Adopt-A-Stream-Foundation has for more than 30 years fought to restore the health of our waterways. Coastal America is a popular non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and restoring our coastlines.
You might consider these or others. Or perhaps you would think of Rick Scott, the Florida governor who forbids state agencies from using the terms “climate change” or “global warming” in official communications. The Rick Scott whose Department of Health ordered an epidemiologist to remove all references to “climate change” from a recent study on ciguatera poisoning (a nasty illness brought about by eating fish infected with ciguatoxins). The Rick Scott who ensured that mangers within Florida’s Department of Transportation were not to use the terms “global warming” or “climate change” in dealing with the public.
Asked about his policy against the use of these terms, Governor Scott responded “I’m not a scientist.” That much is obvious. But, scientist or not, why might Rick Scott cross the radar of an environmental organization seeking to acknowledge great achievements in conservation? If one takes Governor Scott at his word, perhaps he deserves the award. After all, he claimed publicly that he “we have invested record funding in protecting our environment,” a claim the non-partisan fact-checker Politifact deemed “False.”
A Tampa Bay Times editorial revealed Scott’s true colors, and green is not among them: “Scott has bulldozed a record of environmental protection that his Republican and Democratic predecessors spent decades building. He weakened the enforcement of environmental laws and cut support for clean water, conservation and other programs. He simultaneously made it easier for the biggest polluters and private industries to degrade the state’s natural resources. Scott wants voters to believe he has turned green. His record shows he has been the least environmentally sensitive governor in the last half-century.”
Scott’s mischaracterization of his own environmental record is no surprise from a man who, in testifying about corporate fraud within his HCA hospital chain, refused some 75 times to answer questions because truthful answers might result in criminal charges against him. It is no surprise from a man who adopted a dog from a shelter as an election campaign gimmick, only to secretly return the dog to the shelter once elected (as RoF reported previously: http://www.ringoffireradio.com/2013/01/reagan-the-disposable-dog/).
So the question remains—why would an environmental organization bestow a “conservation” award on Rick Scott, of all people? Well, it turns out it is not the sort of “environmental organization” the phrase ordinarily brings to mind. It is the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida and it is chaired by Miami developer Rodney Barreto. Mr. Barreto’s bio describes his lucrative consulting firm as one that “develops and manages far-reaching corporate and public affairs strategies designed to achieve specific business results [and that has] achieved measurable results for dozens of companies based in Florida and throughout the United States.”
RoF dug deeper to find that Mr. Bareto recently was identified as a major fundraiser for Jeb Bush’s presidential run. Perhaps he confused the words “conservation” and “conservative.” Perhaps not. Perhaps it is just another cynical charade in the long line of such stunts from a governor who has no real or meaningful legacy to claim.
It is ironic that he might deem environmentalism important enough to lie about, but not important enough to act on in any serious way. The Fish & Wildlife Foundation’s press release claims that Scott has “provide[d] leadership for effective conservation” in the State of Florida. Yet the Orlando Weekly reported that Scott’s “effective conservation” efforts included a drop in environmental enforcement cases from 1,587 when he took office to 234 just three years later.
Frank Jackalone of the Sierra Club said, “No one in their right mind would give Rick Scott an award for protecting wildlife.” Apparently no one in their right mind did so.