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DOT works diligently to restore and protect wetlands

Letters to the Editor
Published November 13, 2005

Re: DOT's brown thumb, Nov. 8.

The Times' editorial left a false impression of the Florida Department of Transportation's commitment to minimize and mitigate the environmental impact of transportation projects.

As part of its mission to meet the growing transportation needs of our citizens, visitors and businesses in the state, the department spends about $20-million to $25-million each year to restore, replace or create wetlands that are impacted by transportation projects. For federal-aid projects completed during a recent five-year period, the department impacted approximately 510 acres of wetlands yet funded the mitigation of nearly 3,800 acres to offset the adverse impact. By working with the state's five water management districts, the department ensures the most valuable sensitive natural areas are restored and protected.

Our environmental efforts have been recognized nationally. In 2004, the Federal Highway Administration honored Florida with an "Exemplary Ecosystem Initiative" for its wildlife and wetland habitat mitigation program. The department was applauded for "doing the right thing by improving transportation and enhancing ecosystems."

Millions of Floridians benefit from our investment in transportation and environmental protection which strengthens our economy and improves our quality of life. The Florida Department of Transportation will continue to be good citizens by minimizing the impact to the environment and mitigating for those roadways where impacts are unavoidable.

-- Denver Stutler, secretary, Florida Department of Transportation, Tallahassee

We can't afford to lose wetlands

Re: Vanishing wetlands, Nov. 6.

Thank you for your feature story on the so-called mitigation of wetlands, including facts, figures and (no pun intended) concrete examples. Experience has proven time and again that it is, in practice, an unabrogated dead-end failure.

Over the past 20 years I have seen many sets of plans that propose to balance the destruction of a given area of wetlands by converting twice the area in a remote region to new wetlands. Apparently a lot of people don't realize that a wetland is not an isolated, insulated bit of land. It is part of a network, a system. Vowing to offset the annihilation of a wetland area by artificially recreating twice that area elsewhere is akin to cutting off a man's arm, sewing two onto the middle of his back, and claiming that you've done him no harm. And that is not even taking into account the universal failure of these faux wetlands.

Wetlands are a vital, requisite part of Florida. They should be inviolate. Our actions may not breed retribution next year, or within our lifetime. But our cavalier, piecemeal destruction of Florida's wetlands will eventually turn around and bite us - perhaps in the tail, perhaps in the jugular.

We must preserve the wetlands that are left - every square inch. We know that mitigation is a failure. Continuing to practice it has made it a fraud as well. Perhaps if we stop this recklessness, this imbecility, now, maybe nature's backlash will not strike us so fiercely when it undertakes to right itself.

-- Kevin B. Sobat, certified general contractor, Hudson

Try better public transportation

Destroying more wetlands to build more and more roads is insane! More and better public transportation is what we need. How about trolleys? I know we can't have subway trains but in addition to buses, why couldn't we have elevated trains? For the sake of our future, we need to protect our wetlands.

-- Beth Stiles, St. Petersburg

Photos captured the feelings

Re: Indelible images: Stories of Katrina, Nov. 6.

What timing! Last Sunday morning as I was putting the final touches on two presentations I would be making at the Florida Counseling Association State Convention in Orlando during the week, I unfolded the newspaper and tears immediately filled my eyes. Why? Because I deployed to Mississippi after Katrina, as both a certified field traumatologist and compassion fatigue specialist (topics of my presentations). Immediately I logged on to the poignant presentations of the photojournalists, reliving the thoughts after such a deployment.

The intense feelings expressed by the photojournalist, parallel those who work or volunteer in traumatic situations. The Times has provided a public service to inform its readers of the profound emotional stages experienced by critical incident workers. Thank you for photographing what I experienced, people in need, and the images I lived with while deployed.

-- Barbara Alexander, Wesley Chapel

Government's proper role

Re: School Board sent wrong message, editorial, Nov. 10.

The Hillsborough County School Board did the right thing in reversing itself, but for the wrong reasons. The board's original decision and then reversal clearly illustrate that we have lost sight of the role of our government entities. These bodies exist to serve the people without either violating their liberties or coercing them into unwanted activities, such as a specific religion. In serving people, the government is also supposed to be as efficient and effective as possible.

Addressing these goals means that our government has a mandate to serve the interest of the majority, which is efficient, without forcing specific beliefs on the minority. Schools being closed on religious holidays that affect the majority of the population is certainly not coercive. It is merely recognizing that most of the constituency - the students and teachers - would be absent that day. As noted, there is a perfectly reasonable process for those of other religions to be absent from school for religious reasons without it counting against them. This structure - holidays when it affect the majority and a process to allow for the minority - works. Your editorial is a prime example of pandering to political correctness, which is become the leading source of governmental ineptitude, overspending and general largesse. We have left common sense behind.

-- Rodney Johnson, Tampa

Veterans deserved more

Re: Veteran's Day.

I was shocked and dismayed that the front page of the St. Petersburg Times didn't have a huge display honoring Veterans Day. You should be ashamed of yourselves for ignoring the importance of this day in history.

-- Herbert B. Davis, Largo

Apathy abounds

Re: Mayor's lopsided victory, Nov. 11.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker's victory is not so great when you consider only 20 percent of the people voted.

Voter apathy abounds in St. Petersburg.

-- Sylvia Walbridge, St. Petersburg

[Last modified November 12, 2005, 00:16:03]

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