Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Latest Endangered Species Scam to Hit the Florida Keys

Two weeks ago, around June 4, 2012, Monroe County flooded landowners' mailboxes with a document entitled "Parcels Located Within Federally Protected Species Focus Areas -- Proposed Adoption of Ordinance to Implement Permit Referral Process." At the root of this document is the fact that the County stuck its head in the sand in 1990 when the National Wildlife Federation, et al., sued the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USF&WS) and FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) in the United States District Court in Miami. On August 25, 1994, the District Court ruled in favor of the environmental groups, and ordered the federal agencies to clean up their acts, as it were.

After the 1994 decision, the USF&WS and FEMA dragged their heels for many years, until 2005, when the District Court slammed the agencies for said foot-dragging. The 2005 decision shut down FEMA's authority to issue federal flood insurance in the Florida Keys on those properties that were deemed important to the Keys' rabbits, mice, and -- most importantly -- Key deer. After waiting a few years, Monroe County tried to intervene in the appeal of the 2005 decision, and was rejected. One presumes that anyone who sat on their rights to intervene for 15 years, from 1990 to 2005, probably wasn't going to get a seat at the table in this litigation. And the County's request for leave to intervene was, not surprisingly, summarily dismissed.

There is a lot more to this story, but I have an appellate brief to finish in the next week. As I have told several people this week, the County doesn't have a seat at the table in this fracas. And, even though County notices have been going out to people who own affected properties in the Village of Islamorada and the City of Marathon, the County's proposed action will not affect the Islamorada and Marathon landowners. 

The County is facing a June 30, 2012 deadline to adopt the ordinance it proposes in its June 4 notice. I would suggest that owners of vacant property in the unincorporated County might want to attend the County Commission's June 20, 2012 hearing (at 3:00 PM). You may not get an opportunity to be heard, but you might get some information on what is being proposed.