In Florida, we may have oranges on our license plates, but it’s the waters around us that shape how we live.
From our world-famous beaches to the local seafood on our plates, Florida’s ocean is the foundation of our economy and a major part of our identity. That’s why every Floridian should be aware of how the Trump Administration is planning to abandon our coasts and the agencies that take care of them, like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The Trump Administration has contemplated selling off nearly all of Florida’s offshore waters to oil and gas development even though this could destroy our beaches and our tourism industry.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said that he would “exempt” Florida from this draft drilling plan because Floridians have expressed strong opposition, but it is still unclear whether our state’s waters will be up for sale in the final plan. Even if Florida receives an exemption, we learned from the Deepwater Horizon disaster that oil from other states’ waters travels to ours. We cannot afford to give control of our coasts to the oil and gas industry again.
Oil is not the only pollution Florida will have to worry about: the Trump Administration has proposed to eliminate $1 billion at NOAA and nearly $2 billion at EPA – including funding that keeps our beaches and ocean clean.
This includes cuts to:
— NOAA’s Coastal Zone Management Program that provides money to Florida for coastal resilience and beach access
— Marine Mammal Rescue grants that ensure the health of whales and dolphins
— the $9.4 million EPA program that helps coastal states like Florida monitor beach water quality and notify the public of dangerous conditions
— the South Florida Geographic Initiative that tracks pollution from farms, ranches and development all the way from the Florida Keys to the Indian River Lagoon.
The Trump Administration also has our fisheries and wildlife in its crosshairs. In its first year it has made huge policy changes that jeopardize Florida fisheries such as red snapper and grouper, and that threaten to remove crucial protections for endangered species such as sea turtles, sawfish, manatees and corals.
By undermining science-based fisheries management that has successfully rebuilt fish stocks and continues to keep them healthy, the Trump Administration is directly targeting the economy and culture of Florida.
Last year Floridians sent a strong message to Congress opposing Trump’s proposed funding cuts to NOAA and EPA programs. In response, Congress rejected many of those cuts and guaranteed that those programs will continue in Florida this year.
This year, Congress is again following suit and rejecting the majority of Trump’s proposed cuts. Two weeks ago, the House of Representatives proposed an increase of nearly $500 million for NOAA above the Administration’s proposal. Programs such as Integrated Ocean Acidification, Fisheries Data Collections, Surveys and Assessments and Sanctuaries and Marine Protected Areas saw proposed increases in the House.
However, the House, like the President, accepted a $60 million cut to Climate Research and eliminated the Ocean and Coastal Security Fund. Both of the proposed cuts hamper coastal regions’ ability to address a changing climate and protect their communities.
Now it is the Senate’s turn. This month, the Senate Appropriations Committee will have its opportunity to accept the good and reject the bad from the President’s and House bill. Florida deserves Washington’s full support for our beaches so that we and the next generation of Floridians can continue to prosper in this place that we love.
J.P. Brooker is Ocean Conservancy’s Policy Counsel, working on marine conservation issues in the Southeastern US. He is a sixth-generation Floridian and resides in St. Petersburg.
“The Invading Sea” is a collaboration of four South Florida media organizations — the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Miami Herald, Palm Beach Post and WLRN Public Media.