By Noah Greenwald
Florida developers must be licking their chops: The federal government recently handed over the keys to some of the most important decisions about endangered species over to the state government.
The Sunshine State has a long and notorious history of bending over backwards to accommodate developers at the expense of, well, pretty much everything else.
It's why, years ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was forced to step in to protect panthers, manatees, sea turtles and hundreds of other Florida species from being swallowed by strip malls, sprawling housing developments, golf courses and opulent beachfront hotels.
But now the Fish and Wildlife Service says it's willing to give up its watchdog role in protecting Florida's endangered species in order to "streamline" the permitting process for development projects that may hurt rare plants and animals. That means that Florida's wildlife agency, not the feds, will be in charge of issuing permits to allow "take" of federally recognized endangered species.
In reality, the result will be fast-tracking more development and eliminating the federal government's independent check on the state's zeal to log, bulldoze, drain and develop more and more of Florida's few remaining wild places.
Nothing like this has been attempted before - and for good reason.
The Endangered Species Act was established 40 years ago to keep ourselves in check, to make sure that, as we expand our massive footprint on the landscape, we don't leave extinct animals and plants in our wake. More....