Seagrass Protection Tangled Up in Offshore Drilling Bill

From St. Petersburg Times:

Last year, we wrote about the mapping of an under-appreciated natural treasure: a 380,000-acre sea grass bed — the second-largest in the nation — off the coast of Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties.

About 270,000 acres of this underwater savanna are classified as dense, according to the Southwest Florida Water Management District scientists who studied it. And all the good things sea grass does, dense sea grass does exceptionally well. Such as: holds the sea bottom in place like lawns hold the soil in our yards; absorbs carbon dioxide and releases dissolved oxygen; provides food and habitat for poster-worthy plant eaters such as manatees and green sea turtles, as well as for countless smaller creatures that are fodder for tarpon, grouper and other commercially valuable predators.

That's just a summary. When naturalists start listing the benefits of sea grass, you get the impression that, without it, we'd no longer have the gulf. We'd have a less-saline Dead Sea. And, on the coast, a dead economy.

It's hard to imagine that any responsible citizen could object to adding this expanse of sea grass to a long list of aquatic preserves in the state. But powerful state lawmakers could, and did. Watch how this played out last week and you understand why calling the legislative process "broken'' has become about as controversial as calling concrete "hard."

On Friday, Rep. Ron Schultz, R-Homosassa, was finally able to get a hearing for his bill creating the preserve before the Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Committee.

Drilling in Florida waters "doesn't make any economic sense,'' Schultz said. "It does, however make all kinds of sense if you want to make it impossible to continue the ban on drilling in federal waters in the eastern gulf.'' Continue reading the article at

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