Science Stories and More ——— From Elizabeth Deatrick
Note: I don’t endorse Jeb Bush or John Kasich as a candidate; these are merely observations on their policies to date.
John Kasich’s “snake tweet” made headlines recently as an eye-catching dig at his rival Jeb Bush. It seems that, as governor of Florida, Bush decided to make it harder for Floridians to own deadly snakes as pets by increasing the permit fee—and now Kasich is intent on using that as leverage in the presidential primaries. After all, if Bush can increase fees on owning a snake, Kasich seems to imply, what’s to say he won’t burden the citizens of America with all kinds of unexpected costs?
But Kasich’s tweet may be even more revealing than he intended: that decision to increase fees on snake owners is a glimpse into Bush’s record of startlingly extensive environmental decisions.
It’s difficult to prove where Kasich got his facts, even though he cited a local newspaper (The Miami New Times also had problems finding the article). But in 2003, Jeb Bush did sign off on a Florida Senate bill that would increase the annual fee on venomous reptile ownership permits from just $5 to over $100. Everything from the king cobra in your biker uncle’s basement to traveling reptile shows would be subject to the new rule. Keeping dangerous snakes under control in Florida is serious business: Escaped pet Burmese Pythons have become destructive predators in the Everglades. These monsters can grow up to over 17 ft long, eat almost anything that moves, and can even attack and kill the native alligators.
Luckily, the Florida Fish and Wildlife service is working to control the pythons—and, thanks to Bush’s efforts, they received additional funding to do so. Bush’s fee hike on snake owners was part of a much larger bill, which gave Florida Fish and Wildlife more power to police hunters and poachers. For instance, visitors to Florida would now have to pay $95 more to hunt turkeys, and saltwater fish were given protection. This increase in the FFWS’ capabilities is typical of Bush’s tenure as governor: Bush has consistently pushed for more protections for Florida’s sensitive environmental areas. Just a year after the FFWS funding bill, Bush proudly introduced a $1.5 billion project called Acceler8, designed to funnel money to projects that will restore Florida’s wetlands while regulating water supply to the rest of the state.
It’s ironic that Kasich is inadvertently calling Bush out on his environmental record—because the two are among the most moderate of all the GOP candidates in this election cycle. But where Kasich is ambivalent about protecting the planet, Bush has been downright passionate, with an environmental record that stands in sharp contrast to most of his opponents’. That record isn’t perfect: Bush has expressed doubt about the causes of climate change, and endorsed the Keystone XL pipeline. But on the more tangible issues—conservation, water management, and the like—Bush has been surprisingly progressive. He’s established a marine sanctuary, and blocked oil companies from drilling off the Florida coast.
Bush may not be saying that environmental protection is a matter of national security (he’s no Bernie Sanders). But at least on this issue, he might be the closest thing to an environmentalist that the Republicans have to offer.