During Thursday’s Manatee County Commission meeting, commissioners voted to align the County’s wetland buffer zone regulations with those of the state government. The 5-1 vote, with At-Large Commissioner George Kruse dissenting, and District 5 Commissioner Ray Turner absent from the meeting, removes excessive wetland regulations to instead be in line with the state of Florida’s requirements.
The backdrop of this decision included concerns about external influences on local environmental policies. George Soros, a name frequently linked with funding radical-left causes, was recently connected to environmental groups such as the Waterkeeper Alliance. A recent expose by real-conservatives.org highlighted ties between George Soros and the group’s funding and support of Suncoast Waterkeeper, a local 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that petitioned the Board of County Commissioners to not reduce buffer zones. Manatee County’s ultimate majority-vote to reduce wetland protections appeared to stand apart from such external influences, underlining the importance of independent, local decision-making free from external power players who may not share the same interests of our community.
At the meeting, County staff stated that roughly 66,000 parcels within Manatee County contain a portion of wetlands. This sparked a concern among commissioners about finding a balance between safeguarding the environment and upholding individual landowner rights. Commissioners who ultimately voted in support of eliminating the additional buffer regulations noted the cutting of overbearing government regulations and the significance of defending property rights as key factors in their decision-making.
During her closing remarks, District 2 Commissioner Amanda Ballard quoted the Republican Party’s stance on conservation:
“Private ownership has been the best guarantee of conscientious stewardship. Some of the most severe environmental issues have happened under government control.”
District 4 Commissioner Mike Rahn expressed his confidence in the state’s wetland protection standards. He also praised Manatee County’s dedication to environmental protection.
“I think the County does a very good job of protecting our wetlands. I think we are environmentally conscious as a county, and we want to protect what’s most important to us,” Rahn said.
This approved proposal will modify Manatee County’s Comprehensive Plan, and updates to the Land Development Code are anticipated next.