Letters: Who cares about sea turtles?
Who cares? I think you do!
I would like to see you get involved with protecting our sea turtles. I have observed that often when a prayer is being offered in thanks for our providence, we are called upon to act as stewards of the environment. Anyone living on St George and its adjacent barrier islands knows all too well the fragile nature of the landscape we call home. It is essential that someone living on a barrier island be cognizant of environmental stewardship.
Yet year after year, there are those of us whose failure to act as a steward results in the destruction of our endangered sea turtles. Despite laws which were enacted over 20 years ago, mandating that certified safe turtle lights are requisite for lights visible from the beach, lighting violations persist and are prevalent. I have encountered a lot of specious arguments for why property owners have not complied with these laws.
1) The Laws Are Not Enforced. As of 2020 the Turtle Light Ordinance is being enforced. Violations are misdemeanors.
2) The Laws Don’t Apply to Rentals Since They Must Comply With Florida Statutes for Hotels and Restaurants Lighting Standards for Human Safety. Rentals are not hotels. They would be shut down if they were, due to violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, failure to have fire suppression systems, failure to have emergency lighting and exit lights, failure to have food safety/hygiene inspections. Lighting for human safety is measured by the candle light standard. That standard is met by turtle lights.
3) The Tourists Are To Blame. It is the responsibility of property owners and rental agencies that profit from the tourists. Making scapegoats of the tourists does not alleviate owner obligation to comply with the turtle light ordinance.
4) Turtle Lights Are Too Expensive. Granted, the initial purchase cost for a turtle LED is more than the cost of an incandescent bulb. (Show me the beach property owner that can't afford that cost) The money wasted on light pollution and totally unnecessary illumination in the U.S. is estimated at $2 billion annually. The decrease in electric bills for homes and businesses utilizing LEDs is a proven outcome. Besides actually saving money, the turtle light has a more aesthetically pleasing effect that enhances the attraction of our island to tourists. Thus providing a return on investment for the business establishments. Turtle lights help to promote the survival chances for our endangered marine turtles.
Making St. George Island a Sea Turtle Safe Community could serve to attract more tourists to an ecotourism vacation destination. All of Franklin County would benefit from a promotion of tourism dollar influx into the local economy. I think we should all be stewards of the environment. It benefits us and the turtles.
St. George Island