Escambia County impact
Santa Rosa County impact
H.R. 2370 removes the reversionary interest from certain land on Santa Rosa Island, a 40-mile barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida. Settled by Spanish explorer Tristan De Luna in 1559, it's the site of the earliest European settlement in North America and an eventual home to Fort Pickens, an important U.S. military base throughout much of early American history.
In 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt recognized the historical significance of the island and used the Antiquities Act to proclaim the Santa Rosa Island National Monument. The monument was abolished by Congress in 1946 and the Department of Interior conveyed a portion of the island to Escambia County. The conveyance included a reversionary clause, which states that the land is to be used for public purposes and prohibits further conveyance of the land, except to the State of Florida or back to the federal government. The island, excluding Navarre Beach and Pensacola Beach, is now managed as part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, which Congress established in 1971. The national seashore receives over five million annual visitors and is an important engine for the local tourism economy.
In 1956, Escambia County granted a 100-year lease of Navarre Beach to neighboring Santa Rosa County. The counties have since re-zoned to place Navarre Beach within Santa Rosa County, but it is still owned by Escambia County because of the use restrictions put in place by Congress. H.R. 2370 would convey, without restriction, land associated with the former Santa Rosa Island National Monument to the County of Escambia to be used at their discretion, removing the reversionary interest so that Escambia County can then transfer the deed to Santa Rosa County.
Santa Rosa County is considering plans to enhance a marina at Navarre Beach. The proposed enhancements include dredging a channel through Santa Rosa Island, which could cut off public access to local beaches and have sizable impacts on the estuaries and wetlands that support wildlife habitat at Gulf Island National Seashore. Not only would this destroy estuaries, wetlands and negatively impact fisheries and water quality, but it would, at the American taxpayer's expense, further destabilize an already unstable strip of sand, putting lives, private property, and public infrastructure at risk.
Barrier islands form to protect coastal areas. They are critical to healthy environments. Intact islands are important protection from rising waters, tides, and storm damage, so artificially breaching a barrier island is rarely good ecological practice.
The National Park Service, in a statement for the record on a similar bill in the 113th Congress, recommended several amendments to the bill that would authorize the conveyance in a manner consistent with Congressional intent. Those changes have not been made.
We understand that a lot of development has happened on Santa Rosa Island in the sixty years since the land was first conveyed to Escambia County, but Congressional intent remains the same: federal land conveyed to Escambia must be used for a public purpose. H.R. 2370 undermines that intent.
We would support legislation to assist Escambia County and Santa Rosa County with zoning and ownership, but this is not that. We are opposed to any bill that does not include safeguards to ensure ongoing public access and prevent the channelization of Santa Rosa Island.
Escambia Commissioner Grover Robinson and congressional ally U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller are pushing a private beach ownership bill that passed the House of Representatives by two votes and likely endangers the Interior Department’s 1946 Santa Rosa Island reverter clause.
And unfortunately the National Park Service, says National Seashore Superintendent Dan Brown, has been rebuffed in amending legislation to fully protect undeveloped county conservation and recreational lands.
Robinson and Miller apparently disagree, says Brown, who helped write Interior Department’s Oct. 1, 2013, statement for the needed protection. House Resolution 2954 supersedes the July 30, 1946 act, specifying that Santa Rosa Island Monument lands transferred to Escambia ownership restricted usage to “purposes deemed in the public interest and may not be conveyed by the county except to the federal government or State of Florida.”
Read the rest here: http://www.pnj.com/story/opinion/2014/03/02/protect-some-beach-parcels/5904881/
To ensure protection of the undeveloped portions of Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach, we recommend amending the bill to accomplish the following:
Read the full statement here: https://www.doi.gov/ocl/hearings/113/hr2954_100313
The legislation to give fee simple title to businesses and individuals on Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach is likely unconstitutional for many reasons.
The federal government can’t interfere with a contract right by unilaterally canceling that contract and offering the lame excuse “you will like what we give you better” to say nothing of the representations to the public that these leases by their very nature could never be taxed. Individuals relying on those representations entered into lease agreements with the county.
Sen. Bill Nelson is one of those swamp-tough, born-and-raised Floridians. He has helped fight off everything from predatory oil drilling in the Gulf to invasive Burmese pythons in the Everglades.
And right now, he might be Escambia County citizens’ last hope for protecting our barrier islands from potentially more sinister sorts of invasive species. Politicians. Developers. South Florida real estate brokers. Oh my!
Not to mention a horde of lawyers larger than the number of hermit crabs and drunk moms gyrating at Paradise, combined.
While we fight over whether Pensacola Beach can be "owned," a national travel magazine has listed Pensacola Beach/Gulf Islands National Seashore as the most beautiful place in Florida.
It's more of a photo essay than a story, with a photo of a lifeguard stand and white sand and that emerald Gulf water. There was no photo of condominiums or beach homes in the image of what makes us most beautiful. Because nothing we did made the beach beautiful. The beauty was there long before us. In fact, there was more beauty a century ago before we decided to cover up the beauty with buildings, homes, restaurants and places to buy "Pensacola Beach" refrigerator magnets.
Eglin Air Force Base said Thursday that it opposes a plan backed by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz to reopen a long-closed channel and allow Navarre boaters to pass from Santa Rosa Sound into the Gulf of Mexico.
The base said increased boat traffic would interfere with military training that takes place on a 20-mile stretch of Eglin-owned beachfront directly east of the proposed Navarre Pass.
Advocates have tried and failed for many years to reopen the pass, which was dredged and opened for less than three months in 1965 before Hurricane Betsy blocked it with sand and debris. To reach the Gulf, Navarre boaters have to go 25 miles to either Pensacola or Destin.
"Our mission impact analysis confirms that a pass would be incompatible with current and future DOD (Department of Defense) mission sets on Santa Rosa Island. A significant increase in boat traffic around the pass would substantially restrict our test and training activities currently conducted at our sites on Santa Rosa Island," Mike Spaits, spokesman for the base, said in an emailed statement.
Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, has scheduled a private meeting with Navarre leaders on April 17 about reopening the pass.
Northwest Florida’s congressional delegation has succeeded in adding $30 million for enhancements to the military training range in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico to the House of Representatives’ defense authorization bill.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, who represents Florida’s First Congressional District, and Rep. Neal Dunn of District 2 joined fellow Florida congressmen Tom Rooney and Francis Rooney in co-sponsoring the amendment to the House’s Make America Secure Appropriations Act (H.R. 3219), which combines four appropriations bills: the Department of Defense, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, Energy-Water and the Legislative Branch.
The $30 million amendment is part of a total $658 billion allocated for defense.The bill passed the House on Thursday and now is headed to the Senate for approval.
Matt Gaetz in the House, as well as both Rubio and Nelson in the Senate, have proposed legislation that nullifies the 1946 Congressional land conveyance that gifted the citizens of Escambia County.
In 1946 Congress abolished the Santa Rosa National Monument. The bill, H. R. 4486, reads: “Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Santa Rosa Island National Monument, Florida, is hereby abolished, and the Secretary of the Interior is authorized and directed to donate and convey to Escambia County, State of Florida, all the right, title, and interest of the United States in and to that portion of Santa Rosa Island, Florida, which is under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior, to be retained by the said Escambia County and to be used by it for such purposes as it shall deem to be in the public interest or to be leased by it from time to time in whole or in part or parts to such persons and for such purposes as it shall deem to be in the public interest and upon such terms and conditions as it shall fix and always to be subject to regulation by said county whether leased or not leased but never to be otherwise disposed of or conveyed by it : Provided, That nothing herein shall prevent the said county from conveying said property back to the Federal Government or to the State of Florida or any agency thereof.”
The House version of the bill, H. 2370, sponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz, passed on July 26th. Inexplicably, Sen. Nelson has co-sponsored the Senate bill with Sen. Rubio after opposing at least three previous versions. If this passes, Santa Rosa Island homes that are currently sitting on LEASED land owned by the citizens of Escambia County will be able to own that land and dispose of it at will, in whatever manner that individual sees fit.
Once that happens, developers will be able to move in, offering owners huge sums of money to buy up that land in large blocks, commercializing and privatizing what is currently natural and enjoyed by the public with very few access restrictions.
Any change to the original intent of the law would open the door for additional changes. Precedent of enormous concern is being set that all conveyances of Public land would become reversible. It follows that protections of undeveloped land would also be under fire.
The original deed was explicit - No Conveyances and limited to the "public interest." Perhaps the strongest argument is "there is no right way to do a wrong thing." Public servants should serve the public and protect precious assets that belong to the public.
Any action to undo the 1947 deed is an effort to take property from the citizens of Escambia County, the rightful owners. People built on a promise of a 99-year lease. They knew the risk and have enjoyed the rewards. But they are entitled to no ownership!
Sen. Nelson, in a Pensacola News Journal article on July 17, 2017 said “he also decided to support the latest effort to overturn restrictions in the 1946 agreement deeding a large swath of Santa Rosa Island to Escambia County because it is not tied to any plan for a Navarre Pass. Previous bills for private ownership of the local beach land have included provisions involving the cutting of a pass through a narrow section of Navarre Beach to allow boat traffic to flow from Santa Rosa Sound to the Gulf of Mexico.”
"I wanted it guaranteed that they were not going to whack a new cut in the barrier island," Nelson said.
One problem is that, while Escambia County has demanded protections for undeveloped property, Santa Rosa County has not. This means that Navarre beach is in more immediate danger of overdevelopment.
Fun fact: The largest industry contributions to Rep. Gaetz in his 2016 Congressional race are from real estate, $62,000. That seems mighty cheap for enabling the sale and development prime Gulf-front property.
The take-away here is that, with the demise of leases on Santa Rosa Island, the biggest winners are Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties, and real estate developers. The losers are the residents of Santa Rosa Island and the island itself.
The House has already begun moving the legislation forward. It passed the bill through the House Committee on Natural Resources on June 27, 2017, and it passed the House on July 26, 2017.
A hearing in the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday July 19, 2017 was supposed to include S. 1073, but that bill was not mentioned during the hearing.
This is not a partisan issue.
This is a public vs. private, citizen vs. developer, greed vs. public good issue.
If this could happen to Santa Rosa Island, part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore which was created under the Antiquities Act, it could happen anywhere. Think about the areas nationwide that you treasure as your favorite bits of publicly-owned and publicly accessible nature. Then think about Congress passing an Act that privatizes that spot and allows developers to move in and build with little or no restraint.
How would miles of high-rise condos look on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon?
Get started on actions that will make a difference. Find contact information for your representative.
There’s a multi-billion dollar land grab moving through Congress.
The Senate is working on S. 1073, the Escambia County Land Conveyance Act. The purpose of the bill is “To authorize Escambia County, Florida, to convey certain property that was formerly part of Santa Rosa Island National Monument and that was conveyed to Escambia County subject to restrictions on use and reconveyance.”
Republican Representative Matt Gaetz has passed legislation in the U.S. House to sell off Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach to private developers. The land is currently protected by a 1946 Congressional Land Conveyance that guarantees all leases on the beach belong to and must benefit the public. Gaetz' bill would take away these public land rights. Senator Marco Rubio has introduced the bill in the Senate, where it is currently in the Energy & Natural Resources Committee.
The Senate is working on S. 1073, “To authorize Escambia County, Florida, to convey certain property that was formerly part of Santa Rosa Island National Monument and that was conveyed to Escambia County subject to restrictions on use and reconveyance.”
The House version of the bill, H. 2370, was sponsored by Rep. Matt Gatz, FL01 and passed on July 26th. Inexplicably, Sen. Nelson has co-sponsored Sen. Rubio's bill after opposing at least three previous versions. If this passes, Santa Rosa Island homes that are currently sitting on LEASED land owned by the citizens of Escambia County will be able to purchase that land and dispose of it at will, in whatever manner that individual sees fit.
The Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017, HR 1215, would dramatically undermine patient protections against malpractice and medical error. Because the bill would preempt any less-stringent state laws on malpractice, it would significantly alter malpractice law in at least 47 states. The bill would limit non-economic damages for malpractice to $250,000 and shorten the statute of limitations for malpractice suits. The bill would also ban patients from filing class action lawsuits against doctors that prescribe FDA-approved drugs or medical devices that cause them harm. This provision is particularly troubling given that a 2014 study found newly FDA-approved drugs have a 1 in 5 chance of causing adverse reactions in some patients.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has now confirmed what the vast majority of Americans already knew: The Senate's Affordable Care Act repeal bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), is a cruel, ill-crafted disaster. The CBO's analysis predicts that BCRA will leave 22 million additional people uninsured by 2026.
Encourage your member of Congress to support net neutrality and fight the FCC's move to give internet service providers more power over your online experience.
Urge your members of Congress to publicly demand an independent investigation of Russian interference in our election and the Trump campaign’s ties to Moscow. At a House Intelligence Committee hearing, FBI Director James Comey confirmed that the FBI has an on-going investigation into the Trump campaign’s coordination with Russian officials, which it started last July.
Urge members of Congress to demand President Trump’s tax returns, whether by subpoena, resolution, legislation or otherwise. Democrats and a growing number of Republicans in the House and Senate have supported a variety of different initiatives to obtain Trump’s tax returns which Trump, unlike any president in 50 years, has refused to release.