We live in an area that is largely rural-suburban. There are houses out here, but most of the lots are still uncleared and "wild." We have wild boar, raptors and songbirds, nocturnals like opossum and armadillos and raccoons, occasional bobcats, indigo and black snakes, huge land tortoises, and whitetail deer, not to mention shy gators and any number of other animals. There are innumerable insects, every sort of pollinator. Bright green tree frogs with moonstone eyes and the diminuitive anole lizards making throat-expanding displays for their sweethearts. Coveys of quail bob-whiting from the safety of the Brazilian pepper bushes, ground doves with strawberry-colored feet, whirring like flying fans to the low branches of the slash pines, red shouldered hawks sitting sentry on snags or stop signs or fence posts, looking for a fat field mouse. Slender white egrets in a slow-motion patrol along roadside swales, looking for frogs. Great blue herons standing in deeper water, and the anhingas sunning outspread wingspans of glossy ebony. Congenial flocks of ibises dabbling for creeping things. Homely wood storks flying like living pterodactyls overhead, collections of northern flocks of ducks and geese and migratory birds overwintering here. Darting dragonflies, gulls by the ocean and the step-dancing shore birds scuttling for sand treasures. Turtles on logs, choruses of frogs. The call of the whippoorwill. Rank swamp muck, easy tradewinds, the rustle of every kind of vegetation whispering secrets.
Aside from the occasional unfortunate roadkill, we all coexist pretty nicely. We love the subtropical plants and palmetto scrub and mixed cabbage palm and hardwood hammock, the piney woodlands. We've endured drought and monsoon. Florida wears her changing seasons with an ancient grace.
We're underdeveloped here in our part of the county. It's quiet even with a lot of commuters coming and going on the interstate not far away. We prefer it that way, and with the downturn, there's really been no new development going on.
It was an oddity when we recently began hearing earth-clearing machinery in the area, hard at work. We figured it was either some heavy dredging of the overgrown swales to allow better waterflow, or a random lot being cleared for whatever reason...but it's not typical.
Then we began hearing it really close. And frequently, sometimes farther away, sometimes closer...really heavy equipment. But as our schedules are kind of strange and because we pretty much mind our own business, we didn't drive around checking things out until the day we came home from work and the next day saw that the vacant lot next to our driveway had been cleared of ALL vegetation and shrubs except the largest trees. Gone, flattened, and now we can see straight through it to the house on the other side.
I drove down the road, and on the other side of that house, the same thing on the next door vacant lot. Weird. I thought maybe with this downturn, those neighbors had purchased the adjoining lots at a reduced price and had wanted to open up the thick woods on either side. But it still seemed strange.
Then we began to notice that all throughout the area, there would be strips of raw dirt with the heavy equipment parked there smack in the middle or the side of vacant wooded land....almost tunnels, as it were, right into the thick hammock growth, everything leveled. On land where the landowners are not present, and many of them live out-of-state or in other countries. This alarmed me. These lots all around this area are generally owned by folks planning for the longterm, and most of them value the natural setting and would not indiscriminately from a distance order someone to go in and clear without having pulled building permits and preparing to build a structure. I drove the area and noticed that whatever crazy equipment owner was doing this had done it A LOT, and I was alarmed.
I called my neighbor who usually stays abreast of what's going on here and who is in charge if Neighborhood Watch, and here is what's going on:
The federal government decided that stimulus money would go to some worthy cause to create more jobs, so they authorized land-clearing companies to bid on clearing strips of forested land to "reduce fire hazards." Supposedly they are "protecting" us from fire.
But here's the punch line -- they never notified the owners of the land or sent out flyers to the residents telling them they were doing this, and they BEGAN CLEARING PRIVATELY OWNED LAND without any further ado...no permission needed, no notification, and we can't refuse to let them on our land (supposedly). Oh, and of course, there is nothing posted stating who to contact if you object.
SO...let's get this straight....I own land and some jacksquat clearing company comes on it and begins clearcutting anything that's not a larger mature tree.
Well, our areas already have controlled burns regularly to reduce the chance of fire. Most fires here are started by lightning during dry years, and this year has been a really REALLY wet one. In order to truly protect a structure from fire a very LARGE swath would have to be cut along its perimeter.
I wish I could post pictures here...these swaths are not swaths...they are simply tunnels within undergrowth, or random strips smashed flat. They border properties with houses, and now what was a protection for the actual security of these houses has open "tunnels" all the way to the backs of the adjoining vacant properties...perfect for any stranger who wants to be undetected just to go right up into, even with a vehicle now, and scope out private properties and homes. All this in a time when crime has gone UP and we're having trouble with breakins around here.
If it created enough of a space where fire couldn't jump, fine...IF you've notified the landowners and told them you're tearing up their land first. But NO, this is the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, and they just DO first and challenge you to challenge them. To "create" jobs. Whose "employees" leave their "on the job" six packs and other trash ground into the dirt they had fun grinding everything into.
I counted at LEAST a dozen of these bulldozed-into properties on just my street and the one behind us alone, and they've been authorized to do this to a big section of our county out here. Of PRIVATE LAND. Without the owners' knowledge.
Wow, what a stimulus. I guess they've already employed enough extra workers to secure our national borders to keep all those illegal aliens from coming across to take their kids to eat ice cream in Arizona.
Our tax dollars hard at work...
And btw, my husband is Hispanic/Latino, and he strongly believes immigrants to this country should have to do what he did...become citizens LEGALLY. If you want more immigrants, raise the quotas, but enforce the borders so that terrorists and drug cartels and human slavery can't come across by the millions each year. Enforce the existing laws and stop criminalizing legal citizens for expecting to be protected rather than exploited.
Oh, and those "people who were here long before..."? I have native american heritage in my own blood. As the law stands, babies born here in the US are US citizens. Drop the guilt trip and start enforcing the protection of private property...yeah, even in Arizona. Our household has no apologies to the Calderons out there whose own treatment of their countries' citizens is a sad joke.
I'm voting in November for smaller government, and the right to tell strangers to get off my property.
And their bulldozers.