Discourses of Environmental Conflict: Florida Black Bears, Latinxs Saw Palmetto Berry Harvesters, and Policy Makers

Authors: Christine Mitchell*, Radford University
Topics: Environmental Perception, Cultural and Political Ecology, Rural Geography
Keywords: Latinxs, NTFPs, Policy, Content Analysis, Florida, Saw Palmetto
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Cleveland 1, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In 2015 Florida ceased selling permits to harvest saw palmetto berries, resulting in the removal of many legitimate spaces available for harvest. Justification included environmentalists and Florida Black Bear managers’ concerns that increased human and black bear conflicts were the result of the overharvesting of berries which resulted in bears entering suburbs to forage for alternative food sources. The same year the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FFWCC) voted to allow the first bear hunt in twenty years. Environmentalists opposed to the bear hunt were vocal proponents at FFWCC meetings to ban the saw palmetto harvest from state lands. In 2018 the Florida Endangered Plant Advisory Council (FEPAC) voted to list saw palmetto as a commercially exploited plant, resulting in harvesters needing state permits and written permission from land owners, announced one month before the start of the berry season.. This paper argues that policy decisions between 2015 and 2018 were influenced by multiple discourses that asserted increased human and black bear conflicts were the result of overharvesting of berries rather than the increase of homes within green spaces already occupied by bears. Content analysis of newspaper coverage of berry harvesters reveals that negative views of Latinxs berry harvesters have been generated by public and private land representatives, policy makers, and citizen environmentalists.

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