The Council: Conservation consternation

It’s difficult (but not impossible) to give the protection of the environment a bad name, but the National Conservation Council is making some headway.

In a letter to the Compass Editorial Board (published here, verbatim), the Council takes umbrage with an editorial this newspaper published on Nov. 24, 2015, which took strong exception to the Council’s intervening inappropriately in the downtown port debate.

We unequivocally stand by the tone, tenor and content of that editorial.

But first things first. The Council’s letter purports to “correct factual errors contained in the editorial …”

Now here’s a fact: There were no factual errors of any substantial or consequential nature. Let’s have a look:

“Two years later, the Council has been rather short on actual results …”

The Council protests that, while it is true that the National Conservation Law was passed two years ago, the Council was only appointed by Cabinet one year and three months ago — hardly a newborn even by bureaucratic standards.

“… (outside of its allocation of $200,000 for, of all things, green iguana eradication efforts).”

The Council declares, “The green iguana is a grave threat” to local biodiversity. Pardon us if we remain unconvinced that a coordinated killing campaign targeting green iguanas is the wisest use of resources to protect Cayman’s native species. Off the top of our heads, we can think of three entities that pose far more imminent threats than greenies do to our beloved blue and rock iguanas: dogs, cats and motorists. In other words, green iguanas aren’t exactly the equivalent of lionfish on land.

“Remember that the 13-member Council includes five civil servants, including Director of Environment Gina Ebanks-Petrie, setting up a conflict between the civil service and the elected government.”

We admit it: Here’s where we slipped up. As the Council is so good to remind us, the composition of the 13-member Council includes four, not five, civil servants, including Environmental Director Ebanks-Petrie, setting up a conflict between the civil service and the elected government.

“The Council has, however, found time to inject itself into government’s evaluation process for cruise berthing …”

Rather than attempting a “correction” of this statement, the Council instead makes a vague appeal to “adherence to performance standards and good governance” and cites “the public interest.”

As anyone who has been paying attention is well aware already, the Council appears to be working against the stated goal of the elected government, which is to pursue the cruise berthing project. Opposition to a public project is, of course, the prerogative of environmental crusaders, just as political activism is a protected right for any private citizen — however, it is absolutely inappropriate for civil servants on the public payroll to attempt to circumvent the policy decisions of government ministers. If a civil servant wants to set public policy, then he or she can present their ideas to voters, put themselves forward for elected office and prevail at the polling places, just like every one of our lawmakers.

“The Council’s action against the media is, of course, ludicrous …”

The Council again chooses to sidestep our accurate and valid observation, and proceeds to avow its commitment to holding public meetings and publishing public documents. The fact remains that the Council is restricting the ability of journalists to record the proceedings of meetings and is instructing members of the media to register before attending their meetings.

To quote ourselves, the Council’s action — and its recent letter — “has everything to do with ‘control’ over what journalists (not just the Compass) are able to report or photograph about the Council’s doings to the wider public at large.”

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  1. Cayman Compass telling it like it is. The NCC obviously has no leg to stand on here to defend itself, because they know they have been overstepping their boundaries. Especially the DOE Director – who sits on the EAB, NCC and DOE boards and has been obviously interfering with Government agendas instead of giving advice as someone in her position is supposed to do. She definitely should not have joined in the anti-port campaign and she should never have joined forces with the Save Cayman propaganda team to release a press release with a foreign media company. I wonder who paid for that? DOE? Save Cayman team? Tender Company? The DOE Director is getting into very muddy water.