|DATE:||February 12, 2016|
|TO:||USF & NRA Members and Friends|
|FROM:||Marion P. Hammer|
|USF Executive Director|
|NRA Past President|
How would you feel if a bullying state agency decided to take your property and destroy you?
The South West Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD -- commonly called Swiftmud) is an out-of-control rogue state agency engaged in a malicious and contrived 40-year effort to shut down the Skyway Trap and Skeet Range in St. Petersburg.
It is important to know that this issue is not about lead or water pollution. The site has been cleaned up and the lead has been removed. Further, NO LEAD shot is used on the range -- Skyway Trap & Skeet Club prohibits the use of lead shot pellets on their range. Only steel shot is used and it is not a considered a pollutant or contaminant.
For 71 years Skyway Trap and Skeet Club has owned this property and has operated this non-profit private range and business on that property. This range was there years before SWFWMD (Swiftmud) was even created.
In 1975, SWFWMD sued Skyway and under eminent domain "took" the section Skyway's land that was the drop zone for shot pellets. Even though the Court allowed SWFWMD to take Skyway's property, the Court obviously recognized what Swiftmud intended to do so the Court granted Skyway a "perpetual right and easement to utilize the property as a drop zone or fallout zone for expanded shotgun ammunition."
In 2000, SWFWMD again sued Skyway, this time to permanently prevent any shooting on the Range and to eliminate Skyway's easement rights, claiming Skyway had polluted SWFWMD's property with lead shot pellets.
It is important to know that gun clubs routinely clean up the lead. Reclaimed lead is sold for a considerable amount of money. The perpetual easement given to Skyway by the Court allows Skyway to continue to use the property (taken by SWFWMD) as a drop zone to deposit shot pellets on the property.
Skyway wanted to clean up the lead shot pellets. However, SWFWMD refused to allow Skyway to have access to the property to clean it up and threatened to charge them with trespass if they entered the property.
SWFWMD subsequently cleaned up the lead shot and sold it, keeping the money for themselves.
In 2004, after a 4 year legal battle, Governor Jeb Bush took action to stop SWFWMD's malicious conduct. The lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice and SWFWMD was required to sign an agreement to construct a berm to keep shot from falling on the property SWFWMD had "taken" through eminent domain. The agreement also required Skyway to construct a shot barrier (curtain) “in conjunction with” the berm – but the agreement did not specify any design or location for it and SWFWMD never prescribed any design for it.
In 2015, in violation of state law, SWFWMD then filed another lawsuit against Skyway seeking to force Skyway to construct a shot barrier. SWFWMD’s lawsuit also seeks to permanently and completely prevent Skyway's users from any shooting whatsoever alleging that Skyway is refusing to build the shot barrier.
In truth, SWFWMD has failed to construct the earthen berm properly. The berm is too short and is already starting to degrade with sinkholes and tunneling from rain water absorption and runoff. Currently it is overgrown with thistle and brush and is inaccessible by vehicle or by foot. It is unsafe as evidenced by the erosion of the materials used to construct it and the extreme steepness of the design.
Skyway would be foolish to erect a shot barrier on an incompetent, unmaintainable, eroding, unsafe, insufficient "berm" that is steadily degrading day by day. The problem has been created entirely by SWFWMD.
SWFWMD now owns the land on which the berm sits and SWFWMD owns the berm itself. The lawsuit seeking to compel Skyway to now build a shot barrier on top of this unsafe berm is outrageous and malicious. One SWFWMD worker has already been killed on the berm and Skyway cannot be expected to commission work under unsafe conditions much less be subjected to liability for knowingly putting lives in danger.
The berm is totally incompetent for any purpose – but even if it were stable, a "shot barrier" would not do the job of keeping shot contained, thus giving SWFWMD an excuse to harass Skyway further.
It is time to ABOLISH SWFWMD. This agency is attempting to create it's own little microcosm by taking property from it's neighbors and bullying those who stand in it's way.
Please IMMEDIATELY send an email to Governor Rick Scott and tell him, Abolish SWFWMD now, or stop them from ever again harming the Skyway Trap & Skeet Club.
In the subject line put: PLEASE ABOLISH SWFWMD
(Block and Copy his email addresses into the "Send To" box)
PLEASE DO IT TODAY. Tell Governor what you think about this conduct