“Florida’s Collier County is a place of conflict and contradiction. Its southeastern flank features sprawling public landscapes like Big Cypress National Preserve, that wild redoubt of rare orchids and alligator wallows. Its western edge is home to some of the state’s most valuable real estate, including Naples, a city of wealthy snowbirds who descend in droves down Interstate Highway 75 each winter. Elsewhere in the county, a booming population and frenzied development clash constantly with beleaguered remnants of the region’s flora and fauna — and especially with the endangered Florida panther, an iconic predator beset by existential threats. Collier County is the panther’s last best refuge. But it’s a panther killing ground, too, and it’s getting more deadly by the day.
Kevin Bell, staff counsel at Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, called the arrangement “corrosive” to public service. “It is pretty rare to see a property developer cheer on regulatory staff by name, but then it’s also pretty rare that the federal government puts employees performing environmental reviews up for auction,” Bell said. “It isn’t hard to guess how that review will come out when the McMansion lobby is literally paying their salary.””