Digest>Archives> September 2006

Wickie's Wisdom

St. Marks Lighthouse Transfer All Wrong

By Timothy Harrison

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Florida’s St. Marks Lighthouse is being transferred to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service by a Congressional Transfer under the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2006.

It makes us wonder why Congress bothered to pass and enact into law the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000, which allows nonprofits and other government agencies to apply for ownership on equal footing.

It seems U.S. Fish & Wildlife is on a lighthouse acquisition program, thanks in part to the approval of Congressmen and other government bureaucrats who either have no clue what laws are currently on the books or simply chose to ignore them. It also gives increasing power to agencies such as U.S. Fish & Wildlife, a government agency that was not created to be managed as a lighthouse preservation agency. After all, what does their name

indicate they are supposed to do? Fish — and — Wildlife.

This is not the first time that U.S. Fish & Wildlife or other non-appropriate government agencies have seized lighthouses under some pretense of preservation.

If the government couldn’t give money to the Coast Guard to maintain lighthouses, where ownership should have remained, why would they give money to Fish & Wildlife for preservation projects, when Fish & Wildlife should be protecting and servicing what their name implies?

To prove our point, the transfer was stopped at the last minute. It turns out that the soil around the lighthouse has lead contamination and Fish and Wildlife won’t take ownership of the lighthouse until the Coast Guard does the clean up and pays for it. James Burnett,

manager of the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge said, “If the Fish and Wildlife Service takes it without having it cleaned up, it accepts a certain amount of responsibility, which it is unwilling to do.” Yikes, can you imagine that, they are unwilling to accept responsibility, and yet they want the lighthouse. What’s next? Will they ask the Coast Guard to fund the restoration also?

None of this really makes any sense, since no matter how you look at it all federal agencies that manage or own a lighthouse get federal funding while the hardworking and dedicated nonprofit lighthouse groups are left out in the cold to fend for themselves.

This story appeared in the September 2006 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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