MILTON — Santa Rosa commissioners have unanimously supported hunting with hounds in a case between the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and property owners in the Blackwater State Forest. Commissioners on Monday voted to send a letter to the FWC, letting it know the case affects the county.
The case, filed in 2014, alleged that the FWC’s decision to allow use of dogs meant it would have to pay plaintiffs for violating their right to the quiet enjoyment of their property, according to South Eastern Dog Hunters Association attorney Lane Stephens. Therefore, FWC might ban using dogs to hunt.
Stephens argued during the Sept. 25 Commission Committee meeting the judge’s decision in favor of the plaintiffs could lead to other suits against various agencies. He gave multiple examples of a municipal project some homeowners may not like.
“Let’s think about that baseball field you want to build, and it’s filled with thousands of people every Tuesday and Thursday night,” Stephens said. “Sometimes (games end) a little later than you [would] want, because games go on, and there are lights and there are people. Could the adjoining landowner who may not like that light sue the county for its management decision to allow that?”
“There are hunters from all over the county,” Commissioner Sam Parker said. “It’s a way of life for many people.”
Commissioner Don Salter supported the hunters from a personal and professional perspective.
“Back in 1972, I was the president of the Northwest Florida Pointer and Setter Club,” Salter said. “We held many field trials of bird dogs using the forest as it was intended. The forest was purchased with taxpayer dollars so people could enjoy their piece of life as well with recreation, horseback riding, hunting [and] fishing.
“The comment was made about quiet enjoyment of their property. It’s like buying a piece of property next to a helicopter field and then complaining about the helicopter noise.”
Following commissioners’ discussion, Dog Hunters Association President Brad Willnecker sent a letter to Dog Hunters Association supporters asking for donations to a GoFundMe page for legal fees. The website is www.gofundme.com/OurFightOurTradition.