PALM BEACH, Fla., Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Florida reefs could be run for profit with companies and nonprofits leasing plots and charging fees to dive boats, fishing charters and others, a group says.
The Conservation Leadership Council, introducing the proposal at a conference in Washington, said it's designed to encourage conservation and restoration of Florida's coral reefs by creating a financial incentive to do so.
"We believe many of the best solutions will be found in market-oriented policy," council member Gale Norton, who was secretary of the interior during the George W. Bush administration, said at the conference.
The council said it hoped to establish "the conservative voice for environmental stewardship" rooted in "fiscal responsibility, limited government and market entrepreneurship."
Some reef users have been cold toward the idea.
"That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard," Skip Commagere, the owner of dive shops in Riviera Beach, Boca Raton and Pompano Beach, told the Palm Beach Post. "I'm slightly to the right of Attila the Hun, but I'm at a loss for trying to figure out how this could benefit anyone."
Ed Tichenor, head of Palm Beach County Reef Rescue, agreed.
"The coral reefs in Florida are a natural resource," he said. "You can't assign ownership to a hotel or a cruise ship."