A great year for us! Come join us! We need your help and skills!

The President’s Hoot
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
September 2016

Tired of hearing our Indian River Lagoon and Everglades are dying? No secret- we and now the Whole World know! Too many manatees, dolphins, pelicans and other birds, millions of fish, and our seagrasses have disappeared. Not just in Florida, but worldwide.  According to an Audubon report, Climate Change and pollution will lead over 314 U.S. bird species to decline or become extinct in the next 50 years! 

Vernon Chestine and Kyle Young work on the butterfly garden.

Pogo said “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”  We have transformed our Earth: drilled it, mined it, burned it, drained it, built on it, ‘fracked’ it, driven on it, put grass, sugar, and other crops and farm animals everywhere on it, all with little concern for where the fertilizers, oil, brine, other chemicals, and poop end up. In our county, we just dilute pollutants with lagoon water as we are doing with the Spoonbill Marsh.

BUT, can we as individuals do something beneficial, anything to remedy the situation at this late stage? YES! There are solutions, but they will require determination, education, acting together, and money! Actions we can take immediately:

  1. Support Sen. Joe Negron’s $2.4 billion proposal to buy 60,000 acres of sugar land to build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to prevent continued massive discharges of polluted water to the Lagoon. TC Palm’s unscientific poll said 70% of respondents do not support it! Yet 75% of citizens voted for Amendment 1 to purchase key conservation lands.  Money is there, waiting to be spent!!!
  2. Raise funds locally through taxes/long term bond issues to remove septic tanks and encourage hybrid systems near all water bodies. Robert Bolton, City of Vero Beach’s Director of Water and Sewer is leading the way in installing these.  Brevard’s County Commission voted 5-0 to raise the sales tax 1/2% for funds to remove septic tanks and dredge the Lagoon.
  3. Stop watering, fertilizing, and installing turf grass and replace your lawn with butterfly- and bird-freindly plants.  Do we need to follow the British and European royalty’s penchant for large grassy areas to show off our wealth?
  4. Hire lawn-care folks who care for and enhance butterfly- and bird-loving plants instead of those who Mow, Blow & Go. 
  5. Vote for those who support the above actions.

PIAS has led the county to pass stronger ordinances for landscaping, tree, fertilizer use and protection of sea turtles All of these efforts are important to fostering wildlife and clean water. Now that we have built the Audubon House, one goal is to exhibit examples of native landscaping, especially wildflower and butterfly gardens.  Janice Broda provided a wildflower workshop last winter, which we hope to offer again along with UF’s Florida Medical Entomology Lab ORCA Volunteer Stewardship Class in January, 2017. 

Steve Goff and Ken Gonyo working on the new Audubon House butterfly garden.

Recently, butterfly-garden expert Ken Gonyo joined PIAS as our Landscape Volunteer Coordinator to help us maintain and improve our native landscape. Ken will also hold Landscaping and Butterfly Gardening learning experiences for volunteers.  These programs are scheduled for 8:30 am on Wednesday and Sunday mornings at the Audubon House.  As a member, you can also co-lead a nature walk at the adjacent Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area with Ken Gonyo. This is a great way to learn the local plants and animals.

We broke ground on the Butterfly Garden on August 17th (see photo of PIAS Treasure Steve Goff and Ken Gonyo).  We greatly appreciate the donation of the pavers by Atlantic Hardscapes Supply in Ft. Pierce; the pavers will show the path through the garden.  We are also planning to emphasize a “native plants for birds” program.

Kim Prado of Marine Bank and Richard Baker with Marine Bank’s mascot Mariner Pete and Georgia Irish.

Your membership is crucial to supporting our projects. Soon PIAS will roll out a Business Membership, which will add broader community support to our work..  One of the first business interested in joining is Marine Bank and Trust, whose mascot is Mariner Pete.  If you know of any business that might want to become a business member with PIAS, or if you would like to volunteer to support our various programs including afterschool, women’s workshops, or school square-foot gardens, please call 772-567-3520.

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