Let’s keep our Florida FLORIDA!

The President’s Hoot
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
March 2017

Many places in Florida are sacred. Scientists point out that harmonizing with nature is critical for our survival. Overwhelmingly, 75% of Floridians agreed in 2014 to pass Amendment 1, which reserved up to $800 million for land-and-water conservation. Science-based plans, developed prior to the Scott Administration, intended to restore southward flows from the Kissimmee – Lake Okeechobee into the Everglades and Florida Bay to save them while also protecting our coastal estuaries. But the Legislature diverted Amendment 1 monies to cover routine agency expenses.  Now the assault on public environmental lands continues as politicians act to destroy them by roads or sell them for more development.  How do we help our elected officials understand that public lands bought for preservation are off-limits? 

Existing State Parks should be saved from development. I recently attended the memorial service for the Halpatiokee Trails/Buffer Preserve Section of Savannas Preserve State Park in St. Lucie County that will kill rare plants and wildlife to construct the Crosstown Parkway Bridge.  It is a nursery many marine organisms, including the young Tarpon and Snook.  St. Lucie County Conservation Alliance and the Indian Riverkeeper are still fighting to prevent this. Let’s not allow this State Park to set a precedent for all municipalities: Call 561-472-3517 or Email AlisaA.Zarbo@usace.army.mil to stop this destruction.

Maggy Hurchalla writes “Most folks in Martin County are proud and happy to live in a place that is more green than gray.  However a local consultant proposed amending the county’s comprehensive plan to allow filling in wetlands for cash payments to a state mitigation bank” (Press Journal, February 23).  It’s critical to save all remaining wetlands! Hurchalla rightly points out that destroying every wetland adds nutrients to our waterways including the Lagoon, making algal blooms and flooding worse, decreasing recharge to the shallow aquifer, and destroying wading-bird habitat. Let’s add to our wetlands, not destroy them!

Indian River County faces similar land grabs. Vero Beach wants to sell their green Dodgertown Golf Course to build 280 homes (Colleen Wixon, Press Journal, February 21).  Indian River Shores wants to auction their “Golden Sands” a 5.38-acre parcel of prime ocean beach property (Janet Begley, Press Journal, February 24th). Taxpayers spent millions to purchase these lands why sell them today? These lands should be valued as long-term investments, deserving preservation – not liquidation at auction! Coastal greenspaces will provide recreational and health benefits for future generations of humans and wildlife to enjoy. Selling them to a developer will only increase traffic congestion, pollution, and resource use. The few remaining publicly owned greenspaces in our rapidly urbanizing region are more important gifts to our children than flipped today for dollars to cover previous fiscal irresponsibility. Once developed, open lands are lost forever.

Robins in the Audubon House garden. Photo: Bob Montanaro

Florida is key to the great Atlantic Flyway for migratory birds. Birds require natural habitats for food and rest on their arduous migratory journeys. All wetlands and green spaces are essential for humans also. Research shows nature reduces depression and crime and adds to neighborliness, many feel peace and spirituality.

Conservation and protection of Florida’s water resources starts at home. Your landscaping choices affect the health of ground and surface waters, and the natural environment. Audubon House hosts The Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Homeowner program, teaching homeowners how to design, install, and maintain healthy landscapes that use minimal water, fertilizer, and pesticides. Low-cost, low-maintenance, attractive landscapes add value to your community and improve water quality. These classes, led by Nickie Munroe, Environmental Horticulture Agent, UF/IFAS Indian River County Extension, (start March 8 for ten sessions noon to 1:30 pm) will teach how to make a Florida-friendly yard.  This involves Right Plant, Right Place, Water Efficiently, Fertilize Appropriately, Mulch, Wildlife Attraction, Yard Pests, Recycling, Stormwater Runoff, and Rain Gardens.

You have power to make a difference: Call or write your local and state representatives. Have a healthy yard.

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