The President’s Hoot
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
May 2018

Unbelievable – Our Governments Are Ignoring Science! Our environment is in jeopardy at nearly all levels of government.

Unbelievably, Climate Change and/or Global Warming are words forbidden for use by folks at both the U.S. and Florida governmental levels.  Many of our political leaders ignore science.  For them, earth is still flat and the sun still circles the earth!

Unbelievable that some say manatees destroy our seagrass!  Get rid of them!  Manatee chomping on or cropping of seagrasses actually makes the grass blades thrive, spread, and the new young blades are more nutritious.  Cropping increases the seagrass beds, which in turn provide better habitats for juvenile fish and other organisms that are important for recreational and commercial fishing (see John Elliott Reynolds, 2017, Florida Manatees: Biology, Behavior, and Conservation, John Hopkins University Press).

Unbelievable – Human Poop or sewage sludge, now called “Biosolids” by governments, is spread over our food-producing lands (Agriculture)!  According to a 2016 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) report, 53% of Florida’s rivers, 82% of its lakes and reservoirs, and 32% of bays and estuaries are impaired by nitrogen and phosphorus. Of the 67 Florida counties, Indian River County (“IRC”) has the third highest acreage of land application of biosolids per year, according to a 2013 Florida Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) summary report.  Yet, our own county safely disposes of our waste in the County landfill. So where do these biosolids come from? Over 8,200 tons (containing high concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorous and other contaminants) were permitted to be imported to Indian River County in 2016 and spread over four farms. A biosolids regional summit is scheduled for June 8, 2018, 8:30 a.m. at the Indian River State College Chastain Campus, Wolf High-Technology Center, 2400 SE Salerno Road, Stuart, FL 34997. Attend, learn, and speak out. Our beautiful Blue Cypress Lake is being harmed by this practice.

Unbelievable – Florida’s legislature passed, and Gov. Scott signed, HB 7043., a bill to make it easier for developers to get their permits for denser housing developments in and around wetlands and conservation lands. Gov. Rick Scott’s DEP wants to take over issuing Federal wetland permits so that developers can build and fill in wetlands faster.  Takes too long for a Federal permit, they claim!  He signed a bill to speed up this process.  Under the Clean Water Act of 1972, the U.S. Corps of Engineers (“USCOE”) is responsible for issuing permits to limit the damage to certain wetlands.  The EPA was given veto power if bad permits got issued. During Gov. Scott’s tenure, DEP has fired/not replaced more than 600 employees, the state’s water management districts’ funds have been slashed, and funding vetoed yearly for the regional planning councils (Tampa Times, 2018). How are they going to protect our diminishing wetlands?

Alligator at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Photo: Bob Montanaro

We should be very concerned about Florida taking over control of federal Section 404 wetland permitting. Some years ago, the same tactic was successfully employed to give DEP authority to regulate the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.  Now we see the results of allowing higher limits for chemicals in water in the steady degradation of our waterways.

The Spoonbill Marsh is an example of DEP allowing our county to experiment with dispersing brine and chemicals into the Indian River Lagoon against the approval of the USCOE and the National Marine Fisheries Service without an independent scientific organization to monitor. Hopefully, with your public comments, DEP will require IRC in their permit renewal to have an independent scientific monitor.

Unbelievable that nationally our Federal Clean Car Standards are being rolled back, contraryto what 90 percent of Americans want.  Clean Car Standards set under the previous administration reduce air pollution, water pollution and climate pollution.  It saves people money by making more efficient cars and that in turn reduces our dependence on oil and makes auto industries more innovative.

Unbelievable that EPA now wants to get rid of landmark scientific research data from the decision-making process.  We need data that document conclusively the links between pollution and public health.

Unbelievable that we’ve reversed course to allow hundreds of coal power plants across the country, which burn close to a billion tons of coal each year. The toxic byproduct—coal ash—ends up in our air and water supply and has been linked to cancer, heart disease, stroke and brain damage. We should strengthen, not weaken, the Clean Air Act.

Unbelievable that the Trump Administration wants to turn our Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (where our migrant seabirds breed) into an oilfield. Instead, we need to keep moving forward with stringent fuel efficiency standards and greater use of alternative energy.

And even more Unbelievable that Florida’s FRACKING BAN bill (HB 237/SB 462) failed because the Speaker of the House, Richard Corcoran, refused to allow a vote in the Florida House of Representatives. Why take a risk ruining our water supply when we are the “Sunshine State” with lots of sun and wind power!

Unbelievable that both the Feds and State have not restored the Everglades, three decades after committing to do so.  They need to meet their 50-50 cost-share commitments.

Unbelievable that Bethel Creek and our Indian River Lagoon are polluted by fertilizers, septic tanks, and now broken sewage pipes.  Let’s get Homeowner Associations to advocate removing 50%of all lawn grass, plant native plants, and get on the county and city sewer and/or hybrid systems immediately.  A key to the effectiveness of the ordinance is education of the public and providing tools that are readily available to help landowners design native landscapes. Single-family landowners need to be aware of the benefits of native landscaping, the types of native plants that are appropriate to their particular area, and the landscape practices they should use. The Moorings, formerly with one of the highest levels of Nitrogen, leads the way with many residents now removing sod and planting natives.  Every house needs to plant one native tree.

We may lose 314 bird species, nearly half in the next 50 years. We can set an example in our county by planting the plants needed by our birds and butterflies if we want to help them from going extinct. Call on county and city leaders to make a plan to require and help fund a countywide sewage plan for all new developments to connect to it and prevent polluting runoff.

Unbelievable that we are misusing RoundUp (glyphosate) like we did DDT. Our bees are disappearing. Genetically engineered, herbicide-tolerant levels in corn, soybeans, canola, and alfalfa crops have increased the volume of glyphosate-based herbicides 100-fold.  The World Health Organization (“WHO”) recently concluded glyphosate is found in our food and is “probably carcinogenic to humans”  (J.P. Myers, et al., 2016 Environmental Health 15:19). We need to stop applying RoundUp and its related chemicals to our lawns, fields, canals, and waterways.

Unbelievable that there are 67 Environmental Rules on the Way Out Under Trump
.  The list shows dozens of environmental policies that the Trump administration has targeted, often in an effort to ease burdens on the fossil fuel industry.

To end on a positive note and be Bee-lievable, many thanks to Bill Loftus and Bob Montanaro for organizing our field trips, and Donna Halleran, Jim Shea, Ken Gonyo, Barbara Riebe, Steve Goff, Diane Morgan, Nancy Soucy, Felicity Rask, Bill and Becky Loftus, Caroyln Cimino, George Thomas, Douglas Sutherland, David Simpson, Rody Johnson, Will Johnson, George Glenn, Jr., David Heuberger, Karen Schuster, and Tim Towles for leading field trips to show folks some wonderful places to still observe birds and wildlife.

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