Who was here first — Humans or Our Birds, Manatees, Fishes, Panthers, and Gopher Tortoises? If Government agencies protect nature, humans will be saved.

The President’s Hoot
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
April 2022

Ukrainians are dying, and millions are losing their habitat, going without food, water, and forced to flee to find a safe place to survive from human aggression. They may even be exposed to chemical weapons soon. How do we protect these vulnerable folks and allow them to resume life in a happy and safe world?   Unfortunately, this is what our  birds, fishes, manatees face daily: lack of habitat, food, clean water. Shouldn’t they also receive our protection?

At this critical moment, governments aren’t protecting us and our birds, manatees, fishes, panthers, and gopher tortoises and other wildlife. We are heading for disaster imperiling biodiversity everywhere. Even now we face high levels of fecal bacteria in our Lagoon where we swim, fish and boat. Manatees are dying from starvation because excessive algae stopped sunlight seagrasses need to live. Also herbicides are killing seagrasses and invertebrates. 

Local articles are also disturbing.  Who was here first – our rare Florida panthers or ranchers?  Gopher tortoises or development?  

Our US Fish and Wildlife Service considered killing one of only a few remaining Panthers  trying to survive by eating calves on a ranch. Let’s pay ranchers for any calves lost as done in other states? At least put this panther, Named 250, into a Zoo. It might be the last one surviving for our children to see.  

Why relax Gopher tortoise protections to extend the building boon?  Their burrows provide important wildlife biodiversity, supporting over 300 other mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates who use their burrows as a residence or temporary shelter.  Developers must set aside lands in their developments for the Gopher tortoises.

Since 1970, North America has lost nearly 3 billion birds – more than 1 in 4 birds gone.  Of the 588 species studied, 314 are at increasing risk of extinction from our activities and from global temperature increases.  

Why plan new developments when our environment is failing with what we have already developed?  While attending the Indian River County Metropolitan Planning Organization and Use Vision Study workshop to discuss the future of our County, I asked the questions: How many folks can the county support when our animals, Lagoon and rivers are dying?  Why are we planning more developments when even now they are reducing our fishes, manatees, birds, panthers, gopher tortoises and it is dangerous for us to swim in the Lagoon? There were no answers to my questions and concerns. 

It’s difficult to believe what our political leaders are doing in Tallahassee.  The Florida Senate sneaked though SB 2508.  I even received a card from the State Government Leadership Foundation in Washington, D.C. telling total lies that this bill “protects water quality for all Floridians, Keeps our Everglades protected and accountability for Water Management, and preserves local water rights.”  It says call Senator Mayfield and tell her to say “Yes” to SB 2508! That bill actually harms our environment. As informed citizens we must do our homework to see beyond the lies being told us by vested interests, as with SB 2508.  

To stop Global Warming, let’s take this opportunity with increased oil and gas prices to support alternative energy sources to produce and store electricity to prevent more CO2 going into our atmosphere.  Install more electric-car charging stations and improve public transportation. 

Let’s convert our poop from our glorified outhouses (septic tanks) and sewer systems into electricity.  Limit turfgrass to 10-15% of the yard and plant natives. Don’t clear cut for houses but save our native trees. Reduce plastics. Stop littering. 

Most important, we must vote for the $50 million land-conservation bond issue on November 8th  to increase and preserve our conservation lands and waters. 

By stabilizing carbon emissions and holding warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, 76% of vulnerable species will be better off. Nearly 150 species would no longer be refugees or dying from human aggression.

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