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DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Polk and Sumter counties of Florida


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April 2003 Newsletter Articles

Green Swamp Road Cleanup
Alien Invaders, The Climbing Ferns
Lakeland Highlands Scrub Event
Beware of Fridays!

Lakeland Highlands Scrub Event

Polk County's Environmental Lands Program is celebrating April as Environmental Lands Month with guided nature hikes through 551 acres of diverse habitat. Lakeland Highlands Scrub was purchased in July 2001 and is located in the south Lakeland area - a location map is available at or call 863 534-7377 for directions.
...Marian Ryan

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Alien Invaders, The Climbing Ferns

The Old World Climbing Fern and the Japanese Climbing Fern have been called the most frightening new invasives in Florida. First documented here in the late 1950s, the Old World variety alone has heavily infested over 110,000 acres in south Florida and is moving up the Kissimmee River Valley. The Japanese fern, more prevalent in north Florida, is moving south. Massive state eradication efforts have been undertaken but have apparently resulted in only temporary setbacks for the plants. The two ferns are distinctly different when their leaflets are compared; the Old World has leaflets usually without lobes and without hairs on the lower surface and does not appear pointy or spiked; the Japanese has leaflets usually lobed and with some hairs on the lower surface - almost always the layperson says the leaf is looks delicate and pointed. The average citizen doesnít really need to distinguish one from the other; be suspicious of any climbing fern (some botanists even assert Florida has no native climbing ferns). If you find a climber, check the back of the leaflet for spores. If you find spores, chances are youíve got a noxious plant. Call the Bureau of Invasive Plant Management at 850-487-2600 to report the plantís exact location; in hopes of eradicating the plant, pull it up by the roots, bag it and seal the bag. Monitor the site for re-infestation from already scattered spores.
...Frances Coleman

Climbing Fern

This Japanese Climbing Fern was found in Polk County on CR 557 in late 2002. The site was reported to the Bureau of Invasive Plant Management, sprayed with herbicide and is being monitored.
picture Copyright © 2003, Richard Coleman, All Rights Reserved

  trees smothered by vines

This picture was taken in the restored Kissimmee River Valley (Highlands County) in February 2003. Note the dense fern mass on the ground and the trees literally being smothered to death by the vines. This almost total suppression of native vegetation is typical of both ferns.
picture Copyright © 2003, Bill LeMacks, All Rights Reserved

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Beware of Fridays!

The end of a week is the favored time for government to announce a controversial decision - at that time it will receive the minimum amount of public and press scrutiny. On a recent Friday the Bush administration announced a decision that paves the way for logging in America's largest rainforest, the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. The U.S. Forest Service is expected to deny Wilderness protections for as much as 9 million acres of rainforest, lands that the government itself has categorized as being pristine and free of roads. "Americans might be surprised to find out that the Bush administration doesn't consider a single acre in America's largest rainforest worthy of Wilderness designation," said Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director. "Americans know that Alaska defines the very essence of wild and remote forests."

That decision, released as a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), is especially egregious because there is very little that Americans will be able to do to scrutinize or challenge this decision. A rider attached to the recently passed 2003 Omnibus Appropriations bill by Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) prohibits the public from seeking administrative appeal or judicial review of the Tongass wilderness decision. "Americans want to see Alaska's wild forests protected as places they cherish and where they hunt, hike, and fish," said Pope. "The Bush administration knows decisions like this will stimulate controversy, so they have shielded it from public scrutiny." Combined with the Bush administration's attempts to weaken or eliminate the landmark Roadless Rule, the decision on the Tongass could leave large swaths of Alaska's wild forests open to the timber industry. "By slipping controversial proposals in under the radar, the administration seeks to accomplish their goals quickly and quietly, without full public knowledge, public debate or public consent," said Pope. "This is not the way transparent government and true democracy work."

Fridays and holidays are typically times when the public is distracted. Saturday is the day that the fewest people read the headlines or watch the news. Other examples of the Bush administration's Friday announcements:

  • Friday, Jan. 10, 2003 -- released Final Environmental Impact Statement authorizing largest oil and gas project ever on public lands (39,000 new wells in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana.
  • Friday, Jan 10, 2003 -- proposed guidance restricting scope of Clean Water Act
  • Friday, Jan 17, 2003 -- released Draft Environmental Impact Statement for expanded drilling in the NPR-A (Western Arctic).
  • Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2002 (Christmas Eve) -- Interior Department releases a new rule allowing states and local jurisdictions to use Revised Statute (RS) 2477 to turn old trails, abandoned dirt roads, and stream beds into new highways (published in the Federal Register on Jan. 6, 2003)
  • Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2002 (Thanksgiving week) -- proposed revisions to the National Forest Management Act
  • Friday, Nov. 22, 2002 -- announced proposed new rules to weaken the Clean Air Act (New Source Review). The rules were entered into the Federal Register on New Year's Eve, 2002. No public comment period followed. Instead, they relied on comments about a proposal that the Clinton Administration put out in 1996 and 1998. The public was shut out of the most recent round.
  • Friday, May 3rd, 2002 -- announced new rules creating loopholes for Mountaintop removal mining allowing mining companies to blow the tops of mountains and dump the waste into rivers and streams.
  • Friday, March 30th, 2001 -- removed Clinton rule requiring that Federal contractors have to have complied with U.S. environmental laws.

Annie Strickler, National Sierra, edited by Frances H. Coleman

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Green Swamp Road Cleanup

Florida Adopt A Highway Program 

Mark your calendars now to join us in a cleanup of our adopted highway on Saturday May 3rd. The Polk Sierra Group's name has been displayed on an attractive sign on Old Polk City Road since 1990. Once or twice a year, it becomes necessary to get out there and pick up the litter that lesser folks felt like discarding out their car windows. The trash we find can be very entertaining! We will meet at Jennifer Rader's house at 8:00am. The cleanup will take 2 to 3 hours tops. Then we can enjoy a lunchtime cookout at Jenniferís. Please contact Marian at 293-6961 if you plan to attend - we need a headcount for the cookout. To reach Jennifer's house take I-4 to exit #38 (SR 33/Lakeland Hills Blvd.) to Old Polk City Road to Moore Road. Proceed to 9716 Moore Road on the left, set back from the road. Bring a hat and gloves and don't forget sunscreen......everything else will be provided.
...Marian Ryan



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masthead picture: , published with permission
Copyright © 2003, Richard Coleman, All Rights Reserved

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