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

   

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April 2004 Newsletter Articles

From the Chair
Earth Day 2004
VOTE - Ballots Due April 21st
National Sierra Board Elections

Green Horizons Presents Award to Colemans
Florida Hometown Democracy Petition Drive Well Underway
Kissimmee Chain of Lakes Long-Term Management Plan
Lake McLeod Preserve Outing

From The Chair . . . Bob Taylor

An official US Forest Service Web Site describes the Tongass National Forest, as “a forest of islands and trees and rain. LOTS of islands and trees and rain. It also abounds in animals and birds and fish, with unsurpassed scenery and hardy people. It's a place where eagles are commonplace, most every road is a deer crossing, and bears use the trails, too. The Tongass is a wild place, where the natural world is a strong presence that nurtures spiritually and materially and demands respect”.


pictures Copyright © 2004, Frances H Coleman, All Rights Reserved

 

You and I along with every other US citizen are the owners of this pristine wilderness which, according to our March program speakers, Brant Brantman and Cindy Edwards of Sitka, Alaska, is in danger of being raped once more by the timber industry aided and abetted by the Bush Administration. By exempting the Tongass, the largest national forest in the US, from the “Roadless Rule”, 9.3 million additional acres are now exposed to potential development (AKA clearcutting). Already over half of the rain forest parts of the Tongass have been logged and scarred by building roads that have no other use and which the Forest Service cannot afford to maintain. During 2002, more than $36 million of US taxpayer money was spent preparing logging projects and building logging roads. The timber industry paid the federal government only $1.2 million for the right to clearcut hundreds of old growth rain forest at a net loss to taxpayers of nearly $35 million. What’s worse than the loss of both money and pristine forest is the fact that far too many these trees were sold and delivered as unfinished logs, primarily to Japan where they were reduced to pulp for production of paper and baby diapers. Had Alaskans milled this timber into lumber at least jobs could have been provided to hundreds.

My wife, Billye, and I spent 6 weeks in the Tongass N.F. during the 1980s. The magnificent photos shown by Brad and Cindy barely captured the true splendor of those parts of the region as yet untouched, and failed to evoke adequately the dismay we felt on viewing the numerous large clearcut areas on Prince of Wales Island. Some of these had been cut 20 to 30 years earlier. Regrown trees in these older areas appeared to be no more than chest high. Due to the short growing season in Alaska, many centuries may be required for these trees to reach old growth status.

Prince of Wales Island, which is the largest of the Southeastern Alaskan Archipelago, is said to contain many thousands of miles of roads. All but about 20 miles are gravel. A few connect the several widely dispersed tiny settlements on this large island. These were generally well maintained. The rest, and by far the majority, were poorly maintained at best, often required a 4 wheel drive vehicle, and seemed to exist only to provide access into what once were tree-filled valleys containing large to medium streams. We saw many instances where the requirement that a wide buffer of trees be left to protect these streams had been ignored, and some smaller stream beds actually showed evidence of having been used as paths for dragging out the huge logs, thus promoting siltation of these prime salmon spawning sites. During the week we spent on this island, we saw no other vehicles on the roads and only a few in the small communities. The only human we encountered away from these villages was a hitchhiker who claimed to have waited all day without seeing a vehicle and thus had to sleep on the side of the road. We picked him up in the early morning and took him to the next village. Are we getting our money’s worth for these roads?

Robert E. Service, our poet of the great Northwest, titled one of his poems "The Pines" which was written in the first person as if by a pine tree. The fourth stanza reads:
“Wind of the East, Wind of the West.
Wandering to and fro.
Chant your songs in our topmost boughs,
That the sons of men shall know
The peerless pine was the first to come,
And the pine shall be last to go”

These decisions of the Bush Administration make no sense from either environmental or economical perspectives. The only profiteers are the timber industry and the buyers of these highly subsidized logs, the Japanese.

PLEASE WRITE YOUR CONGRESSMAN TODAY AND EXPRESS YOUR DISPLEASURE. If not, the boast of the pines cited above shall never come to pass.
...Bob Taylor

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EARTH DAY 2004

The City of Winter Haven and the Wildlife Habitat Area Team are sponsoring Earth Day 2004 on Saturday, April 17th 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. at Rotary Park, 350 6th Street NE.

The event will include demonstrations and displays by plant nurseries, nonprofit groups, regulatory agencies, and an interactive butterfly tent. Entertainment, food, and activities for children will also be available. Admission and parking are free. Parking is available on 6th Street, Avenue B, and 7th Street NE. Polk Sierra will have a large display with many hand-outs. And to the joy of all children the button-making machine will be smoking!

Bring your family and friends to enjoy Earth Day at Rotary Park! Please call Rachelle Selser for further information at 297-3005.
...Rachelle Selser

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VOTE - Ballots Due April 21st
National Sierra Board Elections

 

This year it's not six of one and a half dozen of the other! There are candidates who apparently want to change the focus of our national organization with its $81 million budget. Bob at 439-2251, Marian at 293-6961 or Frances at 956-3771 would welcome your call if you want clarification of the various candidates' positions. Remember: a few ballots decided the 2000 Presidential election - even fewer could 'throw' this election!

 

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GREEN HORIZONS PRESENTS AWARD TO COLEMANS

Our Central Florida Land Trust, Green Horizons, presented The Blazing Star Award to Richard and Frances Coleman at the Annual Dinner on March 20th. In making the presentation, Chuck Geanangel spoke of Richard's major endeavors and achievements and Frances' contributions. The most wonderful aspect of the gathering was the positive attitude generated by so many people dedicated to preserving their natural world - together we can accomplish wonders!

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FLORIDA HOMETOWN DEMOCRACY PETITION DRIVE WELL UNDERWAY

The Polk Group, as of March 8, 2004, has had validated by the Supervisors of Elections 1158 petitions, and more are in the process. We have reached 23% of our goal of 5,030 petitions!

Action required now: dig out the signed petitions you have put off mailing in and get them to me or mail them in yourself; dig out the unsigned ones and get them to those neighbors (registered voters) you haven't reached yet. If you lack materials or do not know what to say, call or e-mail Gail Bond, 863-298-8134 (gailbond@tampabay.rr.com) or alternatively, Marian Ryan. 863-293-6961 (marian.ryan@verizon.com) . Check this web site to download materials and get other useful info:
www.FloridaHometownDemocracy.com or e-mail the lead organization at info@floridahometowndemocracy.com if you have a question or need petitions and cannot reach Gail or Marian.

Getting signatures is easy! Most voters are fed up with the haphazard growth they are seeing and will sign. Remember to explain that this amendment will not stop all the present "zoned/land use" plans from being built...residential & commercial. It will, however, require that the residents of an area vote on changes to the comprehensive plan when a developer wants to put ten houses on an acre instead of three or desires to put a strip mall in a residential area. Do not let the developers/builders distract you...building will go on...as already planned, but developers will have a harder time jamming in new residential/commercial areas that would have a detrimental effect on the quality of life of existing residents.

If you would like to help gather signatures, call Gail and volunteer. It is productive to set up any place where there are 20-30 people going in/out/hour, as it takes several minutes to explain and get the form completed. The following are good examples of productive places: small home-town businesses, libraries, utility payment places, walking paths, boat ramps, children's sports games, festivals. Good luck to all of us! Let us keep moving to our goal - by now we should have the hardest 1/3 behind us!
...Gail Bond

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KISSIMMEE CHAIN OF LAKES LONG-TERM MANAGEMENT PLAN

In early March the draft of the long-term management plan (LTMP) for the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes (KCOL) was presented to the public. Seven entities of government have had input - the lead entity is the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). The purpose is to create a coordinated, multi-disciplinary framework for resolving water management issues in the KCOL; SFWMD started this planning process in April 2003 (remember the failed drawdown of 2003? - see "Drawndown Woes in the Kissimmee" in our May 2003 newsletter on our web site).

During two hours of agency presentations we heard schedules! FDEP needs a schedule to create a certain lake level for maximum efficiency in spraying for hydrilla. FWC needs a certain schedule to complete muck removal. SFWMD and the Corps need a certain schedule to maintain water flows through the restored portion of the Kissimmee.

These scientists and engineers have the best intentions in the world but we need to reflect on a few truths: nowhere in those two hours was the phrase "return to a natural cycle" uttered; we face a future where we pay a bill of millions of dollars each year to maintain an un-natural system; and the ultimate jewel of this massive inter-connected system, the Everglades, is in peril and its salvation postponed.

We definitely need to let the powers that be know our concerns. Send your thoughts/comments to Bradley Jones, Senior Environmental Scientist, SFWMD, P. O. 24680, West Palm Beach, FL 33416-4680 or bjones@sfwmd.gov by April 12th.
...Frances H. Coleman

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LAKE McLEOD PRESERVE OUTING

At first glance, Lake McLeod Preserve seems an unlikely National Wildlife Preserve. As you approach it, you are driving through a somewhat run down neighborhood of trailers, chain links fences, and barking dogs. The Preserve itself is inside a chain link fence to protect it from ATVs, beer parties, and those who don’t recognize its fragile ecosystem. We went on a gorgeous, breezy Saturday morning - a date we had planned for months to see the Pink Lupine in bloom. Ryan has been the volunteer caretaker of this property since 1997 when he first started restoration work as a volunteer with Nature Conservancy. He started our guided walk by showing us the area near the road that had once been occupied by a dilapidated house - now removed.


pictures Copyright © 2004, Frances H Coleman, All Rights Reserved

 

When Pink Lupine was discovered on the property, the parcel was purchased by the U.S. government. Pink Lupine is one of the rarest plants in the world; half (about 500) of the known plants are protected here on the east 28 acres. This is the only public refuge for the protection of this plant.

The property is in an area called "Winter Haven Ridge", near Wahneta, and consists of 40 acres, divided by Gerber Diary Road. We started our walk on the east side which had been “disturbed" over many years by citrus, cattle, ATVs, housing and a number of other unfriendly interferences. We were very fortunate to see many Pink Lupine in bloom. They have soft silky light green leaves, and light pink flowers. One of the most interesting things we learned is that Pink Lupine is a "pioneer" plant thriving in recently disturbed areas. If you trample an area, Pink Lupine will work hard to then make it a home. A big problem is that many of these disturbed areas are used as walking trails, so it is a challenge to not step on the Lupine.

The east side of the property is also inhabited by Scrub Rosemary, Plum, and Morning Glory, which all love their sunny sandy home. Part of the restoration work involves clearing plants that do not belong in this environment - oak, for example, that adds too much shade, and lantana, which is invasive.

The west side of the preserve, bordering Lake McLeod, is Xeric Hammock to which scrub will often convert in the absence of fire or man’s activities. The long-term plan for the west side is to prescribe burn or otherwise clear it and open it up to sunlight like the east side. It has the potential to be another habitat for the Pink Lupine.
...Gail Bagley

   

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Pink Lupine

 

masthead picture: Pink Lupine , published with permission
Copyright © 2004, Frances H. Coleman, All Rights Reserved

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