April 2005 Newsletter articles
FROM THE CHAIR
POLK SHOULD STRIVE TO ENHANCE LOCAL CONTROL OF WATER RESOURCES
BABOCK RANCH UPDATE
MERCURY RULES RIGGED
JUDGE UPHOLDS WOLF PROTECTION
Although the Bush administration’s push to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to drilling for oil has been addressed in our February newsletter, I feel this issue goes well beyond the ANWR and is of such importance today as well as for the future that it deserves further discussion. As Frances Coleman stated in the February issue, this truly represents a line in the sand that we must defend.
Clearly, our nation faces a major problem. We are currently consuming far more petroleum than we are producing. On a per capita basis our consumption leads the world by a wide margin and much of this is due to utilization by the gas-guzzling personal motor vehicles we all hold so dear.
For those of you who may not know, the ANWR is located on the northern edge of Alaska and is one of the last true wilderness areas left on this continent, if not the world. It is a prime birthing and nursing ground for polar bears, caribou, arctic foxes, snow geese, sandhill cranes and many other species. Few seem to doubt the ecological importance of the area. Yet, President Bush and the oil lobby wish to turn this irreplaceable scenic and wildlife nursery area into a huge polluted oil field, claiming this is essential if we are to reduce our dependence on foreign (mid-eastern) oil and to bring gasoline prices back down.
The great majority of experts state that ANWR, if fully developed as an oil field, could never produce more than one or two percent of our country’s daily consumption and that a minimum of ten years would be required to produce the first barrel of oil. Clearly, this will not significantly affect either the oil "shortage" or prices at the pump. Thus, many agree with Robert Redford who states that "…the Bush Administration is dead set on destroying it (ANWR). They want to break the back of America’s natural heritage." "By unlocking the Arctic Refuge, they hope to open the door for oil, gas and coal giants to invade our last and best wild places: our western canyonlands, our ancient forests, our coastal waters, even our national monuments." No doubt one such area they would like to invade is the ocean floor beneath the gulf waters of our own coast.
Please join our effort by contacting your senators and congressmen to let them know how strongly you oppose this rape of our magnificent wild areas just to fill the coffers of a few greedy corporate giants. Tell them that the only reasonable solution to our energy dilemma will be by conservation, i.e. improved gas mileage requirements on motor vehicles, not by drilling in ANWR.
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The Polk County Water Policy Advisory Committee (WPAC) was established by the Board of County Commissioners in 2001 to create a water policy for Polk County. This policy was written, sent to the BoCC for its approval, and was adopted in May of 2002. The WPAC was asked to continue on as a standing committee and to offer additional suggestions on water issues as they developed. The WPAC presented further suggestions which were adopted by the BoCC in December of 2003.
Given that Polk County is a water producer (rainfall is recharged to aquifers via sand ridges and detained by our swamps and wetlands) there is no question that an underlying theme in these documents is that we need to ensure and enhance the local control of the waters in Polk County. The WPAC has twice passed on its recommendations to the BoCC to support a move to designate the Lakes Management District as the entity to restore and maintain the Peace Creek. These suggestions have resulted in positive support.
Last year the BoCC supported proposed legislation which would have resulted in the Lakes Management District assuming responsibility for the Peace Creek. When Senator Alexander decided to submit this bill to the 2005 Florida Legislature, the BoCC supported this action with a resolution. This resolution, dated December 15, 2004, states that "Polk County fully supports the Bill sponsored by State Senator J.D. Alexander...." The WPAC asked that the BoCC reaffirm this position in February of 2005, and this was done.
With both policy and resolutions supporting local control of this important watershed, it was a total surprise that Commissioner Senft, representing the BoCC on the Peace Creek Watershed Committee, voted to do just the opposite! Instead of voting to support Senator Alexander's bill, which would have given control of this watershed to a local agency with locally elected officials, he voted to turn the entire system over to the SWFWMD, which is based in Brooksville and has an appointed board made up primarily of representatives from coastal counties.
The SWFWMD has known about the Peace Creek watershed problems for years and stood by doing nothing..........that is until early March when their legal department realized that a transfer of the watershed to the Lakes Management District would mean that the SWFWMD would have no jurisdictional or oversight authority with respect to the Lakes Management District's powers and duties. In order to be able to perform the role currently afforded to the SWFWMD, they would have to reach compromises with the Lake Management District by entering into a private agreement. I think it would serve us well to keep whatever bargaining chips we can manage.
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Polk and Highlands Sierrans were treated to an informative and inspiring presentation about ongoing efforts to secure the purchase of the 91,361 acre Babcock Ranch for conservation. Matt Bixler of the Southwest Florida Community Trust traveled from Fort Myers to be our guest speaker at the March Sierra Club meeting. Through Matt's work with the Trust, he has become one of the spokespersons for the Babcock Ranch Preservation Partnership.
Sierra members were shown an excellent power point presentation. This presentation included beautiful photographs of the ranch as well as detailed maps showing how the ranch would fit into the land preservation plans for Southwest Florida.
Many Central Florida conservationists may not be aware that there is already a nearly complete series of contiguous preserves stretching east to west from Lake Okeechobee all the way to Charlotte Harbor. Babcock Ranch is the missing link to this vital unbroken wildlife corridor. Fisheating Creek Conservation Lands lie to its east and the Babcock/Webb Wildlife Management Area lies to its west.
In appreciation, Matt Bixler is given a nesting box by Bob Taylor and Al Greulich
picture by Frances Coleman
Matt's presentation made us aware of the critical need for acquisition of Babcock Ranch in its entirety. To achieve this goal, the Babcock Ranch Preservation Partnership was formed. The group's mission statement is to "ensure the acquisition, preservation, conservation, and management of one of Southwest Florida's most outstanding areas of natural resources and wildlife habitat - the Babcock Ranch."
The partnership has pulled together a hugely diverse group of citizens, students, organizations, philanthropists, and government at all levels to achieve full and complete protection for the entire ranch. Ideas of preserving only a part of this ranch have been proposed, but the preservation partnership insists on a complete conservation purchase of the entire ranch.
Matt informed us that all involved in the conservation purchase of Babcock Ranch are hopeful that this third round of negotiations with the family will be successful. The Babcock Ranch Preservation Partnership recently hired a well known consulting firm in Washington D.C. that specializes in securing funding for large conservation land purchases, and to identify and lobby for the remaining funds needed to complete this enormous and complicated land purchase.
The Babcock Ranch Preservation Partnership now has over one thousand members. Matt stressed that everyone who wants to see this worthy project completed needs to be a part of their organization. Donations of any size are important, but even more important is adding to the growth and influence of the Babcock Ranch Preservation Partnership as a member. Donations can be sent to Southwest Florida Community Foundation. On the memo line of your check write "Babcock Preservation Fund." Contributions can be mailed to Liz Donley, Charlotte Harbor NEP, 1926 Victoria Avenue, Fort Myers, Florida 33901. They have a toll free number if you would like more information: 866 835-5785, extension 234. If you would like to help with the grassroots efforts to preserve Babcock Ranch by contacting legislators, go to www.BabcockRanch.org
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We do not pass your email address to anyone else. We will try to send out reminders of activities a few days ahead of time (for those of us who hate to miss out, but are sometimes forgetful.) It would be great if we had at least half of our members on our list, so email me now.
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Wondering whether you have any capacity left for outrage? Try this on for size: According to a February 3 report by the EPA's Inspector General Nikki Tinsley, EPA political appointees set "modest" new mercury pollution limits that just so happened to coincide with those in President Bush's "Clear Skies" proposal. They then told EPA scientists to work backwards to justify those limits.
She also found that the EPA did not adequately evaluate the environmental health effects of the proposed rule on children. "Rather than basing its decision on good science, the administration stacked the deck to give its industry friends what they wanted," says Nat Mund, a Sierra Club clean-air expert.
One in six American women has mercury levels in her blood high enough to put her baby at risk from mercury poisoning. Smoke stack emissions are the source for much of the mercury on your dinner plate.
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Not everyone is ignoring science. District Judge Robert E. Jones in Portland ruled on January 31 that the actions of Interior Secretary Gale Norton to downlist the gray wolf and prematurely end the federal wolf recovery program in the eastern United States were unlawful. The eastern gray wolf was one of the original animals on the Endangered Species List.
The Sierra Club and 18 other conservation groups argued successfully that the federal government has a duty to uphold the intent of the Endangered Species Act to recover populations of at-risk fish and wildlife.
Green Horizon/Eco Tour
Sherwood Stokes Preserve
Gaye Sharpe, Polk's Environmental Lands Coordinator, talking preservation to Chuck Geanangel, Martha Sehi, Marie Sands, Jenny Jacobs and Mary Jane Schafer.
Photo by Frances Coleman