Marion Ryan and I are continuing our efforts to establish a coalition to work with SWFWMD on their Lake Hancock project(s). Their projects are designed: (1) to raise the lake’s level in order to store water that can be used to maintain minimum flows in the upper Peace River during periods of drought; and (2) to create a filtration marsh and/or other structure(s) to improve the quality of water flowing into the river. Coalition members will include Audubon, DU, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, Polk County, SWFWMD and our group of the Sierra Club. The coalition will work to insure that work done by SWFWMD is done in ways that also result in improved waterfowl habitat. Initial contacts with all of the potential members have elicited strong positive responses and the first planned activity will be a survey of the Old Florida Plantation (OFP) property that SWFWMD has just purchased. A director of DU’s Atlantic Flyway division will join us on February 26th to survey this property to determine its suitability for our purpose and the probability of obtaining supplemental funding from DU and various Federal Wetlands Conservation programs to support the project. Meanwhile, we plan to support SWFWMD’s effort to have the Polk County Board of Commissioners make a financial commitment to the project.
Campaign Launched to Highlight Bush Administration’s Environmental Record
The Sierra Club in January announced the first in a series of advertising blitzes to educate the public about the Bush Administration's dismal environmental record. The Sierra Club will run a combination of TV and print ads in nine states and D.C. highlighting the Bush Administration's contradictory and dangerous positions on toxic mercury. Tampa was selected as the Florida target area.
The ads released pointed out that "On December 10th, the Bush administration joined 45 states warning Americans not to eat fish with high mercury levels that can cause birth defects and learning disabilities. But days later, the administration said it wanted to give power plants permission to shower more mercury onto our lakes and streams for 10 years longer than the law allows." On December 15, 2003, the EPA proposed a cap-and-trade mercury reduction program that established a 34-ton cap in 2010 and a 15-ton cap in 2018. But strong enforcement of current clean air law would have reduced mercury emissions to 5 tons by 2008. Mercury is a powerful toxin that causes learning and developmental disabilities in children. Women of childbearing age and people who regularly and frequently eat highly contaminated fish, or even large amounts of moderately contaminated fish, are most likely to be at risk from mercury exposure. Children exposed in the womb or after birth, subsistence fisherman and certain Native American populations are also at risk.
Since taking office the Bush administration has weakened or stopped enforcing key sections of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. They have allowed corporations to escape their responsibility for cleaning up the damage they cause and shifted those costs to taxpayers. And the Bush administration has opened millions of acres of wilderness including some of America's most environmentally sensitive lands to logging, mining, oil and gas drilling.
Thirty years of progress has taught us: There is a better way. The Bush Administration should enforce clean air and clean water laws; hold polluters responsible for the damage they do; and create jobs and clean up our environment by investing in modern technology, energy efficiency, and renewable energy sources like wind and solar power to create a clean and affordable energy future.
Sierra, Audubon, the Florida Lakes Management Society, and others have been working with the South Florida Water Management District to establish a memorial to Richard Coleman in the Kissimmee River Valley. It was decided that the most appropriate memorial should illustrate the work to which he dedicated his life. The conceptual design that has been accepted by the Water Management District consists of a three panel kiosk incorporating the following features: 1) a map of the original river, old photos (a steamboat, KICCO, etc.) and text describing habitat, water fowl, artery of transportation, etc. 2) a map of channelization, photos of draglines and spoil banks, and text describing the rational behind channelization, and the resultant loss of habitat and wildlife. 3) a map of the restoration, photos of restored marshes, of Richard, etc., and text describing what river sections have been restored and therefore what has been regained and what sections that have not and why, and the part Richard played in bringing the restoration about. The proposed site will be at the new ramp/recreational area to be constructed where the Istokpogo Canal crosses Hwy 98 in Highlands County. It will be the most used site in the restored section of the river.
Richard was Sierra’s Kissimmee River Issue Chair for over 23 years. He tirelessly championed restoration, traveling all over the state to present slide shows that he had created to educate the public, candidates for public office and office holders on the problems that channelization had caused. He helped generate wide-spread support for this very expensive public works project by helping people understand what had been lost and what they stood to regain. Florida Sierra has committed some of the funds necessary for the design and construction of the fiberglass panels. This is the first ever river restoration and we need to keep the lessons learned from this massive undertaking ever before the public.
In the afternoon, our group was treated to a warm indoor presentation by Christie Burch, a second-generation park ranger. She taught us about the sandhill restoration efforts at LLSP. Workers there are in the process of bringing acres of old orange groves back to their original state, sandhills, which are rolling sandy hills covered by grasses, much like the African Savannahs.
Prescribed burns play a big role in the restoration process because without them, some of the areas would be too dense for wildflowers to thrive. Another big part of the restoration is planting longleaf pine trees. Most of the planting has been done by volunteers, who comprise about 60% of the workers at the park. At last count, these volunteers had planted 10,000 pines in LLSP.
Historically, the park property (near Clermont) was owned by the Bronson family. The area is comprised of six lakes and eleven natural communities. Sandhill restoration at LLSP is important because these uplands “pre-filter” water going into the Floridan Aquifer.
We had a wonderful group of 14 participants on this outing, including Sierra members and non-members. I particularly appreciate Marian and John Ryan being on the outing, as they shared with us much of the background information concerning the creation of this park. Although they were graciously low-key and somewhat reluctant to take credit, John and Marian personally spent years working on committees and building volumes of research, which eventually contributed to what is now LLSP.
Look for another outing to Lake Louisa State Park in the Autumn, when we will enjoy walking through acres of blooming wildflowers, such as Blazing Star.
The Polk County Environmental Lands Program is sponsoring a photography contest between January 1, 2004 and September 10, 2004 to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of the successful passage of the Environmental Lands Referendum and highlight the best of our unique natural lands. Ten grand prize winners will have their winning photos included in a special Polk County Environmental Lands 2005 calendar!
You can submit up to 3 entries for each of the following categories: Water, Native Wildlife, Wilderness (landscapes), Native Plants & Flowers (must be on Polk County properties), Nature-based Recreation (people hiking, biking, horseback riding, observing wildlife). Note: Images of captive, domestic or exotic species will not be considered.
The contest is open to all Polk County residents except Environmental Lands Program employees and their immediate families. Student entries (K-12) will be accepted and judged separately. Professional photographers are ineligible. All entries must be postmarked by September 10, 2004. (Student entries must be postmarked by May 7, 2004)
To enter, submit an unmounted photo (4x6 inches or larger) and affix to the back of each submission the following information: 1) The category for which it is being entered. 2) Your name, address and a daytime phone number. 3) The site name of the property where the photo was taken. Only print images 4x6 inches or larger will be considered. If using a digital camera, use the highest resolution setting (1280x960 pixels) and print a copy to submit for entry.
Entries must be images taken on the following Environmental Lands in Polk County: Gator Creek Reserve, Lakeland Highlands Scrub, Alafia River Reserve, Circle B Bar Reserve, Crooked Lake Prairie, Hickory Lake Scrub, Lake Marion Creek and SUMICA. For location maps and directions to sites, check the Polk County web site at www.polk-county.net. This information can also be obtained from the Polk County Natural Resources Division (863) 534-7377.
Decisions of the judges are final. Notification will be sent by mail after judging in October. Prizes valued between $25 and $100 will be awarded to photographers selected for publication in the 2005 Environmental Lands Program Calendar. Contestants by their entry agree that Polk County Natural Resources may publish their photos for promotion of the Environmental Lands Program. Entries may be used in future promotions (non-commercial) including program literature or the County website. Photo credit will be given when images are used.
Guided tours of the following sites are being offered from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on these dates: February 28 - Lake Marion Creek, March 20 - Lakeland Highlands Scrub, April 3 - Gator Creek Reserve, and May 1 - Circle B Bar Reserve.
Original photographs should be submitted to: Photo Contest, Polk County Natural Resources Division, 4177 Ben Durrance Road, Bartow, FL 33830. All entries must be postmarked by September 10, 2004. For additional information contact Lita O'Neil at 863-534-7377.
Sierra Club Florida