Yosemite/John Muir State Quarter  
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DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Polk and Sumter counties of Florida


Explore, Enjoy and Protect The Planet


January 2005 Newsletter Articles


FROM THE VICE CHAIR…Frances H. Coleman

December's Celebration was a major event! The food was varied and excellent, the sangria flowed, the crowd was a terrific mixture of old and new faces, and the conversation ranged from light-hearted movie reviews to serious conservation/political discussions. Many thanks to Billye and Bob Taylor for hosting the party.

The results of our group's election were announced by Karen Kaplan. More votes were cast in this election than in any previous group election and the new members-at-large are: Paul Anderson, Gail Bagley, and Al Greulich. This group joins our four officers, who were elected last year for two year terms, to form the executive committee. This committee needs all the help it can get so if you have a little time to volunteer call one of the committee and you'll get matched to a job.

At our November meeting Colleen Burton, Executive Director of Polk Vision, explained how we could help the Vision Implementation. Polk Sierrans are committed to bringing the infrastructure vision into reality. Log on to www.polkvision.com for more information.

Colleen Burton of Polk Vision and Sierran Marian Ryan checking out Polk's new Vision Document.
picture by Frances Coleman

One of Polk's nesting boxes in a wooded yard in South Carolina three blocks from the Saluda River
picture by Mary Coleman

The January 14-16 weekend will bring Sierrans from all over the state to Polk County; it is Polk's turn to host Flexcom (Florida Sierra's Executive Committee). Leaders from all the groups plus members at large will discuss state-wide issues and vote to support (or not support) certain issues. Our group has secured permission to use the Boy Scout Camp Flaming Arrow for this event. Everyone will be camping in the midst of hurricane alley - should be an eye-opener! The Scout leadership has assured us the major meeting hall and the dining hall are now in fine shape. If you would like to attend or help, call Gail at 298-8134.

Bob Taylor, our Chair and Chief Carpenter, has purchased a new supply of inch-thick cypress from which he will construct nesting boxes. Nesting season is not far off so order yours now. Remember, you don't have to put them at water's edge; owls are attracted to them as well as ducks. Contributions in excess of costs will go to the R. Coleman Scholarship Fund (suggested donation $35 - Bob at 439 2251.)

And now the New Year's exhortation: Shake off the post-election blues! We've got work to do and exciting places to visit and enjoy. Resolve to participate in at least two outings this year - you'll be rewarded with a view of Florida hard to get anywhere else. And Resolve to make this world a little bit better - look on it as the dues you pay for the air you breath.

Peace and joy to you and yours!

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Archbold Biological Station is an independent, non-profit research facility, off Hwy 70 near Lake Placid. It is devoted to long-term ecological research and conservation, and focuses primarily on the organisms and environments of the Lake Wales Ridge.

Saturday, December 4th couldn’t have been a more beautiful day for our outing at the Station. Lead by Mark and Nancy Deyrup, we joined a group from Audubon to explore the 3,000 acre Lake Placid Scrub Preserve, adjacent to the Station. From the main entrance, we walked through sand hill and pine scrub to an observation tower. From the platform, at about 100 feet elevation, the view was stunning. We continued our walk to the shoreline of Lake Placid and were thankful that our side of the lake had been saved from the development visible on the other side. The Great Egrets and Pie Billed Grebes we spotted seemed to be thankful, too.

Archbold Biological Station

Sierrans with Archbold biologist Mark Deyrup
picture by Gail Bagley

Mark is a senior research biologist who meticulously recorded our Saturday findings on his yellow legal pad. He and Nancy pointed out hickory, scrub bay, palafoxia, pinweed, and rosemary (we were surprised to spot a nocturnal rosemary grasshopper that we had been assured we would not see during the day!) After our walk, Mark and Nancy joined our group for a picnic lunch under the beautiful oaks back at the Station.

Decades of biological exploration at Archbold influence regional conservation decisions. The Lake Wales Ridge remains at the top of the state’s priorities for acquisition. Slowly the parcels, mostly now the small lots remaining in large subdivisions, are coming under public ownership and management. We appreciate the efforts of the Station and its employees looking out for some of the most valuable wild areas of Florida.
....Gail Bagley

River Safaris

Sierrans starting the Homosassa cruise
picture by Frances Coleman

When you turn off US Hwy 19 in Citrus County, a sleepy, tree-lined road leads to Historic Old Homosassa. Small art galleries and inviting local restaurants are neighbors with the "River Safaris" marina, where our group embarked on a two hour pontoon tour narrated by "Captain Chris." It was a delightfully crisp, clear November afternoon and our group learned about the history and features of this gulf-area community as we cruised the backwater and springs of the river. Homosassa played a key role during the 1800s when David Yulee, one of the state’s prominent pioneers, president of the Florida Railroad Company, and Florida’s first U.S. Senator, operated a sugar mill near the river. Yulee supplied Confederate troops with syrup and molasses until Union troops burned his home and forced him to cease sugar operations. The Yulee Sugar Mill is now a popular historic site.

Dozens of Great Blue and Little Blue Herons, egrets, anhingas, and ducks flew by as we meandered through their habitat. We were also fortunate to see a couple of manatees, although most will wait to visit these waters during the colder months. There is even a small island inhabited by monkeys (a remnant of the old theme park days) which we passed as we departed from the marina.

Runoff into the river from recent development is the most serious threat to these beautiful waters. One of the locals told us she remembers when the river bottom was sandy and the water perfectly clear. Now, however, because of the dumping of nutrients from the runoff, grasses have grown on the river bottom and the water is no longer as clear. This change may be the reason manatees now travel farther upstream from the spring to feed upon these new grasses.

Another sign of the times is the mind-boggling increase in local real estate values since the new Suncoast Parkway cut its way through Hillsborough, Pasco, and Hernando counties and now sits at the doorstep of Citrus County (home of Homosassa Springs). It is not uncommon for values to double or triple each year in areas near the river. The saying "build it and they will come" reflects a very real threat to lovely Homosassa Springs.

After the tour, our hungry (and chilly!) group ventured to the other side of the river and relaxed at a waterside restaurant for dinner and good company.
...Gail Bagley

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Last year, an eaglet fell out a nest. Joan Waters of Woodland Wonders rescued and released the baby eagle. This release could not happen now because new Federal Government rules require rehabilitators to have a 100x20x16-foot flight cage so large birds can exercise their wings before they are released. Joan needs a flight cage to continue to rehabilitate eagles and other birds of prey. Without a regulation size cage, birds will have to be transported over an hour away to a facility that has a flight cage. Transportion creates a lot of STRESS for the birds!
….Marian Ryan

If you would like to make a tax deductible donation towards the purchase of the flight cage, send a check to the address below noting that it is for the flight cage.

Joan Waters - Flight Cage
2110 Betty Ann Drive
Auburndale, Florida 33823

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At a meeting in early December Carl Pope, Executive Director of Sierra, wryly noted that he thought his book Strategic Ignorance which came out in mid-2004 would have very limited relevance; well, unfortunately, it will be highly relevant for the next four years. Note the sub-title: Why the Bush Administration is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress. Using a plethora of evidence from the first three years of W's administration, Pope made a compelling case to prove the charge that the Bush-Cheney administration seeks to overturn a national consensus on natural resource policy dating from Teddy Roosevelt through Clinton and return us to the 19th century era of the exploitative robber-barons. That's not one of the 'values' to which the B-C team gave a lot of publicity this past year!

We've got our work cut out for us; surveys prove again and again that Americans care deeply about clean air, clean water and open space. We're close to over-using many of our parks because Americans are in awe of our natural wonders and want to experience them all. Wouldn't you classify the foregoing as 'values?' So how do we more effectively talk 'values' to our friends, neighbors and politicians? Pope suggests that not only do we need to have our data accurate, we must present our cases with passion and show how environmentally correct decisions are personally better for the majority of citizens. Use people stories.
….Frances H. Coleman


In the golden state, with choices ranging from Hollywood to the Gold Rush, proofs have now been struck for the Yosemite/John Muir State Quarter. Now that's a real 'value' statement!
….Frances H. Coleman

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The Street Audubon Center, like the rest of us, was hit hard by an unprecedented three major hurricanes this summer and the 100+ mph wind and high water took its toll. The Center buildings had only minor damage but the grounds took a major hit with downed trees and flood water from Lake Ned. The Florida Division of Forestry which stored equipment on the grounds during the run of the three storms, cleared the fence line, removed broken trees and brush from around the buildings, and created numerous firebreaks on the 42 acres. Judith Turner, area supervisor, and her crew did a tremendous job digging us out from under a tangle of crushed and damaged trees. They plan on doing some winter burns to restore the property back to a more natural setting.

Now that the water has receded, and volunteers have spent dozens of hours reworking the trail system we are about back to normal. The primitive trail is still in a planning stage but everything else is operational. By next spring the rebirth will be complete.

So come on in and see the new trail system and help us keep it open with your volunteer work.
….Chuck Geanangel

Find out the status of Polk County birdlife at http://www.polkcountybirds.com

The Polk Group newsletter is published monthly by
Sierra Club, Polk Group, P.O. Box 7544, Winter Haven, FL 33883



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