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


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Polk Group July 2002 Newsletter Articles

Stop Fast Track: Make Trade Clean, Green and Fair
Log Onto Polk's Environmental Lands Webpage
PEER Center Saved

Stop Fast Track: Make Trade Clean, Green and Fair

Across the country, citizens are mobilizing to take trade off the "fast track" and move it onto a "right track" that protects our environment and working families. We need your help. Over the next few weeks, President Bush will try to push through Congress a harmful "fast track" trade bill. Fast track denies Congress its constitutional power to amend future trade agreements, even if they contain dangerous, anti-environmental provisions.

The Sierra Club is concerned because these future trade deals could contain "corporate lawsuit" provisions like those in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Under NAFTA, foreign corporations gained sweeping power to sue US taxpayers for billions if our environmental laws interfere with corporate profits. Originally intended to protect the foreign investments of US companies in countries with weak legal systems, NAFTA's investor rules actually allow foreign companies in the United States to challenge our own environmental laws as "barriers to trade."

For example, the Methanex Corporation in Canada is using NAFTA to attack an important clean water law in California. In 1999, California's governor decided to phase out the toxic gas additive MTBE because the chemical was leaking from gas stations into the drinking water supply. Methanex, which makes a key ingredient in MTBE, sued the US government for $1 billion under NAFTA, citing lost profits and harm to the company's stock price. The MTBE case is just the latest in a growing string of trade challenges to environmental, health and safety protections. With only two exceptions, trade tribunals have ruled against every environmental and public health law to come before them so far.

If Bush succeeds in expanding NAFTA-style investor rules, a host of environmental protections in Florida from smart growth rules to forest safeguards could soon be challenged by foreign companies as "barriers to trade."

But we Can Stop Bush's Fast Track! Environmentally-harmful versions of fast track have passed both the House and the Senate. But differences between the two bills must be ironed out in a House-Senate conference. Then the House, which passed fast track by a 214-215 vote last December, must vote again.

If we pick up just one vote and hold onto the votes we have in the House, we can beat fast track this summer! Contact Representatives Adam Putnam and Dave Weldon and urge them to vote against fast track.
...Dan Seligman, Sierra Club Responsible Trade Program

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Log Onto Polk's Environmental Lands Webpage

The Polk County Environmental Lands Program has a link on the County's web site. You can access it on the Internet through by clicking on Departments, Environmental Services - Natural Resources, to Environmental Lands, or directly by going to

The page features a map of the county with 10 sites identified. Clicking on the site map or the name of the property will take you to a page which gives viewing information such as expected wildlife and plant communities. The page also gives the site size, amenities such as trails, picnic and parking areas and restroom availability. There are notes about that site's acquisition, management plan status and contact information. At the bottom of each page you can click to view and print directions to the site.

The 10 sites described are: Alafia River Reserve, Circle B-Bar Reserve, Crooked Lake Prairie, Crooked Lake Sandhill, Gator Creek Reserve, Hickory Lake Scrub, Lake Marion Creek, Lakeland Highlands Scrub, Peace River Hammock and SUMICA.
...Marian Ryan

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PEER Center Saved

The PEER Center has been saved for one more year. The Center serves close to 5000 third graders, plus spends a month each year serving the county's physically and mentally handicapped students. It may be the only environmental experience these children experience. Thanks to everyone who wrote letters either to the school board or editors, made phone calls or sent emails in support of the Center. Linda Hughes, a PEER teacher, informed us that money in the School Board's budget was allocated for two teachers and a secretary. Unfortunately, this does not mean the end of our concern, as the Center will probably be on the line to be cut next year. We need to continue our support with letters to editors and calls throughout this coming year, and if any of you belong to a Civic Organization, you can give additional help. Let your organization know that it can support the Center through letters, calls and donations. There are always needs beyond what is allocated by the School Board.
...Jenny Jacobs



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