When work began on the tower and gardens more than 70 years ago, special covenants were created to assure that land (almost 1800 acres) surrounding the facility on its north, east and southern sides would be used for agricultural purposes only. Mountain Lake Estates with very restrictive covenants protects the western boundary of the garden. Since these covenants could be subject to legal challenge at some time in the future, the Sanctuary is now attempting to strengthen its control over lands within the agricultural zone by fee simple purchase or by acquiring conservation easements. In the future, they hope to work with the state to create a greenway, or wildlife corridor, that will extend from the Sanctuary westerly to sovereign lands along the Kissimmee River chain. This, I believe, is a goal that we all can and should support.
The South Florida Water Management District, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and most Floridians are celebrating the completion of the first phase of the restoration. In the northern half of Highlands County, 7 1/2 miles of C38 have been filled and some new river channel has been carved; 15 miles of river have been reconnected and roughly 11,000 acres of wetland have been flooded. Starting in 2007 eight more miles of canal will be filled, 3 miles of river channel will be carved and 17 miles of river channel will be reconnected. This phase is just south of what has been already completed - all of which is in Highlands County. An additional phase of canal filling, just north of the now completed project, is in the conceptual stage. Restoration is scheduled to be completed between 2010 and 2012. As now planned, approximately 22 of the 56 miles of the canal will be filled which will bring back 44 miles of the original 103 miles of river channel and flood 28,000 acres of wetlands.
In the restored area, river channel habitat has made great progress 'backwards'. On the inside bends of most oxbows sand bars have reappeared. Woody debris, nonexistent in the channelized system, has made a come-back. The debris enchances habitat diversity. During channelization no-flow conditions in the meanders resulted in a buildup of organic matter in sediments; this brought dissolved oxygen concentrations to a critically low level (bad for sport fish, etc.) With the reestablishment of flow and the flushing of organic sediments, dissolved oxygen levels are increasing.
During channelization, low (or no) flow in the oxbows resulted in shoreline (littoral) vegetation spreading to mid stream and eliminating most open water. Now with continuous flow, historic (healthy) littoral vegetation has reestablished itself and boaters find the open water they need for navigation and fishing. In the reflooded wetlands plants like Pickerelweed and Arrowhead are naturally reestablishing themselves from seed sources. This restored habitat is making possible the return in large numbers of the birds for which the Kissimmee floodplain was once famous.
We rejoice in what has been restored - and we grieve that it isn't the entire river. Too much development in the northern section, with resultant concerns over flooding, and too many homes built in the southern section have forestalled total restoration. The lesson that has, hopefully, been learned is that we must use greater caution when we contemplate changes to our natural systems, because, once homes are built in large numbers, financial, social and political concerns will prevent restoration.
When you read the dates for completion (above), remember Lou Toth, Restoration Scientist, was demoted and transferred because he said restoration was behind schedule and its priority lowered. And we would do well to remember the May 7th admonition of Dennis Duke (Corps), "...keep your eye on us and make sure we stay the course and achieve the restoration...'
And he made a difference! Most of the people who worked on the restoration had it in their job descriptions to promote restoration. Richard was, like most of us, a pure citizen activist. The lesson for us all: pick your own personal wrong to make right, and commit to it for as long as it takes.
bird-dog (bûrd'-dôg), v. Also birddog. To observe, follow, monitor and/or seek out with persistent attention. bird-dog•ger (bûrd'-dôg'ger), n. One who bird-dogs.
Over the next few months, the Bush Administration has and will continue to visit Florida with an environmental message wrapped in lies. At Rookery Bay in Naples, for example, the President stood behind this estuarine preserve touting his environmental policy, the news media recording every bit of it. The irony? Rookery Bay is under a fish consumption advisory due to unsafe levels of mercury. The Bush Administration’s move to weaken the Clean Air Act significantly contributes to this kind of pollution. If the Sierra Club hadn’t been bird-dogging in Naples that day, only one side of the story would have appeared on television.
We bird-dog by making our presence known and by getting our message out to the media wherever the Bush Administration visits. We create press conferences, protests, and photo opportunities to draw attention to their dismal environmental plans in Florida… and to point out that there is a better way! Bird-dogging at the Bush Administration’s visits gives us a chance to reach thousands of citizens who may not otherwise realize that this Administration is waging war on our clean air and water. It is a priority of the Sierra Club staff in Florida to support volunteer’s bird-dogging events across the state.
Opportunities for bird-dogging often pop up with only a day or two to prepare, as tracking the Administration is complex. Some of you may have received calls to become involved at very short notice, and we thank you for jumping in. Bird-dogging is always an exciting and incredibly effective way to volunteer. From creating and holding posters that say “Support Kids Not Polluters,” to riding in a boat, chanting “Clean Air, Clean Water!” to news cameras, we need lots of people out at these events, each person symbolic of folks across the country who will no longer stand for the Bush Administration’s double-talk.
Jonathan Ullman, our Southern Florida Conservation Organizer, recently organized a big bird-dogging event in Miami (complete with a real steamroller crushing paper mache manatees and dolphins to symbolize the Bush Administration) and makes a great point about birddogging. He says, “Birddogging is like being a Minuteman. We are in a war. A war of ideas, yes, but also a war of numbers, pizzazz, and media savvy. This administration is willing to lie to win each battle. We want to tell the truth (‘cause that’s the kind of people we are) and we believe the public can sort out lies from the truth eventually. But we cannot expose the lies unless we get our message heard, and to do that in today’s media world you need to be faster, more interesting, and resilient. That’s what the Minutemen did. That’s what we’ll do.“ Come join us.
If you would like to join us, call the Florida Office of the Sierra Club at (727) 824-8813 ext.306 to be put on a contact list so that we can update and involve you when the Bush Administration comes to a town near you!
This unexpected gem is situated at the confluence of Paynes Creek and the Peace River in the outskirts of the small town of Bowling Green in Hardy County. The park, which is just a few miles south of the Polk County line on US 17, was established in 1974 for the purpose of preserving the site of several structures involved in the Third Seminole War. These included a Trading Post whose destruction by raiding Indians started the war, and a fort subsequently constructed to defend the area. Little remains of these structures at the present time, but the management plan just approved for submission to the Department of Environmental Protection requests further archeological and historical research for information that would make possible accurate reconstruction of the store and fort.
In addition to its varied terrain and extensive hiking trails, the main natural attractions of the park are the creek and river which offer excellent opportunities for canoeing and kayaking. An unimproved canoe landing and primitive campsite currently exist, but plans call for their update in the near future. Because of its location within an easy day’s run from Fort Mead and about the same distance to Pioneer Park at Zolfo Springs, Paynes Creek Historic State Park would serve as an excellent mid-point campsite for multiple day excursions down Peace River. Hopefully we can include this as a fall or winter outing in the near future.
Sierra Club Florida