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


Explore, Enjoy and Protect The Planet


June 2005 Newsletter articles

COUNTING BUTTERFLIES! (and other activities)


Recycling junk mail? When Polk County does that, we're making progress.

A recent call to Ed Sparks, Polk County's Recycling Manager, revealed that and much more. The call was prompted by worries over "contamination" in the various Recycling bins (i.e. cereal boxes in the containers marked corrugated cardboard) and the response was 'there's a lot of misconception out there.' Actually all Recyclables (from municipalities as well as county pickup) are hauled to a very large sorting facility run by a contractor at the Landfill on CR 540; the sorting there started out with manual sorting, 'ten finger technology', but is rapidly becoming automated. With just 60% of the county on curb-side Recycling the contractor is making enough to remit between $15,000 to $20,000 per month to the county. Recycling is close to paying for itself and, of course, we are conserving resources. The Commissioners are considering taking curb-side Recycling to 100% of the unincorporated county. The refuse hauling companies are concerned about the cost but maximum Recycling should generate enough revenue to pay for the process and it is the responsible thing to do.

Call the County Commissioners and urge them to mandate 100% curb-side Recycling for unincorporated Polk. (863 534-6422 will reach a person who will deliver the message to all the commissioners.)

Now a few tips or instructions: all paper and paperboard can be Recycled except that which is wax coated or food-contaminated. All plastics from #1 to #6 can be Recycled (that includes most plastic packaging); don't bother to take the tops off the bottles. All glass can be Recycled except for mirrors and window panes (crushed glass is used in lieu of gravel at the landfill and can be picked up for landscaping by individuals). Of course, Recycle all steel and aluminum cans. Yard debris (leaves, limbs, etc.) is mulched; free mulch is available to homeowners, some is burned to generate electricity - all is used. Styrofoam containers are Recyclable. All plastic bags should be taken to the grocery stores. If possible, create a compost pile with organic kitchen waste and yard waste.

With curb-side Recycling, all Recyclables will go into two containers, paper and paperboard in one and cans, glass and plastic in another. Yard debris should be bagged or bundled for collection. The little 'garbage' that's left goes in the Trash Can. Utopia!
...Frances H. Coleman

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The Scan America Holdings Corporation property, now known as the Osprey Unit of the Hilochee Wildlife Management Area (WMA), lies at the southeastern end of the Green Swamp Area of Critical State Concern. The 6,000 plus acre tract straddles I-4 in Polk County between C.R. 557 and U.S. 27. In the 1990s, this mosaic of sandhills and cypress swamp was known as Green Valley and was an approved Development of Regional Impact. But some alarming things were happening on the property.

My husband John and I spent many hours monitoring and photographing the questionable activities occurring on the property which included numerous wetlands violations. With our photographic evidence, the state was prepared to make a case against the owners. It would have been the largest wetlands violation case in the state of Florida, the second largest ever in the U.S. But, the warrant was improperly issued and served – the case went right down the toilet. All evidence was suppressed because of the problems with the search warrant.

Consequently, we were able to convince the Board of County Commissioners to vacate the DRI. The property changed hands.

We then approached the state about acquiring the site. The Sierra Club lobbied long and hard to have this important wetland parcel purchased. The site once held one of the highest densities of nesting Sandhill Cranes in the southeastern U.S. After long, difficult negotiations, the majority of the property was purchased by the Department of Environmental Protection in 2001. Scan America retained sand mining interests in another 1,800 acres of land within and adjacent to the state-owned property. The state had an option to purchase these remaining lands and we were committed to reminding the state to buy them once they became available.

Following the reclamation release of the site by FDEP’s Bureau of Mine Reclamation in 2003, I began making inquiries to the Division of State Lands (DSL) about the potential purchase of the property. I was in correspondence with several people with DSL and the Fish & Wildlife Commission (FWC) over a period of almost 2 years. Each agency claimed the other was the one that should initiate action.

My husband met with an associate on April 29th who in conversation informed him that the owners of the Scan Mine property were actively pursuing the sale of the site. I got the name and number of the owner’s attorney and called him. The awful truth is that there is a sale pending for the 1800 acre inholding.  I obtained a copy of a land sales data sheet that shows that the mine property is under contract for an estimated $13 million and is expected to close in July. The attorney also provided information that the state was notified in June of 2004 that they had 180 days to exercise their option to purchase the property…… that option expired November 29, 2004.

As you might guess, reports are that the buyer is a developer/investor.  The expected use is for “development with rural residential home sites, perhaps with an equestrian type subdivision with lots ranging in size from 1 acre to 20 acres."

This news caused me to contact Eva Armstrong, Director FDEP, Division of State Lands to inquire about how things could go so wrong. (I should have done this much sooner.) She responded that yes, Scan America notified DSL of the activation of the “option” period on June 1, 2004 by certified mail. DSL then spent the next 60 days evaluating the site along with FWC's manager of Hilochee. At that point in time, the decision was made not to purchase the property. “The site had been reclaimed for mining purposes but was still scarified and would have required a significant amount of restoration to bring it up to standards for a WMA.”

I still can’t believe that I was in correspondence with state agencies in April and September of ‘04 and it took until now (May ‘05) to find out the decision not to pursue acquisition was made in July or August of ‘04. I think the decision not to pursue purchase is short-sighted. We might not have been able to come to terms on a price, but to not even try is folly.  

Now we'll end up with 200 + houses in the middle of a wildlife management unit in the core area of the Green Swamp Area of Critical State Concern!!! I just hope that we can work with the developer to minimize impacts to the WMA and enhance future use of the two wildlife underpasses that the FDOT plans to install when they construct the I-4 expansion in 2025.

There are more lands in and around the Hilochee WMA that should be acquired…….I’ve already started to lobby for those to be reassessed and purchased or otherwise conserved ASAP. It never ends………..
...Marion Ryan

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Last summer's circuit of the Group's territory was so popular we're expanding the route this year. As noted, June is in Lakeland, there will be No Meeting in July (and no newsletter) , in August we will meet in Auburndale (there will be directions provided on an invitation card), and in September we will meet in either Highlands or Hardee counties - we need input from our members to the south of Polk as to where they would like to meet and what issues they would like to discuss (Marian 863 293-6961 or mryan@pipevines.net

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The ivory-billed woodpecker has been rediscovered in the Cache River and White River forests of eastern Arkansas. More than 60 years after the last confirmed sighting of the species in the United States, a research team announced that at least one male ivory-bill still survives in vast areas of bottomland swamp forest. The bird was thought to be extinct. The evidence was gathered during an intensive year-long search in the Cache River and White River national wildlife refuges involving more than 50 experts and field biologists working together as part of the Big Woods Conservation Partnership, led by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology at Cornell University and The Nature Conservancy. The most important lesson that all of us can learn from this discovery is that the conservation of the Cache River and White River and the wise stewardship of their bottomland forests does pay huge dividends. For many decades, the Arkansas Wildlife Federation (AWF), other conservation groups and natural resource agencies fought the proposed channelization of Cache River. That Corps of Engineers project would have transformed Cache River into a straight ditch, lined with rocks and barren banks. Now, because of the work of conservationists and natural resource agencies, there is a national wildlife refuge on the Cache. Ivory-billed woodpeckers definitely prefer dense forests to barren ditches. Reflecting on other proposed Corps projects to alter the hydrology of the region, David Carruth, President of AFW, states... I can assure you that these multimillion dollar Corps of Engineers projects will be bad for this region of Arkansas. On the other hand, you can be assured that the discovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker will bring positive national exposure to this area which will result in an economic boon. The ivory-billed woodpecker is alive today because of conservation efforts that have taken place over several decades. It would be a crime to fail to see why it is so important to protect areas like the Cache and White River bottoms. The existence of this bird will teach us a lesson if we simply pay attention. ….Terry W. Horton, Arkansas Wildlife Federation Editor’s Note: Would that we had been able to stop the channelization of the Kissimmee in the ‘60s! Wildlife counts from the restored section of our river will be the determining criteria of whether restoration is a success. We await those numbers this year.

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John Ryan plays the "What's in the Bag?" game - children try to guess from touch only what items like a gobbler's beard are.

Marian and John Ryan assisting elementary school students with the ever popular make a button or refrig/magnet activity at the April Tenoroc event.



The Board of Directors of Lake Region Audubon recently voted unanimously to recognize Marian Ryan for her outstanding efforts on behalf of the environment. The wording on the missive delivered to Marian at the May Sierra meeting reads as follows: It is with a great deal of admiration for Marian Ryan, extraordinary friend of the environment, that the Lake Region Audubon Society awards to her an honorarium of $100. This is a token of our appreciation for her strong voice for the birds, bees, bunnies, butterflies, trees, rivers, yea, all that is nature. Thank you Marian! ...Dr. Paul Fellers

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On April 28, Congress voted by a narrow margin to approve a Budget Resolution conference report that includes an assumption of revenues from oil lease sales in the Arctic Refuge. While this vote marked a blow to our efforts to protect the Arctic, we will be ever more vigilant in our effort to keep the Arctic wild and free for future generations to explore and enjoy. The budget process moves forward and so will we, fighting it every step of the way. We will use the coming months to keep this unique and cherished wilderness safe from drilling. With your help, we'll continue to build our momentum, by continuing the fight on many fronts. During the coming months we will shine a bright media and public education spotlight on two facts: As the Arctic goes, so goes every other special place that the oil and gas interests want to drill. No place is safe or sacred: They are already targeting the California, Florida and Atlantic coasts, the Rocky Mountain Front, Otero Mesa, and the list goes on. And that America needs a 21st century energy policy - one that invests in clean, renewable energy like wind and solar power, encourages the use of existing technologies that conserve fuel like hybrid cars, and that creates jobs of the future instead of sacrificing special places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. For more information about the Arctic battle, visit: www.sierraclub.org/arctic

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picture by Jessica D Yarnell


A butterfly survey will be conducted on Wednesday, June 29th within a 15 mile diameter circle from the intersection of Walk-in-the-Water Road and S.R. 60. Territories will be assigned to participants. If you know your butterflies and want to be a part of this interesting endeavor, call Tom Palmer at 863-967-4711.

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Student day at Tenoroc on April 29th brought to a close Sierra's educational tabling for this season. Donna Stark, Central Florida EcoTours, is to be commended for sponsoring and coordinating this very well attended event for the last three years.



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masthead picture: Butterflies , published with permission
Copyright © 2003, Jessica D Yarnell, All Rights Reserved

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