March 2004 Newsletter Articles
The Polk Group of Florida Sierra will lose a good friend and the State’s forests a great champion when Mark Hebb retires this month and moves to the Panhandle. In what is surely his "swan song" presentation to us, Mark highlighted events in his thirty-year long career, initially as State Forester, and finally as District Manager, Florida Division of Forestry. In a free flowing presentation, Mark covered topics of special concern to him such as controlled burning, exotic plant control or eradication, timber harvesting, and the need for the State to continue land acquisition as suitable tracts become available. When asked about life after retirement, we learned that Mark and his wife, Linda, are ardent wilderness voyagers with weeks logged in excursions via canoe on the extensive river and lake systems of the far north regions of Ontario and other Canadian provinces. Now with more time available, they plan to continue these adventures. I am sure that all will join me in wishing for Mark and Linda that their paddles are always wet and their camping spots are blessed each evening with the hauntingly beautiful sound of calling Loons. For me, no other sound so clearly brings back memories of my own treasured times in those woods.
Hopefully, Thursday, February 26 will mark the restart of our group’s effort to improve Lake Hancock. In continuation of activities begun by Richard Coleman and Marian Ryan several years ago, Marian and I are in the process of organizing a coalition of interested parties for the purpose of developing Lake Hancock into a prime waterfowl habitat. The coalition will include The Audubon Society, Ducks Unlimited, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Polk County Environmental Services, SWFWMD, and the Polk Group of Florida Sierra. We will survey the Old Florida Plantation property newly acquired by SWFWMD. SWFWMD’s major goals will be to raise the level of the lake and to create filtration marshes or other structures so that both the quantity and quality of water flowing into the Peace River are improved. The Coalition will strive to see that these changes are made in ways that enhance waterfowl habitat.
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“Sierra Club Charges Bush Administrations with abandoning Everglades restoration”, was one of the headlines emerging from the recent annual Everglades Coalition meeting in Miami in late January. Sierra Club is one of forty organizations - both national, state and local groups - who are committed to restoring our River of Grass.
In failing to send a representative, the Governor sent a sure reminder of a management style that brooks no dissent, from inside or out. In particular, the Governor is on the opposite side of environmentalists, who have never let up on clamoring that polluters of the Everglades should be primarily responsible for cleaning up their pollution: a ballot measure passed in 1996 that requires leadership of the Florida legislature.
Instead of holding the sugar industry accountable to the voice of the people - expressed by a strong majority - the Governor defended the sugar industry’s continued pollution of the Everglades. Passed in 2003, the “Everglades Whenever” Act, supported by Governor Bush at the behest of the sugar industry, will allow the continued pollution of the Everglades for at least a decade.
The Governor is also angry with Sierra Club, because our organization asked for the resignation of FDEP Secretary David Struhs, for - among other reasons - misrepresenting to the Florida legislature that federal agencies supported the Everglades Whenever Act, when this was not the case. So we understand why Governor Bush is angry, and did what no modern governor has done: shunned the Everglades Coalition. But we were particularly taken by a comment made by a FDEP spokesperson, who was quoted in the press with the following explanation of their absence: “we prefer action, not rhetoric.”
It was exactly the actions of the Bush teams in Tallahassee and Washington that caused Sierra Club to withdraw our support for the package of projects known as the $8 billion Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. Here were actions, not rhetoric, that we cited:
- Programmatic Regulations issued by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 2003 ignored the substantive comments by Sierra Club and other environmental groups in the draft phase. The action of the state and federal Bush administration in support of a bad road map for restoration, suggest that there is no “destination”. The regulations fail to provide standards and criteria for agency action that will ensure natural system restoration. The regulations also ensure that the Department of the Interior role will never rise to the level of a threat to the authority of the State of Florida or the Corps.
- The anti-Everglades law, which Sierra Club opposed and which every major newspaper editorial board in the state joined us in opposing, delays the planned cleanup of sugar’s phosphorous pollution by 10 years or more. The industry mounted a massive disinformation campaign, spending millions of dollars and hiring nearly as many lobbyists as state senators.
< li>The State of Florida is strongly supporting the vast expansion of rock mining at the edge of the Everglades, in areas that are especially valuable to the public interest for recharging and cleansing the Biscayne aquifer. The reality is that the expansion of rock mining, totaling tens of thousands of acres, has the strong potential to contaminate groundwater, benefiting industry and imposing enormous costs on the public, as well as foreclosing water storage options that would benefit the Everglades.
- Governor and President Bush’s administrations are permitting development projects and urban sprawl to rapidly expand through environmentally sensitive lands, providing a boom for land speculators and foreclosing the possibilities for restoration. Pleasing powerful campaign contributors and special interests to the Governor’s office, means claiming victory for flood control, through the investment of new pipes and pumps, while winking at restoration. Sprawl moves toward the EAA, the creation of Ave Maria University in Collier County promises more sprawl; whatever lands are acquired must stack water in virtual “bathtubs” ringed by pavement and concrete.
- The state Bush administration is willing to bend to the needs of counties, demanding 20 year consumptive use permits, even though the virtually limitless water needs are in conflict with protecting groundwater flow. Relatively cost effective measures like a Skyway proposed by raising the Tamiami Trail, considered by scientists to be the most direct improvement to water flow in the Everglades, was rejected by the Florida Department of Transportation because the environmental purpose was not considered by the agency to be “an improvement”.
- The Bush administrations could pressure sugar to vacate Talisman Farms, desperately needed for surface water storage. The 50,000 acres was purchased by the public, explicitly for the purpose of water storage, and yet sugar interests operate in plain defiance of the need to accelerate the transition.
- The state Bush administration broke its promise to environmentalists, more than two years ago, and has failed to provide the public with a cost analysis and alternatives to the core technology of the current Everglades restoration plan: more than 300 wells to store and retrieve fresh water for urban and agricultural uses. The delays in offering this plan to the public have only served to benefit land use speculators and to allow planning for more sprawl.
- The state and federal Bush administrations are supporting litigation in the US Supreme Court, that could use the Everglades to break the back of the Clean Water Act. At stake: the desire of the state to allow dirty water to be backpumped to the Everglades without requirement for permits under the CWA.
- The state and federal Bush administrations have acted to limit the role of independent science review in the adaptive management of Everglades restoration. With respect to science, what the government has done is acted to ensure that the same agencies charged with implementing Everglades related projects will also be charged with “auditing” their performance.
In a news report published in the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, former Corps District Engineer Rock Salt, current Department of Interior's Everglades policy director, said, “I don't understand sometimes why some in the environmental community are so unsatisfied.” It is our view, that the lack of understanding is not on account of a failure to listen. Our government has shut itself off from what we are saying. But we remain optimistic, optimistic because it is within our power to help others understand why the American people are so unsatisfied with our leadership in Tallahassee and Washington. Sierra Club activists across the state, can help by reaching out to constituencies who may not believe that the environment is the first priority in electing the next president: change is.
The new chairs for 2004 of the Everglades Committee of the Florida Chapter are Nancy Lee, Miami Group, and Kim Anaston, Broward Group. It has been a great pleasure to represent the Everglades committee and to work with the fine activist leaders and volunteers around the state, who share a passion for justice and the environment.
...Alan Farago, former Sierra Everglades Chair
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National Sierra Board in Peril
This year there is an unprecedented level of outside involvement and attention to the Sierra Club's Board of Directors' election. Outside, non-environmental organizations have endorsed candidates in the Club's Board elections and are urging their supporters to join the Club as a means to influence club policy in line with their non-environmental agendas.
The Sierra Club has become an even more influential and effective voice in American society over the last decade. Now it appears that non-environmental groups are trying to take advantage of the Club's open and democratic nature to influence the composition of our Board of Directors and our policies. Faced with this threat, the Board of Directors urges every member of the Club to act thereby insuring that the Sierra Club remains faithful to its environmental mission and principles.
Please cast your vote in this year's election as a means of demonstrating to outside groups that they cannot influence our organization. Vote for candidates whose positions reflect your values and vision for the future of the Sierra Club. Vote for candidates whose experience matches what you believe the Club needs. Vote for candidates endorsed by Club leaders whom you trust.
Democracy really does work - but only if we all vote. Help maintain the Sierra Club's tradition as America's preeminent democratic and grass roots advocate for the environment.
The above is excerpted from a letter by Larry Fahn, Sierra President. The importance of our National Board is explained below by the Inspectors of the Election.
The annual election for the Club's Board of Directors is now underway. This month you will receive in the mail your national Sierra Club ballot. This will include information on the candidates for the Board of Directors.
The Sierra Club is a democratically structured organization at all levels that requires the regular flow of views on policy and priorities from its grassroots membership in order to function well. Yearly participation in elections at all Club levels is a major membership obligation. Your Board of Directors is required to stand for election by the membership. This Board sets Club policy and budgets at the national level and works closely with the staff to run the Club. Voting for candidates who express your views on how the Club should grow and change is both a privilege and responsibility of membership. In an average year less than 9% of eligible Sierra members vote - a small cohesive voting bloc could ‘throw’ an election.
Members frequently state that they don't know the candidates and find it difficult to vote without learning more. You can learn more by asking questions of your group and chapter leadership and other experienced members you know. Visit the Club's election website at www.sierraclub.org/bod/2004election
which this year will include candidate responses to questions posted by various Club leaders. You should use your own judgment by taking several minutes to read the ballot statement of each candidate, make your choices, and then cast your votes. You will find our ballot is quite straightforward and easy to mark. You can even cast your vote electronically!
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pictures Copyright © 2004, Frances H Coleman, All Rights Reserved
For a $35 donation one of these attractive nesting boxes can entice wood ducks to your yard. The boxes are made from thick rough cut cypress and have an easy clean-out feature. If you would rather have the Sierra Club put a box you sponsor in the Kissimmee River Valley, we'll be happy to arrange that. Twenty dollars of each donation will be sent to the Richard L. Coleman Scholarship Fund at New College and is tax deductible. Call Bob Taylor at 439-2251 or Frances Coleman at 956-3771 to have your box ready at a time and location convenient for you.
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