For the Baby Box Turtle – reworking our yards

I found this tiny Florida box turtle in December of 2021 while I was out in my yard. It was so small, I was nervous to let it walk back into the wild – but I did. I couldn’t believe it was so small -just a tad larger than a silver dollar. I immediately realized, “box turtles are breeding in our yard!” Over sixteen years,  I have seen box turtles occasionally, but not often, maybe once every five years. As box turtles wait until their late teens to reproduce and can live the ripe age of eighty, I imagine box turtles lived at Riverview before Ed and I did. But I like to think that Ed and I helped them recently -have this baby- by naturalizing our yard.

Last night I was reading and it made me think about the baby box turtle…

In his best selling book, Nature’s Best Hope, A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard, Douglas W. Tallamy writes about the population demise of the eastern box turtle – there are six types in North America. The one I found was a Florida Box Turtle. Tallamy discusses a better wildlife future if we all would offset the “isolation” of our modern (large lawns and ornamental landscaping) and “create connectivity.” This is not a difficult thing to do. By “shrinking our lawns,” and adding more native, and thus wildlife valuable landscaping, we create connectivity, like wildlife corridors-giving the box turtles and other wildlife a large area to live and a breed rather than thinking they can live and breed endlessly on a sterile postage stamp.

I have written many times, that Ed and I stopped fertilizing in 2008, and then slowly expanded our planting beds, adding more native plants. By 2018 we had no grass, added rocks for walking paths and native plants for a butterfly garden. This has really paid off as far as bringing more birds and wildlife! It’s more healthy. No fertilizer. No pesticides. Considerably less watering. And now a baby box turtle!

Sewall Point, Aurthur Ruhnke ca.1950, Thurlow Archives.

This 1950’s Aurthur Ruhnke Sewall’s Point aerial from my mother, Sandra Thurlow’s book of the same name, reveals the peninsular Sewall’s Point landscape between the St Lucie River/Indian RiverLagoon of the 1950s before major subdividing. Other than the naive people, Sewall’s Point’s first residents settled in the late 1800s when Sewall’s Point was a natural coastal landscape, and on higher ground, a hardwood hammock. Today, practically no natural landscape is left. Hundreds of wildlife habitat acres developed, now filled with sterile, water demanding lawns, and mostly “ornamentals” that hold no wildlife value. Luckily, there remain quite a few giant trees such as oak, gumbo limbo, paradise, mastic, and hickory. Replanting with natives and less lawn would look more like the photo above and less like the Google Earth image below. So, to Mr Tallamy’s point, if we all planted more natives (and I know many of you have! 🙂 and less grass in our yards, even though we are now so split up (isolated) we could build connectivity for wildlife throughout Sewall’s Point and everywhere. He notes nature doesn’t just belong in parks!

Having spent the last sixteen years fighting for the St Lucie River, I have come to understand the important connection of the land to the water. The little box turtle may not live in the river, but the baby turtle is a sign of health for the lands that are connected to the waters. And this really makes me smile.

Baby turtle going back to from where it had come after I photographed it. It’s a big world out there! Good luck little box turtle!

LOSOM Presentations – Project Delivery Team Meeting – Jan. 12, 2022

This blog post is for documentation purposes so that members of the public who may not be on the LOSOM list have access. The presentations are scientific. This web-ex meeting occurred 1-12-22.

“The focus of the Jan. 12 PDT engagement will be (was) an overview of the final model data  and an update on the operational guidance development.” said LOSOM Project Manager Tim Gysan.“The agenda will include an overview of the modeling results of the LOSOM Preferred Alternative and an update on the operational guidance development. The guidance provides the instructions to the water managers and operators and defines the ability of LOSOM to address the varied climate conditions we may experience over the next decade. We value your continued participation in this development as we work towards the Draft EIS and water control plan,” said Gysan.

The Project Delivery Team (PDT) members include only the federal officials and elected officers of state, local or tribal governments or their designated employees with authority to act on their behalf acting in their official capacities…”  

ACOE press release 

~See links for power point presentation slides

FINAL LOSOM PDT 1.12.2022

LOSOM South Florida Metrics Overview 12 January 2022

Last Flight Old Friend

The Beechcraft Baron – whose distinctive wing tip has marked thousands of aerial photos since the infamous algae bloom year of 2016 – is flying to further skies. I thank this airplane for documenting the important issues of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, Lake Okeechobee, and Florida Everglades. Ed and I never gave him a name, other than “the Baron.” I insisted that Ed take some farewell photos before he is handed off to a new owner.  I share those photographs today.

~Last Flight Old Friend, I will miss you.  

 -Early morning sunlight and rain combine in a beautiful farewell to an extraordinary place, St Lucie Inlet, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, Stuart, Florida 8:00am, 1-12-22. Ed Lippisch

  -Ed with Baron 6-19-2016

-Ed with Baron 10-30-21.

-Me kissing Baron goodbye…

Everglades Coalition Conference #EVCO22

The 37th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference took place at Hawk’s Cay in Duck’s Key, January 6-8 2022. I’ve attended almost all of the conferences since 2012 and this year’s was another one for the history books: Everglades Restoration: “Investing in a Climate Resilient Future.”

I am sharing all pages that include the program schedule and award winners. You can reference full program from above link. I will also include various photographs, and a my phone’s video of legend, Mr Dick Pettigrew’s acceptance speech – He was awarded the “Hall of Fame” award. He is 92 years old and still going strong! What a wonderful conference. 

It was impressive to see almost the entire SFWMD board and executive staff in attendance and the ACOE’s Col. Jamie Booth, and LTC Todd Polk – along with ACOE staff. So many participants from so many perspectives! We are listening and all have the same goal: to adapt and restore America’s Everglades.

-Martin County legend  Mark Perry, was awarded the Conservation Award (Ed and JTL, Nancy and Mark Perry, Eve Samples)

Historic look at EVCO through the years! 

-Rev. Houston Cypress was awarded the Grassroots Award (w/Eva Velez USACOE)Dr Evelyn Gaiser was awarded the Public Service Award

-Various photo gallery, sorry I have not named all, will try later!

-Photos of presentation slides and gallery photos

-Mr. Dick Pettigrew Hall of Fame awardee (L) with Ernie Cox

Dick Pettigrew’s acceptance speech

 

-Below: Old friends reunited! Dick Pettigrew, Maggy Hurchalla, James Murley, Kim Taplin, Rock Salt, Daniella Levine Cava.

A River Kid Grows Up – Veronica Dalton

If there is any child that epitomizes the River Kidz  movement, it is Veronica Dalton. The date was August 3, 2013, and Ed and I were out of town. We were somewhere in North Carolina when my phone started blowing up. “There is going to be a Lost Summer protest at St Lucie Locks and Dam. Surfer, Evan Miller, put a Facebook invite, and over 5000 people are coming!”“Holy cow Ed!” I said. ” I can’t believe we’re gone for this. The River Kidz need to be part. What should I do? There is this newer member, she has written her speeches out before the group for other events, Veronica Dalton. I’m going call her parents, Tammy and John and next, Rivers Coalition leader, Leon Abood, and see if Veronica will do it.” Her parents put Veronica on the phone. Leon supported.

The rest is history.

Eleven year old Veronica Dalton, a student at Port Salerno Elementary School, in her own words- spoke before a crowd of over 5000 people. In the photos sent to me, I could see the crowd loved her and she was beaming!“She has never been nervous about public speaking since,” I am told by her parents John and Tammy Dalton of Stuart. Veronica graduated from South Fork High School’s  International Baccalaureate Program. She is now a Sophomore at the Department of Theatre at Florida State University in Tallahassee. I had a chance to catch up with her when she was home during the holidays in late December 2021.

JTL: “Veronica! Great to hear your voice. Tell me about yourself!”

Veronica: “So I’m a theatre major with the School of Theatre at FSU. I’m focusing on design production so I am more on the technical side of theatre and film. I’m learning to design costumes, build costumes. I took a welding class last semester. It’s all hands on work. I am presently working in the costume shop as a stichary, so I’m getting show credits for all of the productions being put on so far. I’ve joined in a non profit organization named MUSED PRODUCTIONS. The goal is to bring focus to artist in Tallahassee. We basically put on live music events that are themed. In April, we’re putting on a ball which is going to have a fashion show element to it as well. So I am the creative director of that event.”

https://theatre.fsu.edu

JTL: “Very impressive! I know you were into theatre at South Fork as well. Has Covid waned a bit or is it still defining university?”

Veronica: “At least this year, 2021, it doesn’t seem to be as prominent as last year. FSU isn’t allowed to require students to wear mask so they just highly encourage wearing a mask and getting vaccinated. It’s been normalized now. In 2020 it was pretty intense, we had no in person classes, I was like doing performance theater in my bedroom in front of a camera. It was very strange. This this year having a personal connection is really nice.”

JTL: “Your River Kidz experience of your youth, are any of those skills translatable to what you are doing now?”

Veronica: “Well, yes. So all of the public speaking I did has prepared me to better articulate my ideas especially when I’m coming up with designs and then I have to present them to a director – getting my ideas across – and now I’m doing event management so I’m like really learning how to stay in conversation and host events and organize with other groups of people who have similar interest. So that’s all been very helpful. The communication aspect of River Kidz has really helped.”

JTL: “This makes me so happy Veronica. That’s the thing with skills such as public speaking, especially speaking before a political group, politician,  or a crowd, that is applicable to all things in life. It instills confidence.”

Veronica: “My end goal is to go into entertainment law and help costume designers and fashion designers have quality and equal pay – not living unworkable hours -start helping the economic side of theatre.

~”Also what I’ve I learned in the theatre and the fashion industry is that every thing is very wasteful. They have fast fashion brands like Sheen or Forever 21 that are over-utilizing resources abroad and it’s just causing more waste to be produced. I want to work for creating more sustainable fashion and sustainable fashion houses. We really need to start working on that. There’s so much that goes into it. There’s copyright law because Sheen is always stealing designs off of Instagram and selling them at a cheaper price and they are cheaply made. Usually, those outfits are only worn once or a few times  because they are poorly made and they end up in a dump and the cycle just continues.”

JTL: Wow, I would have never thought about that.”

Veronica: “There’s so much sustainability that needs to be brought into theatre and film just to keep it a sustainable art and not something that over time becomes difficult to do because we don’t have the resources we need.”JTL: “Wow the River Kidz recycling education is in you Veronica! I’m so proud! Do you have any words of wisdom for the next generation of River Kidz?”

Veronica: “It’s kind of cliche, but get out of your comfort zone. I say this…. It’s all because, the River Kidz, was an accident chance occurrence- you pushing me onto the stage to speak… 🙂

-Photos shared by Veronica of herself and her boyfriend Trey. Thank  you Veronica! 

 

 

A Picture Speaks a 1000 Words

-Martin County Manatee educational sign in the IRL at Joe’s Point Understandably, many are concerned about manatees. Today, I share the most recent 12/29/21 Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) video update by Dr Tom Reinard. Please click on below.

12/29/21 FWC MANATEE MORTALITY EVENT and FEEDING UPDATE

This FWC site is updated weekly, and previous updates are available. Here one can view the Temporary Field Response Station in Brevard County where only FWC, at a large distance, will interact with these marine mammals, by law, the public cannot. Manatees, as wild creatures, should never associate humans with food. You will see in the video how FWC has made this a priority.

In Florida, presently, the stats for manatee deaths are highest in Brevard County, but also higher by year in many other counties like Martin. Stuart resident and world famous wildlife artist Geoffrey Smith is a friend, and on 12/30/21 he shared some photos that he took of a deceased manatee that had recently washed up on the shores of St Lucie Inlet State Park. With Geoffrey’s permission, I share these photos below. Beware, you may find them disturbing. Geoff reported the carcass to FWC. Please do the same by calling 1-888-404-3922 press 7 for Operator– if you encounter such.

I am also including photos taken by my husband, Ed Lippisch, out on the Sailfish Flats of the St Lucie and Indian River Lagoon. These photos show seagrass cover on Thursday, December, 30, 2021. Readers of my blog will know that since 2013, Ed and I have religiously documented the discharges and cyanobacteria blooms entering the St Lucie River through C-44 and Lake Okeechobee. I believe that the seagrass loss near the St Lucie Inlet is connected to the many years of reoccurring destruction particularly in 2013, 2016, and 2018 as the long lasting discharges kept sunlight from reaching the seagrasses. In Brevard County, seagrass loss is linked to little flushing in the IRL as there are few inlets, and thousands of septic tanks’ nutrient pollution adds to decades of stormwater and ignites algae blooms – also keeping light from the the seagrasses. Scientist note it is all much more complicated than this, however there are certain things we can do to improve the situation- like stop/lessen discharges and make sure septic is working properly and or changed out to sewer.

My hope in sharing Geoffrey Smith’s photographs and getting my husband to regularly visually check up on the seagrass beds is to continue to inspire change. Since 2019 more state and federal funding has been made available for improvements to our waterways than ever before. We inspired that! Now we just have take it to the finish line.

ST LUCIE INLET STATE PARK, MANATEE REMAINS, GEOFFREY SMITH shared 12-30-21.

-“Hi, Jacqui. Manatee on beach St Lucie Inlet State Park the other day.” Geoffrey Smith wrote that these images remind him of poached African Elephants. “So sad.”  St Lucie Inlet State Park lies south of the St Lucie Inlet in Martin County, Fl.

SEAGRASS PHOTOS, Ed Lippisch

The following photos of seagrass beds were taken by my husband Ed Lippisch on 12-30-21. Seagrasses, like plants in our yards, naturally grow more in warmer months and less in cooler/cold months. So these photos will be a baseline for 2022 to see how the seagrass grows throughout 2022. Since the heavy discharges from Lake Okeechobee and area canals (Lake O is worse as it does not let up and ofter goes on for many months unlike a rain event) the seagrass has lost its lushness but remains visible as in Ed’s photos.

Manatees need lush seagrass for their survival.

-Ed’s location around blue dot; note this area is an Aquatic Preserve

 

SFWMD Seagrass Presentation Town of Seall’s Point

 

Great Water Projects on the Horizon for 2022

-A bit overwhelmed, Okee reviews the ACOE’s Integrated Delivery Schedule As the final days of 2021 come to a close, it is natural to be asking: “what is in line for 2022?” And although the world may seem as confusing as ever, and trying to read the Army Corp of Engineers’ -“List of Things to Do 2021 – that will be followed in 2022,” known formally as the “IDS,” or Integrated Delivery Schedule,”- impossible – things are looking really good for water.

IDS FINAL 2021 ACOE 

Historic funding is in place for Everglades restoration, and a lot of that work will be happening right here at home in Martin and St Lucie Counties. There have been a few ups and downs, but now the IDS looks more favorable than ever.

Today, I am going to hone in on two areas of the IDS. The first, Indian River Lagoon South, that county commissions are owed the most thanks for their leadership; and the EAA Reservoir, that the River Movement of the Lost Summer of 2013, with the leadership of Senate President Joe Negron, made happen.

When these two major projects are fully completed, the St Luice River/Indian River Lagoon will have an opportunity to heal. As a postscript, I must mention some of my readers have said I appear to be completely “sold by the engineering – the problem that got us where we are in the first place.” And I must say, that is not the case. I agree, engineering alone is not enough. We all must do our part on our own postage stamp of land. These postage stamps add up to millions of acres and they all flow to the river.  A great book about this is called “Nature’s Best Hope” A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard, by Douglas W. Tallamy. Fixing Florida is a team sport and must include everybody!

So, back to our engineering team of the Army Corp of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District’s CERP or  Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, let’s take a look. If you are like most people, when you look at this long list your eyes glaze over. So let’s zoom in.

The green area, two sections down, includes Indian River Lagoon South. This is a huge project that includes both Martin and St Lucie counties and the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. When we peruse the green section, we see C-44 Reservoir; C-23/C-24 Reservoir; and C-25 Reservoir. Other major factors listed such as Storm Water Treatment Areas, an Interconnect Canal, Natural Water Quality Storage, Muck Removal, and Artificial Habitat Creation are also broken out. For simplicity, I will focus on the reservoirs as all else accompanies them.

You can study the entire list to see when the project goal of completion falls. All is before 2031. Mind you these projects are gigantic and complex. Like nothing else in the entire world. The C-44 Reservoir, the southern project of Indian River Lagoon South, in Martin County,  went on line just recently as the first major completed CERP project. Incredible! Now to get C-23/C-24 and C-25- the rest of “Indian River Lagoon South-” to the finish line!

INDIAN RIVER LAGOON SOUTH, PART OF CERP -LEARN MORE BELOW.

A. -IRLS C-44 Reservoir ACOE 

IRLS C-44 Reservoir ACOE Ribbon Cutting

The rest of IRLS that will be completed

B. IRLS C-23/24 Reservoir

C. IRLS C-25 Reservoir (SFWMD completes land purchase 2021)

The next section to focus on is the forth section down in a cream color;  it includes the EAA Reservoir that is located south of Lake Okeechobee near the southern part of Palm Beach County. This project  is dear to my heart as this is why I entered the fight, in 2008, in the first place. Sending more water south is the best way to send less water to the estuaries and open up the system to get water south to the Everglades as Nature would have…

Below we see different components of the EAA Reservoir; it too, is planned to be complete by 2031. 2031 may seem a long way from 2022, but in CERP time, it is “tomorrow.”

We must continue to fight in 2022 and beyond to keep this IDS “as-is” and complete these projects. In the meanwhile, please make your yard a conservation area. Individually and collectively, there are many reasons to be optimistic in 2022 about Florida’s Water Future.

EAA RESERVOIR, PART OF CERP. LEARN MORE BELOW.

-EAA RESERVOIR ACOE 

FLOW AFTER CERP:

MAPS FLORIDA SFWMD – See how Florida used to be and more.

Manatee Mortality Event Along the East Coast 2020-2021

-Manatees eating off the seawall in Flamingo, FL. May, 2021. Photo JTLYesterday I called Dr Tom Reinard, South Regional Director for the Florida Wildlife Commission, and asked for an update on the manatee situation. He forwarded me this most recent update that includes an educational video about state and federal agencies- an emergency station, feeding, and observation.

As we know, the Florida manatees are experiencing an unprecedented Mortality Event. Most of the deaths are occurring in Brevard County, three counties north of Martin, along the Indian River Lagoon; but there are above average deaths in many counties. You can view the chart below to find your county and FWC Mortality Statistics to compare years. This event is due to lack of food to be found when manatees, with memories like elephants as they are related, return to find their historic seagrass meadows gone.

-2021 Manatee Mortality Table

-PBP article by Kimberly Miller

Recently, Dr Jessica Frost of the South Florida Water Management District presented about SEAGRASS along to the Sewall’s Point Commission in the Town of Sewall’s Point, Martin County. Her overall message was optimistic for the return of seagrass in our St Lucie/Indian River region in that seagrass is resilient. She pointed out that seagrass growth is seasonal and stochastic (randomly determined; having a random probability distribution or pattern that may be analyzed statistically but may not be predicted precisely.)

One thing that seemed simple to understand was the requirement of light for seagrass. We can all think of many reasons our various waters are blocked of light, such as algae blooms from nutrient pollution. For seagrasses to grow, there must be light.

“Let there be light…”

I share Dr Frosts’ powerpoint for reference and documentation. It is a good reference for all the lagoon. May 2022 be better than 2020 and 2021. From River Kidz to FWC we all must work to bring back the health of our seagrasses for our iconic manatee!

VIDEOS OF MANATEES EATING OFF THE SEAWALL IN FLAMINGO, FL MAY, 2021. HEAR THEM BREATH!

SAVE THE MANATEES, RIVER KIDZ, 2021 On January 26, 2022, 7PM, there will be a presentation SAVE OUR MANATEES at the Lyric Theatre in Stuart, Florida. Ticket are free.

Mom’s Christmas Gift: “Beyond the Fourth Generation”

Last night, I began reading the book, BEYOND THE FOURTH GENERATION, by Lamar Johnson. My mother gave me this 1974 book as a Christmas gift. On the package was written, “Recommended by Howard Ehmke.”

“Wow.”  I thought. “Mr Ehmke is an institution of the South Florida Water Management District, – forever – lead surveyor and mapper, and designer of the agency’s beloved logo.”

I read late into the night, and recognized early in chapter one, that author, Lamar Johnson’s childhood account of the 1921 Everglades was absolutely captivating and included an event that I had attended “100 years later,” -through the South Florida Water Management District in 2021.Lamar Johnson tells many incredible stories. The one that follows his dog, Lassie, getting dragged down deep to her death in the Miami Canal by a giant alligator includes his boyhood account of the murder of G.C. Douglas, the first Deputy Sheriff in Lake Harbor, once near Bare Beach, in Palm Beach County. As alluded to, I had been exposed to this story of the Deputy – and invited in August of 2021, to the 100 year later – memorial – by my parent’s dear friend, Chappy Young, GCY INC.

It really made the event come to life, reading “Beyond The Fourth Generation.” As I told my mother today, I worried about the incident within those times, as it was like the wild west. It remains a remarkable historical break-through that Deputy Douglas was researched and  honored along the banks of the old Miami Canal one-hundred years later. Thus, today, I share my photos from August 2021. You can learn more by watching the video at the end of this post.

-Group shot -SFWMD Board Members, Ben Butler, JTL,  and Exec. Dir. Drew Bartlett-Photos from the area, Lake Harbor, just east of Clewiston along Lake Okeechobee. -The old Miami Locks. Lake Okeechobee met the canal here in 1921. -Location of event as shown on Google Maps, easy to see how the lake once reached this area and beyond during wet season, then flowed south through the River of Grass.-This Google Map close up shows the Old Miami Locks from above at Azalea Court and Weaver Lane; note width of original canal compared to today. Thankfully this has been preserved as a state historic site. -Arriving with Regional Rep. Sherry McCorkle