Category Archives: wildlife

Update on the Constitution Revision Commission and Our Environment

Early in 2017, the work of the Constitution Revision Commission began. There were multiple public hearings around the state and thousands of public proposals were submitted for consideration. Out of the two thousand or so proposals, 103 of these were chosen by commissioners to be sponsored, or considered. 37 made it through the arduous committee process. Here is a list of those 37: http://flcrc.gov/PublishedContent/ADMINISTRATIVEPUBLICATIONS/CRCActiveProposalsHearings2018.pdf

Mind you, this list is difficult to interpret unless you go to the CRC website, hit the “Proposals” tab and  put in the number of the proposal to read the text along with the details. This takes a lot of work. http://flcrc.gov

An easier approach, to get an idea of each of the 37 proposals, is to refer to this Sun Sentinel article that list all 103 proposals with a short summary: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/politics/florida-politics-blog/fl-reg-constitution-revision-commission-final-proposals-20171120-story.html Obviously, just go the numbers and read “the 37,” from the first list I provided. You may need to print them out.

In the end, only a few of these 37 will be placed on the ballot for voter consideration. The full CRC will determine this after the second round of public hearings that is happening now.

As far as my proposals. I had 5 environmental proposals: #23 A Right to a Clean and Healthful Environment; #24 Commissioner of Environmental Protection; #46 Clarifying Amendment 1, Land Acquisition Trust Fund; #48 FWC/Wildlife Corridors; and #91 No Oil and Gas Drilling in Floirda’s Territorial Seas.

One proposal made it through committee out of five. P91 or “No Oil and Gas Drilling in Florida’s Territorial Seas” I am thankful, and cannot look back, or mope over what did not get through; I  must now turn all of my energy to this one proposal. And a remarkable proposal it is! I hope you will support it too, even if you had your hopes up for one of the others, as P91 is the sole environmental proposal of the 37, and a monumental opportunity.

This proposal would protect our territorial seas, our state waters, the waters under our jurisdiction. These waters have been drilled before and, hands down, if the oil and gas industry can, they will influence our state legislature so that they can drill our coastal waters again. There is no doubt about it. Just study history!

If this proposal makes it to the ballot it will be absolutely historic. Don’t think about the politics, think about the legacy. We would be the only state in the nation to have this in our state constitution. This would sound a loud environmental message, forever…

We all know, drilling so close to shore, as is done in other coastal southern states, would be visually, environmentally, and economically destructive to Florida’s unique/peninsular marine, wildlife, real estate, and tourism resources.

It is written in Article II of our state constitutional that “we shall protect our natural resources and scenic beauty.” P91 belongs in Florida’s Constitution. It would be an enormous statement on behalf of the people of Florida and would have major policy implications on many, many levels.

Thank you for following the CRC process and I will keep you appraised of P91 as the CRC process continues and we move towards what gets on the ballot for 2018.

In the meanwhile here is the CRC’s second round public hearing schedule:https://www.flcrc.gov/Media/PressReleases/Show/1071

You are welcome to speak and encouraged to attend!

Jacqui

Florida Channel videos of all CRC meetings: https://thefloridachannel.org/programs/constitution-revision-commission/

_MG_1455a_small_Robert_Holland_original

Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch is a member of the 2018 CRC:http://flcrc.gov/Commissioners/Thurlow-Lippisch

Paynes Prairie ~A Lake With a Road Through It…

I remember my historian mother telling me that Paynes Prairie was once a giant lake and that in the mid-1800s, before a sinkhole drained the lake, famed pioneer and pineapple farmer, Capt. Thomas E. Richards sailed from the St Johns River, in Jacksonville, over the lake, only to wind up at the Indian River Lagoon in Eden, near today’s Jensen.

Well this past Friday, on my way to Gainesville for the “Future of Florida Summit” (http://www.futureoffloridasummit.com) Paynes Prairie looked like it had become a lake once again. Although it is not a truly a lake any longer, it must be flooded as the prairie’s water levels go up and down.

As my grandparents lived in Gainesville and I graduated from UF, I have driven across the prairie many times, but seeing it from the air “all wet looking” really took me aback.  Like a miniature Tamiami Trail, one could see Highway 441 going right through this “lake!”

Apparently in 2000, eco-underpasses were installed as it has been widely documented that thousands of animals, mostly reptiles, have been killed on this road. And yet, many animals, reptiles and other, continue to be killed.

I know it would be expensive, but since transportation is perhaps one of the most highly funded of all state departments, in the billions and billions of dollars, and since Florida’s wildlife and natural lands rank as a portion of the state’s number one economic driver, tourism… could not, over time, Hwy. 441 become more like the Tamiami Trail is becoming, more bridged than flat…

It just doesn’t make sense to have a lake, or an Everglades, with a road through it.

Ed and I, a selfie on the way to Gainesville
A rainbow in the sky

Links:

Paynes Prairie website: web site: https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Paynes-Prairie

Good historical article on Paynes Prairie: Chicago Tribune1991:http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1991-12-29/travel/9104260758_1_wild-horses-bison-spanish-florida

FDOT http://www.fdot.gov

2017-18, Funding for FDOT, state of Florida: https://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/news/2017/02/01/see-which-local-highway-port-programs-just-got.html

Abstract, animal mortality along 441 in Paynes Prairie and eco-underpass: http://www.jstor.org/stable/24321153

Oh Beautiful Panther! Something to Dream About, SLR/IRL

This photo of a panther in Sebring was recently shared by a friend. I do hope this magnificent creature has visited western Martin County. Since late October, it has certainly made the rounds. Males roam hundreds of miles, a female less, but easily could cover ground between almost neighboring Martin and Highlands counties.

Can you imagine trying to navigate today’s world? Freeways, subdivisions, fences, shopping malls, the great forests gone…Canals cutting the lands and watersheds apart?

Over 34 panthers were killed on Florida highways in 2016, and at least 23 in 2017. With an estimated 230 in the total population, those are terrible numbers. We must work harder to complete wildlife corridors across the state to allow these animals to breed and travel into north Florida and Georgia. Being stuck in South Florida is a radio-collared death wish.

If this panther does visit Martin County, we’ll probably never know it; though large they are smart to be very, very, shy.

I must say, lately I’ve been hearing rumors of panthers (yes, a pair) in Martin County near Highway 96 out by South Fork, but no photos yet…

Thank God there is something left to run wild in the world; 😊 it gives me something to dream about.

http://www.mysebring.com

How to report a panther sighting, FWC: https://public.myfwc.com/hsc/panthersightings/Default.aspx

http://myfwc.com/panther

Death reports Nov 2017 https://www.naplesnews.com/story/news/environment/2017/11/28/florida-panther-hit-killed-vehicle-lee-county/900626001/

https://www.naplesnews.com/story/news/environment/2017/12/06/panther-deaths-2017-signs-point-rebound/926796001/

Toxic Beauty, SLR/IRL

Growing up in Stuart in the 1970s, my mother and father gave me full reign to explore the undeveloped lands in the area of St Lucie Estates. I remember endless summers, wandering around in “the woods” and of course my eyes were drawn to the vine of the widely dispersed, perfectly shaped, red and black seeds known as rosary peas.

I would collect them tightly in my little, sweaty hands, pushing them far down into my pockets. I recall the first time I brought them home, my mother said, “Yes, they are very pretty, but don’t eat them, they are poisonous.”

“Hmmm,”I thought. “How can something beautiful be poisonous?”

I continued to collect the seeds, and over the years filled up many clear glass bottles that sat in my window sill; the sun never fading their brilliant color.

Later in life, I learned that bright color patterns, especially red, black, and yellow, as with some caterpillars, or the famous, shy, and deadly coral snake, are “warnings” in nature and actually provide the animal with protection from being eaten.

As I walk through Hawk’s Bluff today, I am thankful to my parents who allowed me to explore the natural world and grow confident, unafraid, even with all of its toxic beauty.

http://floridahikes.com/savannas-preserve-hawks-bluff

Rosary pea, known many other names: https://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/plant-directory/abrus-precatorius/

Colors in Nature: http://flnps.org/color-nature

Coastal Connections, SLR/IRL

Child’s drawing of tailless Winter and new friend baby Hope. Both of these dolphins were rescued from the IRL and now reside at CMA, in Clearwater, Fl.

The first thing I noticed flying in to St Petersburg was that they had a lot  of seagrass beds…

“How in can a place with so many people have so much more seagrass than Stuart?” I thought to myself. “Well, number one, they don’t have releases from Lake Okeechobee destroying their estuary every few years, and they are known for the state’s most successful estuary restoration program–of Tampa Bay (http://www.tbep.org) something we are trying to emulate for the Indian River Lagoon (http://www.irlcouncil.com).

It was the new year’s weekend and Ed and I had decided to “get away.”

What I had forgotten is that Clearwater, our destination, is home to Winter and Hope, Indian River east coast dolphins who were rescued by Harbor Branch (http://www.fau.edu/hboi/marine_mammals/) based in St Lucie County who were then rehabilitated at Clearwater Marine Aquarium on the west coast.  These dolphins could not be released. Winter, an amputee due to a crab trap cutting off her tail, and Hope, an orphan who was suckling on her dead mother when found never learned life skills…

Today these dolphins are alive, friends, inspiring thousands of people including a multitude of veteran and children amputees, have starred in two feature films, and have made Clearwater a favorite nationwide family destination: (https://www.seewinter.com)

The experience of visiting the aquarium, made me think about how connected we all really are. How much we can do together. If Harbor Branch had not saved these IRL dolphins, Winter and Hope would not be the worldwide ambassadors for their species that they are today.

Yes, we are all connected across our great state! Happy 2018 Florida!

 

Seagrass beds as we approach St Petersburg

At the CWA having fun
Clearwater Causway
Ed in his Bullsugar shirt along the causeway

End of Year Water-Warrior, A Humpback Whale! SLR/IRL

Pinterest image, uncredited, 2017

As the year 2017 comes to a close, we had a special guest sighted in our offshore waters. On December 17th, a Humpback whale was seen breaching in the Atlantic off of Stuart!

Although these mammoth creatures do migrate, and thus navigate our seas, this is a special and rare site.

Perhaps this is time for reflection…

Just as with the Biblical story of Jonah and the Whale, the Native People also give whale sightings and experiences special significance.

According to native lore, “whales visitors/spirits were used to convey a message of power and might, representing the need for strong, silent deliberation.”

Native Images, whales

In the story of Jonah, having turned away from responsibility, and being thrown as “bad luck” from a ship, Jonah is swallowed by a giant whale, reflects, repents, is renewed, is given a second chance, is ejected, and fulfills his responsibilities….

Perhaps there is a lighter message from our visiting whale, like “Happy Holidays,” and “Merry Christmas,” or a fun breach-splash saying “Yahoo! Keep up the fight for clean water!”

For me, the whale visitation made me reminisce on Ed and my visit to Baja, in 2013, to visit the Grey Whales once slaughtered, and now a great tourist attraction, and how this experience of seeing these huge mammals adapt to our human world, especially the mothers with their calves,–the controversy, and alteration in both human and whale actions—– changed my life, and my outlook forever.

Grey Whales, San Ignacio, Baja, 2013 Mexico https://www.nationalgeographic.com/photography/proof/2017/08/gray-whales-baja-mexico/
Saying hi to Grey Whale
Baby Grey Whale encouraged to visit side of boat by its mother

In any case, the season is upon us and I am grateful for all of the work done this year for our waters and for our Florida. Thank you River Warriors! Thank you Bullsugar! Thank you Captains for Clean Water! Thank you people of Florida! Thank you President Negron! Thank you all, so many others across our great state! And in closing, thank you visiting whale!

Sometimes it is hard to stay motivated,  but like Winston Churchill said: “Never Give Up.” Our work is so important!

…Yes, in 2018, in spite of the difficulties, we will continue to be the strong, silent or screaming giant that dominates the conscience of Florida…

Humpback whale, Stuart, Dec 17, 2017

Watch TCPalm video here: http://www.tcpalm.com/videos/news/local/martin-county/2017/12/18/video-humpback-whale-sighted-off-shore-near-stuart/108725684/

Video credit:
Mattanza Charters, based in Pirates Cove Resort and Marina in Port Salerno, posted video taken Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017, of humpback whales breaching near Eight Mile Reef in the Atlantic. VIDEO PROVIDED BY CAPT. MIKE MURRAY Wochit

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http://us.whales.org/species-guide/humpback-whale

http://www.whalesforever.com/whales-in-art-literature-mythology.html

http://www.esotericmeanings.com/jonahs-whale/

Florida’s Flood System Built on 1947 Hurricane Season, Now Irma, SLR/IRL

Florida hurricane of 1947 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgAHv_Z5wqE

As the possibility of a direct hit from Hurricane Irma approaches, I can’t help but reflect.

Looking back, we see that it was the severe flooding and the hurricane season of 1947 that led Florida and the U.S. Government down the track to where we are today through the creation of the Florida Central and South Florida Flood Project, (CSFP).

In 1947, during the United States’ post World War II boom, Florida had a very active and destructive hurricane season. This slightly edited excerpt from the  ACOE’s book  River of Interest does a good job giving a short overview of that year:

 “…Rain began falling on the Everglades in large amounts. On 1 March, a storm dropped six inches of rain, while April and May also saw above average totals. The situation became severe in the summer…

As September approached and the rains continued, the ground in the Everglades became waterlogged and lake levels reached dangerous heights. Then, on 17 September, a hurricane hit Florida on the southwest coast, passing Lake Okeechobee on the west and dumping large amounts of rain on the upper Everglades, flooding most of the agricultural land south of Lake Okeechobee.

George Wedgworth, who would later become president of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida and whose parents were vegetable growers in the Everglades, related that his mother called him during the storm and told him, “ this is the last call I’ll make from this telephone because I’m leaving. . . . “We’ve got an inch or two of water over our oak floors and they’re taking me out on a row boat.”

Such conditions were prevalent throughout the region. Before the area had a chance to recover from the devastation, another hurricane developed, moving into South Florida and the Atlantic Ocean by way of Fort Lauderdale. Coastal cities received rain in large quantities, including six inches in two hours at Hialeah and nearly 15 inches at Fort Lauderdale in less than 24 hours.

The Everglades Drainage District kept its drainage canals open to discharge to the ocean as much of the floodwater in the agricultural area as it could, exacerbating coastal flooding. East coast residents charged the District with endangering their lives in order to please ag- ricultural interests, but this was vehemently denied…

Whoever was to blame, the hurricanes had devastating effects. Although the levee around Lake Okeechobee held, preventing the large numbers of deaths that occurred in 1926 and 1928, over 2,000 square miles of land south of the lake was covered by, in the words of U.S. Senator Spessard Holland, “an endless sheet of water anywhere from 6 to 7 feet deep down to a lesser depth.” The Corps estimated that the storms caused $59 million in property damage throughout southern Florida, but Holland believed that the agency had “under- stated the actual figures.” The destruction shocked citizens of South Florida, both in the upper Everglades and in the coastal cities, and they demanded that something be done.”

Cover of the “Weeping Cow” book. (South Florida Water Management District)

Well, what was done was the Central and South Florida Flood Project.

Key Florida politicians, and the public demanded the Federal Government assist, and as both the resources and will were present, the project was authorized in 1948 with massive additional components making way not only for flood protection, but for even more agriculture and development. In Martin County and St Lucie County this happened by the controversial building of canals C-23, C-24, C-25 and “improving” the infamous C-44 canal that connects to Lake Okeechobee. This construction was basically the nail in the coffin for the St Lucie River and Southern Indian River Lagoon.

Map showing the Jacksonville District’s initial comprehensive proposal, 1947. (Claude Pepper Collection, Claude Pepper Library, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida)

But before the death of the environment was clear, the Corps developed a plan that would include 1,000 miles of levees, 720 miles of canals, and almost 200 water control structures. Flooding in coastal cities and in the agricultural lands south of Lake Okeechobee would be minimized and more controllable.

Yes, a goal of the program was to provide conservation areas for water storage, protecting fish and wildlife habitat. Although water conservation areas were constructed, conservation of wildlife did not work out so well, and has caused extreme habitat degradation of the Everglades system, Lake Okeechobee, the southern and northern estuaries, the Kissimmee chain of lakes, and Florida Bay.  Nonetheless, this project made possible for over five million people to now live and work in the 18,000 square mile area that extends from south of Orlando to Florida Bay “protected from flooding” but in 2017 living with serious water quality issues.

With problems apparent, in 1992 the Central and South Florida Project was “re-studied” and we continue to work on that today both for people and for wildlife…

Irma many be the system’s greatest test yet…

Yesterday’s Army Corp of Engineer Periodic Scientist Call was focused on saving people’s lives and safety. After the built-system was discussed, Mr Tyler Beck of the Florida Wildlife Commission, and Mr Steve Schubert of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported on the endangered Everglades Snail Kites and their nests at Lake Okeechobee. Like most birds, pairs mate for life. There are presently fifty-five active nests, thirty-three in incubation, and twenty-three with baby chicks…

In the coming days, as the waters rise on Lake Okeechobee, and the winds scream through an empty void that was once a cathedral of colossal cypress trees, Mother Nature will again change the lives of Florida’s wildlife and its people, just as she did in 1947. Perhaps this time, she will give us vision for a future where nature and humankind can live in greater harmony…

Hurricane Irma as a category 5, 2017
Everglades Snail Kite, Florida Audubon
SFWMD basin map for SLR showing S-308 and S-80 along with other structures.
South Florida today…
Florida map 1500s

Links:

1947 Hurricane: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1947_Cape_Sable_hurricane

1947 Hurricane, 2: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1947_Fort_Lauderdale_hurricane

Central and South Florida Flood Project full text: https://archive.org/stream/centralsouthernf00unse/centralsouthernf00unse_djvu.txt

Restudy of CSFFP: http://141.232.10.32/about/restudy_csf_devel.aspx

Central and South Florida Flood Project Restudy, 1948Sofia: https://sofia.usgs.gov/sfrsf/entdisplays/restudy/

River of Interest, ACOE, Chapter 2: http://141.232.10.32/docs/river_interest/031512_river_interests_2012_chap_02.pdf

US Fish and Wildlife: The endangered and beautiful Everglades Snail Kite:https://www.nps.gov/ever/learn/nature/snailkite.htm