I am a 2015/16 Fellow for UF/IFAS Natural Resources Leadership Institute:(http://nrli.ifas.ufl.edu/)
NASA Video of Apollo 11 liftoff: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKtVpvzUF1Y)
As part of my University of Florida “Natural Resources Leadership Institute” program, I will be leaving this Wednesday for five days to Apalachicola Bay in Florida’s panhandle where the historic oyster industry is dying due to lack of upstream fresh water from Georgia. Last month, I traveled to Titusville, along the Indian River Lagoon, to learn about NASA, Space Florida, and serious concerns over possible future land use inside the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
I have been waiting to write about my experience in Titusville until now. It was rather intense, and I wanted time to think. Also our NRLI Class XV newsletter came out recently and provides perspective and background on the visit and the program.
NRLI August Newsletter: (http://nrli.ifas.ufl.edu/pdfs/Newsletters/NRLIClassXVNewsletter_Session1.pdf)
On the second day of NRLI, after much preparation, our class was driven to NASA to visit the assembly building for the rockets and to take a tour of the grounds. Nothing would have prepared me for walking into that building. I can only liken it to the cathedrals in Belgium and Germany I saw when I was younger whose Gothic architecture “forced my eye to God.”
Upon entering the building, I was struck by a feeling of awe. It hit me, the creative force of humanity necessary to organize and go into space. The successes and the failures. Lives lost and new perspective of the universe gained….and what about the future?
I felt proud to be American, my eyes teared up, and I turned away from my fellow classmates for fear they would think me nuts. Later on, I learned that many others had the same experience.
It is very difficult in a blog post to get into all the detail of my visit, but I can share that NASA’s Kennedy a Space Center is presently located in the area where you see Highway 528 on the above map. NASA is recreating itself since the Federal Government basically shut down the space program here just a few years ago, and around 8000 people lost their jobs. According to NASA’s literature:
“Kennedy Space Center will pursue transformation through consolidation of NASA operations, asset partnering, and agreements development in order to preserve the Center’s and nations crucial launch infrastructure. The transformation to a multi-user spaceport will allow NASA to subsidize costs of expensive infrastructure and facilities and still maintain the country’s ability to push the boundaries of our understand of the universe.
KSC was established in 1962; is a 6 billion $ asset; 140,000 acres; 55,000 acres of submerged wetlands; 3500 acres of development. “
In 1963, NASA realized it had so much land, as only a small part is developed, that they asked it to be managed as a national wildlife refuge… and thus it has been for over 50 years.
“The Refuge, which is an overlay of the John F. Kennedy Space Center, was established in August 1963 to provide a buffer zone for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the quest for space exploration.”
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge(http://www.fws.gov/refuges/profiles/index.cfm?id=41570)
So jumping to Space Florida…
“Space Florida is the aerospace economic development agency of the State of Florida. The agency was created by consolidating three existing space entities into a single new organization via the Space Florida Act, enacted in May 2006 by the Florida Legislature.”
Space Florida is proposing to put a launch pad at Shiloh north of Titusville in an area of the wildlife refuge along the lagoon that is very sensitive as it contains many endangered species, historic cultural resources, as well as Native American historic resources. This area is utilized by fishermen and “recreationalist” today. You can see this location near the red pin in the Google Maps image above. Some say they “couldn’t have chosen a more sensitive area….”
Preliminary Environmental Impact Statement for Shiloh Site 2013: (http://www.spaceflorida.gov/docs/rfps/final-esr-combined-shiloh-for-public_compiled.pdf?sfvrsn=2)
I did not go to Titusville to have an opinion on what is right or wrong concerning this situation. But I have thought on it, and those of you who know me can probably guess where I ended up with my position. But this is only for me personally, not for what I am supposed to learn at NRLI.
At NRLI, I am there to learn how to be a “leader in collaborative decision-making.”
NRLI puts it like this:
“We are all dependent on Florida’s natural resources. Decisions about natural resources involve complex sets of issues and stakeholders. Expensive and time-consuming disputes often emerge over issues such as endangered species, land use, coastal and marine resources, and water quality and quantity. Effective leadership in managing such issues requires a specialized set of skills, tools, and strategies to build trust and promote collaboration among competing interests. In recognition of this, the Florida Natural Resources Leadership Institute (NRLI) was founded in 1998 to bring together professionals in sectors that impact or are impacted by natural resource issues to develop the skills required to work towards collaborative solutions.
NRLI seeks to impact decision-making in Florida by creating a network of professionals prepared to effectively address natural resource issues through conflict management and collaborative leadership.”
Well, I hope I gave you enough information to get started on your own opinion.
I am looking forward to my second NRLI session this week. There are great people from many backgrounds in the program and I learn from them just as much as anything…For it is really through building relationships that we will better the condition of our state and our Indian River Lagoon.