Tag Archives: conservation

Finding the “Long-Lost,” Long-Leaf Pines of Lake Okeechobee, SLR/IRL

A piece of long-leaf virgin pine from the windowsill of my Grandfather Henderson’s house in Gainesville, FL

Historic post card(s), long-leaf pine logging, courtesy Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

Grandaddy Russell Henderson as a young man, late 1920s Madison, FL. Family archives.
Like hard resin, stories of long-leaf pine and towering Florida forests are in me. Since my earliest days, I remember visiting my mother’s family and hearing tales around the dinner table:

“In the 1930s your Granddady and Uncle Gordy dove down to the bottom of the Swanee River, chained those sunken water-logged giant trees, pulled them out with mules, put them on a train to Gainesville, milled them, and built this house by hand. Virgin long-leaf pine that had been on the bottom of that river for 90 years became our home. This house is history.”

At the time, the stories were just part of a lifestyle I did not lead living “down” in Stuart, Florida with the Yankees. In Gainesville we ate boiled peanuts, okra, gigantic breakfasts of bacon, eggs, toast, and homemade jelly. In Stuart, I ate Lucky Charms.

Now that I am becoming an old-pine myself, the story of the long-lost, long-leaf pine is more  interesting to me. And “lo and behold,” although public records show the famous long-leaf forest stopping just north of Lake Okeechobee, recently my mother and I learned that they were, indeed, further south, right here in what today is Martin County!

This observation is bases on a 1st hand account of 1910 by J.H. Vaughn in an Abstract of Title for Indiantown, Florida.

Florida State Geological Survey 1927 belonging to my grandfather who worked for IFAS and UF in soil science.

This public photo off the internet gives scope of the size of the long-leaf pines.
In the early days of our country, long-leaf pine forests covered approximately 90 million acres and stretched across the entire southeastern United States. These trees are documented to have stood from 80 to 175 feet tall and many were up to 400 years in age. Of course multiple animals were dependent on the forest for shelter and food and there were massive benefits to the watersheds. The cleanest waters in the world run off of forests. These amazing trees evolved to completely withstand forest fires, actually thriving in such conditions. Imagine if you would these remarkable trees of our Creator, cut to the ground with the same state of mind as today when mowing one’s lawn….By the 1920s only 3% of the forests remained.

Digital Forest documentation of forest loss in the U.S.
So where were these trees in Martin County? Where do we fit into the incredible history of these magnificent conifers? J. H. Vaughn, a lumber man of the 1800s, negotiating a sale states in the abstract of title below:

“…there is an average of 2000 feet of Long Leaf Yellow Virgin pine per acre.. being on the eastern side of Lake Okeechobee…”.

(The Townships and Ranges listed are today’s Indiantown.)

I think it is incredible that we are part of the long-leaf pine odyssey. As today, the Nature Conservancy and people like M.C. Davies have dedicated their fortunes and lives to bringing back this magnificent species and the animal life that comes along with it.  The situation is a  lot like St Lucie River and Lake Okeechobee restoration. It’s a generational goal done so that our stories and our lives are remembered, and not “long-lost.”

No 12386

Page 5, original land survey 1855

Today’s map, as printed on-line August 2, 2017.

Newspaper article in about cutting of trees and lumber in Indiantown area, 1927. (Thurlow Archives)

My mother looking through a book on trees of Florida. 7/17 JTL

Kelly Morris, 2017
Links/sources:

M.C. Davis Devotes Life and Fortune to restoring Long-Leaf Pine forest near Pensacola, FL: http://www.npr.org/2015/06/17/415226300/gambler-turned-conservationist-devotes-fortune-to-florida-nature-preserve

NFWF: http://www.nfwf.org/whoweare/mediacenter/Pages/longleaf-gallery-16-0520.aspx

Green Meadow Project: http://greenmeadowproject.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_22.html?m=1

Digital Earth Watch, Old Growth Forests: http://dew.globalsystemsscience.org/activities/investigations/what-is-a-digital-image/investigation-measuring-old-growth-forest-loss

Appalachian Woods, History:http://www.appalachianwoods.com/Heart-Pine-History.htm

NWF: https://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Wildlife-Library/Plants/Longleaf-Pine.aspx

West of Eden, SLR/IRL

“Eden,” the name says it all. Wouldn’t it be cool to say you lived in Eden?

Today there is a historic sign, but there is no longer a town. In 1879 “Eden” was named by Captain Thomas E. Richards who decided this spot along the high ridge of the Indian River would be a good place to grow pineapples.  According to historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow,  “Richards felt he had arrived in a tropical paradise, and named his new home Eden.”

In Sandra’s book, “Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River,” she talks about how today’s Jensen Beach evolved from both the historic communities of Eden and Jensen, but over time, while Jensen had room to grow, Eden faded, as it was hemmed in by the wet, fragile ecosystem of the savannas. This marshy savannas system once stretched along the lagoon for over a hundred miles, but today, the only remnant lies right behind the lost town of Eden, and to the north and south of close-by extending lands.

This very special photo was given to my mother, historical Sandra Henderson Thurlow, by Capt. Thomas Richards’s great-granddaughter, Mary Simon.
The town of Eden was located between the IRL and the wet savannas, Ruhnke/Thurlow Collection. “Historic Eden and Jensen on Florida’s Indian River,” by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

These rare lands known today as Savannas Preserve State Park, “encompass more than 5,400 acres and stretch more the ten miles from Jensen Beach to Ft Pierce containing  the largest, most ecologically intact stretch of freshwater marsh in southeast Florida.” Remarkable!

If you haven’t ever seen it, I can promise, “Eden awaits you…”

This past weekend, my husband Ed and I put on our wet weather gear, and walked from Jensen Beach Blvd to “west of Eden. ” It is amazing to have this treasure right in our own backyards, a study in plant and animal life that “used to be.” ~A study in what we can bring back, if we want to…

Website, Savannas Preserve State Park: https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Savannas

Where Jacqui and Ed walked, “west of Eden,” Google maps
Savannas Preserve State Park, photos 6-10-17, JTL.

Savannas from the air in 2013, JTL 

Eden, St Lucie Co.: https://sites.google.com/a/flgenweb.net/stlucie/history/old-communities/e

Eden Ghost Town: http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/fl/eden.html

Jensen WIKI: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jensen_Beach,_Florida
Jensen Chamber of Commerce: http://www.jensenbeachflorida.info

He Shall Be King Again! The “Silver King” Tarpon of the St Luice River, Indian River Lagoon

Tarpon Fishing, Kent Hagerman 1893-1978. Courtesy, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Fishing map of McCoy Bros. SLR/IRL date unknown, notice the extensive tarpon fishing grounds,  Thurlow Archives.
IMG_8848.JPG
Tarpon on the line!  Dave Preston

If we look into the mirror of history, we begin to see…

We begin to see how we destroyed one of the most famous and beloved inland fishing waters in North America and how we learned to do better.  And if we are able, in time, not only to do better, but to return “health and glory” to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, it should be the tarpon, not the sailfish, that becomes our symbol, our king.

The first formal fishing club documented in Stuart was the 1916 St Lucie River Tarpon Club. The late 1800s and early 1900s were an era of great fame for the St Lucie River, build upon President Grover Cleveland and other presidents fishing trips to the area. Yes, the St Lucie was known as the “Fishing Grounds of Presidents.”

Ironically, at this same time, the Commercial Club, that evolved into today’s Chamber of Commerce, was promoting not just Stuart’s remarkable fishing, but also enthusiastically encouraging and awaiting the completion of the St Lucie Canal.

SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44 canal is the canal most southerly in the image.

“Once the muddy water flowed into the St Lucie River, they began to realize that the canal was not the blessing they envisioned,” writes Sandra Henderson Thurlow.  Historian Alice Luckhardt more directly notes, “at one time tarpon were often caught in the St. Lucie River, but “disappeared” from those waters soon after the opening of the canal system to Lake Okeechobee in 1923.”

Ingeniously, and with more insight,  in the years following the loss of tarpon and other river fish as seen in the McCoy map above, the ocean-going sailfish was marketed to replace the tarpon and become “the most prized fish of all…” as well as in time the symbol for both the city and county governments.

The magnificent Silver King? Just a dying memory, or no memory at all…

By the mid 1930s the Chamber of Commerce began publishing the “Stuart Fishing Guide.” In 1941 the largest sailfish run in Florida’s history occurred off the St Lucie Inlet. Remarkable! More than 5000 sailfish were caught in a 90 day period. “Thousands were slaughtered only to be dumped in the river, carted off by garbage collectors, and used for shark bait.” Stuart as the Sailfish Capital of the world was affirmed, but as my mother states, if “Stuart’s fame was to endure, so was the need for conservation of the species.”

The idea for conservation/protecting the industry had been in the works, the Sailfish Club had been talking about it and a few sailfish were returned to the ocean….  But after the sailfish run of “41, the idea of an organized conservation effort was solidified, and Sailfish Club of ’31 updated their charter in “41 “to further and promote sports fishing and conservation in the waters of the City of Stuart and Martin County.” Visiting sportsmen were awarded and inspired to work for the most coveted bronze, silver, and gold lapel pins based on the size of the sail they caught and released, not killed.

This is a great story, but what of the tarpon?

I can see his giant, ancient, dorsal fin rising from the waters of a healthier St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. For me, no fish will ever compare. As we restore our rivers, it is he who shall be KING! 🙂

Close up of solidarity fish on Florida’s Capitol steps, Clean Water/Amd. 1 Rally 2-17-15.) (JTL)

FWC Tarpon: http://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/tarpon/information/facts/
Tarpon Trust: https://www.bonefishtarpontrust.org/tarpon-research

*Thank Thank you to my mother, historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow, whose work in Stuart on the St Lucie served as the basis of this blog post!

Link to 2016 unveiling of Silver King by sculptor Geoffrey Smith: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBwR1iHV3e8)

Vintage Catch and Release pin designed by the late Curt Whiticar.

Dave Preston of Bullsugar and Silver King, 2017.

Reflections on Conservation, Preservation, and Education, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Fork of the St Lucie River, 2007.
“Reflection.” North Fork of the St Lucie River, 2007.

My mother tells me that when I was a baby she nursed me in Muir Woods, California. My father was in the United States  Air Force, and the family was living in the area at the time. It was 1964. She has joked, my entire life, that this perhaps is the reason I have always been so adamant about protecting the environment and its creatures.

John Muir was part of America’s early conservation movement. He wrote a collection of stories for “Century Magazine” entitled “Studies in the Sierra.” In 1892 Muir joined the magazine’s editor in creating the Sierra Club, an organization with the mission to protect America’s resources and public parks.

There were others who are also famous in the “conservation movement” of that era such as President Theodore Roosevelt. He is most famous for the establishment of many National Parks; Pelican Island, along the Indian River Lagoon in Sebastian,  established in 1903, was actually our nation’s first “national wildlife refuge.” (http://firstrefuge.org)

President Roosevelt said: “The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem, it will avail us little to solve all others.”

As the conservation movement moved forward it is said to have split into two modes of thought. The first was to conserve resources for the future and for their use by humans and the second was more to preserve nature for wilderness preservation.

In any case, the foundation of America’s “conservation” movement was established during  this period from approximately 1850 thorough 1920. This movement was bubbling up in Florida as well.

In 1900 Louis F. Dommerich and his wife Clara hosted a gathering of neighbors in Maitland, Florida, just north of Orlando. On this fateful night the group decided to align themselves with other chapters the existing Audubon Society forming Florida Audubon.

In 1900, not only was Florida’s bird population being decimated, by the plume trade and the rage for feathers on ladies hats, the southern part of the state, almost entirely wetland,  was being drained for agriculture and development.

Great egret in the IRL. Photo by John Whiticar, 2014.
Great egret in the IRL. Photo by John Whiticar, 2014.

This drainage focused around Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River cutting off waters to the Everglades which for thousands of years had formed one of the world’s most important and productive wet lands for birds, fish and hundreds of other species. We, living along the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, are part of this story.

–You reading this today as people who care about the conservation of our area are the grandchildren of that those 15 people who met in Maitland Florida in 1900…

1850s map of Florida
1850s map of Florida

And for conservationists today, water issues are at the top of this list. Although Florida seems to be full of water, it is not. It is along side with California and other western states in its struggle to conserve and preserve water and its life.

South Florida's southern Everglades, 1950 vs. 2003. (Map courtesy of SFWMD.)
South Florida’s southern Everglades, 1950 vs. 2003. (Map courtesy of SFWMD.)

1.7 billion gallons of water is wasted on average to tide each day through the canals draining Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River. With only 3% of the water on the planet being “fresh” and an exponentially growing population, this is wasteful beyond comprehension.  Right now, just south of Orlando, the Central Florida Water Initiative, a conglomeration of three state water districts, is organizing because this area of the state has maximized its water use. They need more.

This is no knee jerk reaction and wise water use is completely linked to the success or failure of Florida’s future.  Unless we can learn to conserve, preserve and perhaps most important, educate the children of the future there will not be enough clean water for people and for the wildlife that has a right to these resources as well.

River Kidz teaches about water issues in the state of Florida. (Julia Kelly artist, 2013)
River Kidz teaches about water issues in the state of Florida. (Julia Kelly artist, 2013)

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Conservation in Florida, FWC : (http://www.myfwc.com/Conservation/)

Florida Audubon: (http://fl.audubon.org)

River Kidz a division of the Rivers Coalition: (http://riverscoalition.org)

Florida Oceanographic: (http://www.floridaocean.org/p/233/advocacy-environment#.VSfHAKbRwl8) These presentation links refer to the 1.7 billion gallons of wasted water through canals and are excellent resources.

Continuing Conservation in the “Sailfish Capital of World,” Saltwater Sisters, Indian River Lagoon

Florida sailfish ad, ca. 1960s. (Florida Memory Project)
Florida sailfish ad, ca. 1960s. (Florida Memory Project.)

I vividly remember my father going fishing for sailfish with his buddies in the 1960s and 70s; my brother has taught his three girls to “reel them in…”

Me? I have never caught a sailfish; I am not a hunter either. Nonetheless, I recognize that fishermen and women, and hunters are some of the strongest conservationist in the United States and around the world. People protect what they love…

I started thinking about sailfish recently because Jamie Burns asked me if I would be a “judge” for a boat theme contest taking place October 24-25 for the “Salt Water Sisters” Lady Angler Tournament.

I was honored to be included and started reading about the organization which is an arm of the famous “Stuart Sailfish Club” that formed in Martin County informally in the 1930s, and later formally in 1941. This organization set the bar on conservation in our area.

According to my mother, Sandra Thurlow’s book, Stuart on the St Lucie:

“Immediately after the club’s incorporation, Ernie Lyons announced the next immediate goal was the creation of a release button to be given to individuals who consistently released their sailfish….in 1941 records show that a record, over 5000 sailfish,  were caught in a 90 day period, January through March 1941. Many sportsmen let their sailfish go but thousands were slaughtered only to be dumped into the river, carted off by garbage collectors, or used for shark bait.

Because of the efforts of the Stuart Sailfish Club, anglers soon began to compete for Curt Whiticar’s beautifully designed release button in preference to all the rest.”

Stuart Sailfish Club release button, designed by Curt Whiticar,1941. (Photo courtesy of Thurlow archives.)
Stuart Sailfish Club release button, designed by Curt Whiticar, 1941. It reads “Stuart Sailfish Club, Released.” (Photo courtesy of Thurlow archives.)

I think this is an amazing and inspirational story!

As a St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon side note, I hear a lot of things about the Indian River Lagoon and someone once told me the sailfish spawn right off the St Lucie Inlet. In our area the fish can spawn a good portion of the year but mostly in the warmer summer months, therefore, polluted releases from our canals and Lake Okeechobee have an effect on the sailfish population in our area. Just one more reason to stop them!

Ernest Hemmingway
Ernest Hemingway was an avid sailfish fisherman and popularized the sport. (Photo Florida Memory Project.)
Drew family of Jacksonville in Stuart ca. 1920 fishing for sailfish. (Photo Thurlow archives.)
Drew family of Jacksonville in Stuart ca. 1920 fishing for sailfish. (Photo Thurlow archives.)
Stuart Sailfish Club
Stuart Sailfish Club
Saltwater Sisters
Saltwater Sisters

In closing,  I  would like to wish all of the participants of the Salt Water Sisters Lady Angler Tournament “good luck” this weekend. Wear your “catch and release” button with pride in the memory of those who came before us and had the foresight to protect the beautiful creatures of the ocean and our way of life.

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History Stuart Sailfish Club: (http://www.stuartsailfishclub.com/about_history.php)

Stuart Sailfish Club (http://www.stuartsailfishclub.com/index.php)

Florida Memory Project/photos :  (http://www.floridamemory.com/photographiccollection/)

 

 

The Magic of a Kid’s First Fish, “Lines in the Lagoon” Youth Fishing Tournament, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

My "first fish", a puffer, Indian River Lagoon. (Family album, 1968.)
My “first fish,” a puffer, Indian River Lagoon. (Family album, 1968.)

Some things never change, like the wonder of a kid catching his or her “first fish.”

I still remember mine.  A puffer fish! It was 1968, and my parents took me fishing along the Indian River Lagoon…

Fishing is a powerful  experience for a young person. There is no better way to teach youth how to appreciate and protect the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon than by “taking a kid  fishing.”  It is well documented that hunters and fishermen/women are some of our county’s most outspoken and powerful conservationists.

In keeping with this Treasure Coast fishing legacy, on October 18th, 2014, something really remarkable is happening.  Kids in our area have organized a fishing tournament for kids! The event is called “Lines in the Lagoon.” (http://www.linesinthelagoon.com/#!about/mainPage)

This fishing tournament is meant to turn kids on to fishing; raise awareness regarding the pollution problems of the Indian River Lagoon; and raise money for two great organization that help the river: ORCA (http://www.teamorca.org/cfiles/home.cfmand the Everglades Foundation, (http://www.evergladesfoundation.org).

Vero Beach freshman high school student, Quinn Hiaasen and his friends organized the event. Quinn is obviously on his way to “stardom” himself, but it must be mentioned that his father is none other than satirist and writer Carl Hiassen, (http://www.carlhiaasen.com/bio.shtml), a well-known proponent of our rivers and Everglades. Quinn’s mother, Fenia, has also been working for the event and assisting her son for months– “spreading the word” and communicating  with River Kidz momz  here in Martin and St Lucie Counties. Martin, St Lucie, and Indian River counties are one, as the lagoon knows no county lines or political districts; it is a Tri-county tournament.

Early on, Mrs Hiaasen let us know that pre-fishing/fishing tournament events included:

September 6th: LAGOON CLEAN UP DAY
October 27th: INDIAN RIVER SCIENCE FAIR DAY
October 1st: CHIPOTLE IN STORE PROMOTIONS 3-7pm 50% DONATION TO ORCA AND EVERGLADES FOUNDATION
October 18th: FISHING TOURNAMENT AND AWARDS BANQUET AT THE BACKUS MUSEUM IN FT PIERCE

From what I am told by River Kidz mom, Nicole Mader, the group is also working on displaying  a “responsible fishing tent” to teach children care with fishing line and hooks, as careless discarding of such is a serious threat to wildlife and of course the tournament is primarily “catch and release.”

"Lines in the Lagoon" fishing tournament, Oct 18, 2014.
“Lines in the Lagoon” fishing tournament, information, Oct 18, 2014.

Isn’t this a great thing?

So sign up…

Support the kids; support conservation; and support the Hiaasen family!

And remember, by taking a kid fishing, you are creating future advocates for our Indian River Lagoon.

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Sign up here/ “Lines in the Lagoon” web site: (http://www.linesinthelagoon.com/#!about/mainPage)

Planet Vero Radio show with Quinn Hiaasen and his friends who organized Lines in the Lagoon:(https://rcpt.hightail.com/2610147407/e64dac6d43eaba05f8070e639940c2e7?cid=tx-02002207350200000000&s=19104)  (In time, this link will expire.)

TC Palm article on event: (http://www.tcpalm.com/franchise/indian-river-lagoon/registration-now-open-for-hiaasen-youth-fishing-tournament-on-the-indian-river-lagoon

 

The Comeback of the Snowy Egret and its Inspiration for the Comeback of the Indian River Lagoon

This snowy egret was visiting the retention pond across form Indialucie in Sewall's Point. This plume bird was the most hunted during the 1800s and lost up to 95 percent of its population. They have made a comeback. (Photo Sandra Thurlow, 2014.)
This snowy egret was visiting the retention pond, across from Indialucie, in Sewall’s Point. The bird exhibits some of the most excessive foraging behaviors and has what is considered the most  beautiful mating plumage of any wading bird and bright yellow feet!  It hunts in wetland habitats.  Plume hunters decimated its population by up to 95% but since protected, the birds have made a comeback. (Photo Sandra Thurlow, 2014.)

Every day, I look to nature for inspiration, hoping for a model of success to save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

One of the “greats” is the little snowy egret. All wading birds were almost hunted to the point of extinction during the feathered ladies hat craze of the late 1800s and early 1900s, and because the snowy egret was the most desired of all birds for its beautiful nuptial plumes, it, more than any other wading bird, was hunted.

There was great motivation to hunt birds as at the time, their feathers were worth more than gold.

It is well documented that the plume hunters shot birds by the thousands in rookeries through out Florida, especially the Everglades, during breeding season when the birds’  feathers were most beautiful.  The birds were shot right off their nests with the baby birds left to die. Entire rookeries disappeared.

After witnessing such, many hunters reported feeling sick at the “sight of thousands of little hanging necks over the nests” and “repented,” refusing to go back after being part of such cold blooded carnage.

But times were tough and there were alway more men behind them to take their place. In the late 1890s the Ornithologists’ Union estimated that five million birds of all kinds were killed annually.

Snowy egret family. Parents in full plumage. (Public photo.)
“Little Snowy” was most hunted for its “nuptial feathers” that grow during mating and baby bird season. During the late 1800s and early 1900s the birds were commonly shot off their nests. (Public photo.)

The story of what birds remain and have rebounded is  yet another story of American inspiration though everyday people demanding more of their government.

In 1886, Forest and Stream editor, George Bird Grinnell, was “appalled by the negligent mass slaughter of birds.” Based on studies of painter John James Audubon from Ornithological Biography, he created an organization devoted to the protection of wild birds and their eggs. Within a year the the Audubon Society had over  39,000  members including very prominent figures of the day and eventually a US  president. Their numbers and financial support grew and the organization evolved throughout many states. Letter writing campaigns ensured, many from churches, state laws were passed starting in New York, banning the sale of plumes, and by 1920 similar laws were passed in other states. In 1918 US Audubon lobbied for the Federal “Migratory Bird Treaty Act” and convinced the US government to support the National Wildlife Refuge system, the first being Sebastian, Florida’s “Pelican Island.” Today migrating and resident birds are protected, or at minimum, regulated, by hunting license in all communities.

 

Snowy egret in breeding plumage and colors. (Public    "wallpaper" photo.)
Snowy egret in breeding plumage and colors. (Public “wallpaper” photo.)

So again, the stories are many of mankind’s propensity to kill the world around “him,” and then to pull back from the brink of total destruction by the intervention of a small group of people.

The story of the Indian River Lagoon will hopefully be a similar tale to tell. So when you are around town and see a little snowy egret, feel inspired!

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US Federal Migratory Bird Act: (http://www.fws.gov/laws/lawsdigest/migtrea.html)

FWC 2011 Report Snowy Egret: (http://www.myfwc.com/media/2273400/Snowy-Egret-BSR.pdf )

FWC Bird Regulations: (http://m.myfwc.com/hunting/regulations/birds/)

Birds of North America/Snowy Egret:(http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/489/articles/introduction)

Wikipedia’s History of Plume Hunting in the US: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plume_hunting)