As much as I romanticize my youth along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, one thing I did not see were birds of prey. Populations had plummeted here and across our nation. The use of DDT, for mosquito control, especially, had drastically reduced bird populations. I truly do not recall even once seeing an osprey fly over the Indian River Lagoon when I was a kid….Hard to believe, isn’ it?
Today, forty years later, every single time I walk the Ernie Lyons Bridge to Hutchinson Island I see multiple ospreys sitting on light posts and diving like missiles into the shallow waters of the Indian River Lagoon. On the Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart there is a resident osprey I count on seeing each time. He sits on the railing completely unaffected by the stream of civilization passing by. Last week, while driving home from Belle Glade, I saw a bald eagle near the Dupuis Wildlife Management Area. “An eagle!” I exclaimed out loud pulling over my car to watch its unmistakable white head and magnificent wing span glide over the tops of the pine trees. “Amazing…” I thought to myself.
The point is, good things happen. Good things are happening now too, but like the birds of prey we may not see the difference until many years have passed. Have hope. Know your work is making a difference for our river and our environment. Things can change for the better. The osprey and the eagle, they are proof. When you see them, be inspired!
Today’s lesson in my series “Who Owns the Land? Mapping Out the Future of Water,” is #6, SBG Farms Incorporated. SBG Farms owns 8,569 acres of land in the EAA according to the TCRPC map.
I couldn’t figure out what SBG Farms stood for, but a couple of my favorite acronyms from acronym finder (http://www.acronymfinder.com/SBG.html) were: “Super Blue Green”and “Saved By Grace.”
Yes that makes sense…to not have Super Blue Green algae in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon we all must be Saved By Grace….
So who is SBG Farms?
I believe SBG Farms is part of U.S. Sugar Corporation because according to Sunbiz, where once goes to look up registered corporations in the state of Florida, two of their officers are the same as for U.S. Sugar Corporation: president Robert H. Buker Jr. and vice president Malcolm S .Wade Jr. Also the registered address is in Clewiston, Florida, the same location as U.S. Sugar Corporation. As we learned with land owner #1, U.S. Sugar Corporation is the “Granddaddy” of the land owners. “They were in the EAA first.” We must respect and work with this… You can read the company’s history and their leadership from their website here: (http://www.ussugar.com/history/)
So above I have colored in the #6 parcels in the same purple crayon as #1 (USSC) and outlined in green marker so there is a visual difference.
Now for those of you who have been around fighting for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon since 2013, don’t get worked up when you see “Bubba” Wade’s photo, remember in the end, we all can be “SBG.” All of us that is, and we need it! For a better Florida water future we must all be “Saved By Grace,” and maybe, just maybe, we already are…
“Who Owns the Land South of the Lake? Mapping Out Florida’s Water Future.”
Today we discuss #3, New Hope Sugar Corporation. It is difficult to find much information on the company, however, it is part of the Fanjul family’s holdings. It is also the same name, as we learned yesterday, as the Fanjul charity: New Hope Charities whose mission is to help families in the Glades.
Let’s look at the charity again…
Their website reads: “New Hope Charities was incorporated as a 501(3)(c) charity in 1988 offering support to remote, distressed and underserved segments of society. The first program implemented by New Hope distributed food to needy families living in the “Glades” area of western Palm Beach County. Currently, we operate a multi-service center in Pahokee, Florida, the second poorest city in the United States. The Family Center consists of a Day Care Center, a Youth Center, an Education Center, a Health Center, basketball courts, and an open field for soccer, baseball and football.”
Now back to the land…
I have colored in New Hope Sugar Corp. in the same orange highlighter as Okeelanta Corporation, but added a red dot to differentiate. New Hope Charities above mentions Pahokee as the nation’s second poorest town. Pahokee is south of the Martin County Line along the rim of Lake Okeechobee; it is not far away. The point of my blog series is to show landholdings, but I think the “New Hope” theme lends itself to a discussion on something more.
I have been blogging for four years now, it is becoming clear to us all that there is a bridge to be crossed, a hand to be held if we are going to go any further. Since the beginning of our river journey there have been cries from the interior of the state/south of the Lake. Cries of fear that we want to “send the water south” and destroy their cities and livelihoods…Even thought we know this isn’t so, this is understandable— and let there be no mistake about it: #GladesLivesMatter
I think it is time we talk about this openly. We must address the fears and the realities and we must begin to help…because there is so much help we can do for these communities and for a better water future for our state.
What got me thinking on all this was researching New Hope Sugar Corporation, #3 on the TCRPC map. I realized I have never thought that much about these areas south the Lake, except maybe when my father told me some of the best football players come from Pahokee and Belle Glade. I have driven through before and I have flown over. But have I ever walked inside? No I have not. After I finish this “land south of the Lake series” I think it is time to go inside this world and see how we can help.
We have got start a conversation including the Glades communities, a plan to help the poverty in Pahokee and Belle Glade and other Glades communities. We have to talk about Everglades Restoration as a plan for everyone. I am sure the Fanjul’s New Hope Charities with same name as their Sugar Corporation is doing great work, but why couldn’t Everglades restoration offer something more? Because in order to create more than hope, we must move beyond charity…
Excerpt NY Times Article, 2013… In the Glades, the “official” jobless rate has always been a joke because so few people are even on the books. Many of the agricultural jobs disappeared as vegetable production turned into sugar growing, now largely mechanized.
Recently, I have had the most amazing experience as a family of screech owls decided to use the nesting box that is literally right outside my bedroom window.
My husband helped me put up the box. We live in Sewall’s Point one lot off the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Screech owls are common here but never did I dream of watching them so up close.
The family set up house about two months ago. The first owl I encounted was “Dad.” I noticed that every day, he was sitting in a vine growing in the strangler fig tree by our front door. At first, I did not know he was “dad,” but I soon figured this out. He was a funny little owl, standing about six inches, with crossed looking eyes and a flabbergasted expression like Jack Nicholson. I tried not to scare him but soon realized he was not afraid and I could take photos. I took them quickly and darted away, thanking him for living at my house.
After a few weeks, my husband Ed, who gets up much earlier than I do, told me he thought he had seen the little owl flying into the nesting box in the dim light of morning. Within a week or so, one day I heard soft chirping inside the box. At that point, I knew there must be a mate and chicks, as I had read that screech owls are monogamous. Amazing!
Within another week or so, one Sunday afternoon, the mom stuck her head out. She was much rounder than her counterpart and redder in color. She looked exasperated like the growing chicks were restless below her, pushing her up in the box.
Within a few days, she flew and joined her mate in the tree. In the evenings or mornings chicks soon started to emerge and then would pop back inside.
The mother and father owls sat silently with great patience for many days waiting for the baby owls to leave the box.
Ed and I could never figure out how many babies were there were. We thought two or three, as some seemed bigger or smaller, and had different faces, but really, they all kind of looked the same!
Then one evening, on a Friday, Ed wanted to go out to dinner and as he went upstairs to get ready, I heard, “Jacqui! A baby is out of the box!” Outside, I threw down the hose, water gushing, leaving my flip flops behind and ran up the stairs as fast as I could to see a fluffy owl sitting along the chair on the upstairs balcony just under the nesting box. It was as large, if not larger, than its parents!
I lay on the floor looking under the blinds and watched this baby owl decide to jump thirteen feet to the deck below. Incredible! I worried like a mother myself!
“Oh Ed, what if he gets hurt? What if he breaks a leg and we have to take him to the Treasure Coast Wildlife Hospital?”
“Why would you want to do that? ” asked Ed. You’re the one who aways says ‘let nature take its course’…”
“That’s not funny Ed, it’s just a baby…”
“Let’s go to dinner,” Ed replied.
I knew I was pushing it, but this was a once in lifetime opportunity.
“Oh, I can’t yet, I have to watch it jump! Look it’s moving its head in circles like a chicken! Look! Oh it just crashed into the railing! It got up! It’s trying to jump! Oh my gosh! Should I take it down myself….? ”
So Ed sat at his computer as dusk fell and I lay on my stomach watching and praying for the baby owl and restraining myself from messing with Nature. I heard the mother and father calling and the baby owl inched closer to the edge of the balcony getting up his nerve, jumping high and then going low, sitting on a chair, walking the railing, flapping his little wings. And then finally, he looked down and just jumped!
“He jumped!” I screamed from the bedroom.
Ed came up the stairs, and we watched, in the dim light of evening the baby owl hop into the vine along side his parents. He had not hurt himself. He trusted his instincts and he succeeded.
Night came and the owls spoke to each other in a tongue I could not understand, but I knew it must be a proud day for those parents and for the baby owl too.
Ed and went to dinner, we toasted the baby owl, and all I talked the whole night was the power and faith, of being able to get up the nerve to jump, unafraid into one’s destiny…