North Florida Working Group Up and Going

By Maryvonne Devensky

As you know we started a new working group in December 2016, to serve the needs of the northern counties: Hamilton, Lafayette, Suwannee, Baker, Union, Bradford, Columbia, Dixie, and Gilchrist, 9 counties that have a lot in common: beautiful rural settings of forests, meadows, wetlands, springs and rivers, all part of the Suwannee river watershed and where the population is isolated.

So we had our second meeting on Saturday, January 21, and 15 Sierra Club members attended. We heard a very interesting presentation from Larry Behnke on how he installed his solar system on his house as early as 1984, by simply following instructions from the book “The Solar Electric Home” by Joel Davidson.

Larry said, “I am not an electrician, and the system I installed is old but it is still working” and his electric bill is $8.00.  It was fascinating to hear how someone who is smart and handy, thrifty and eager to create a system that is cheap and efficient can manage to achieve his goal. Larry shared that there is a lot of misconceptions about solar energy systems but the public interest is there and that at this time, “There is a new solar system installed every 4 minutes”.

We (SSJ Sierra Club) need to promote solar energy and promote accurate information to the public so our group decided to hold a 2 day event at RUM 138 later on this Spring on Solar Energy….More later on that event.

PHOSPHATE MINING: Jim Tatum of Our Santa Fe River gave us an update on the Phosphate Mining issue. This past week the Union County Commission decided to continue with their moratorium on mine permits until February 2018, and they are considering adopting the same regulations as Alachua County. IF YOU LIVE IN UNION COUNTY, or along the New River, or the Santa Fe River, please send a letter to the Union County Commission asking for them to follow Alachua County’s lead on mining regulations. Address letter to James Tallman, Chair of Union County Commission, 15 NE 1st street, Lake Butler, FL 32054. IT IS CRITICAL TO THE SURVIVAL OF THE RIVERS AND THE HEALTH OF THE RESIDENTS OF THESE COUNTIES.

Next important meeting re: phosphate mining will be in Brooker on February 14. Please attend that meeting. Educate yourself and speak up to oppose mining. Go to Our Santa Fe River (OSFR) website for further information.

OUTREACH: The group will work on getting the Water Works and Solar Power presentations updated to reflect information in these 9 counties. If anyone wants to help Joanna, please contact us.

We will work on our Mission Statement and get it finalized before our next meeting.

OUTING:  We discussed doing a paddle/hike combination outing to the New River on SATURDAY, March 4. Mark your calendar… More information will be put on SSJ Sierra Club website, through social media, FB and Meetup. Contact for further information.

BEAR HUNT: Coming up in February. Fish and Wildlife will hold meetings to permit a new Bear Hunt this year. Bill Sagues gave us information on 2 possible types of hunt. We need to oppose an open season hunting on bears in Florida. Allowing a tag hunt such as alligator hunts will be better if hunting has to be allowed. Show up at the meetings. Check SSJ website and newspapers to know when and where meetings will pbe held.

PILGRIMS PRIDE ISSUE: Update given by Merrillee.

Good information was shared and good energy was created to keep on working together to protect our beautiful area.