June Conservation Report – Whitey Markle


SPECIAL SESSION IS PLUM SCARY

As the legislature goes into “Special Session” we are holding our breath.  No one can begin to guess what the outcome may be. All negotiations are out of the sunshine behind closed doors.  No room here for citizen participation.  Only elected officials and lobbyists are allowed.  Some system we have, huh? Hopefully, their minds will be on the medical care issues and they will be distracted from furthering their damage to Florida’s environment. Keep your fingers crossed.

BEAR HUNTING LIKELY TO BE REINSTATED

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will take a final vote on June 25 to sanction the reinstatement of Black Bear hunting statewide.  This ridiculous policy change is being touted by the Commission as their solution to reduce human/bear conflicts.  Although the researchers have suggested several other means of resolution, the illustrious Commission, which is totally made up by men with hunting licenses, is avidly pushing to reinstate hunting.

Contrary to FWC’s belief, Florida’s Bear population is decreasing over time. There is no recent data that supports an increased Bear population. An average of 250 Bears die each year by automobile death. The hunting regulations will depend on the hunters’ honesty in reporting Bear kills. Oh, boy!

Garbage management and public education are two policies being downplayed by the commission. We feel that hunting will distract FWC’s personnel from the food attractant/garbage management policy and public education. The Commission will also likely instate “hazing” by untrained, uneducated property owners(no permit needed to harass hungry Bears on private property).  This can be very dangerous, especially when Mama Bear has cubs. Absolutely bad policy.

Finally, the FWC will instate the “One Strike” policy when handling nuisance Bears. In other words: if a  garbage-addicted Bear hangs around a neighborhood for 5 days, it will be executed. The Commission used to remove and relocate such humanized Bears. Not now.

So I am asking every activist and member to simply write an email to the FWC stating that the reinstatement of Bear hunting is an erroneous policy decision in that it will not reduce human/bear conflicts. The Commission should increase public awareness about feeding Bears and techniques of Bear-proofing garbage, as well as tougher enforcement of Bear feeding laws.

Emails should be sent to sent to: bearcomments@myfwc.com and commissioners@myfwc.com

NEW FOCUS ON OUR SPRINGS

Ron Cunningham, former Gainesville Sun Editorial page editor, wrote about Dr. Bob Knight’s new book, Silenced Springs-Moving from Hope to Tragedy:

“Springs are a source of life and a recipient of death,” he writes. “They are as fundamental to the history of humans as we are to their living ecosystems. “We need springs. And silenced springs need us to speak for them.”

And here’s the thing. Even if you have never tubed down the Ichetucknee, even if you will never immerse your body in the constant 72-degree temperature of a clear blue Florida spring, you — indeed every Floridian — need to care very much about what’s killing the springs. Because, as Knight points out, the springs are nothing more than windows into the Floridan Aquifer — the state’s major source of drinking water. And if less water and more nutrients are pouring out of the springs — if the springs are sick — that means the very aquifer that helps keep us all alive is unhealthy.

“Springs do not reside in a world separate from ours,” he writes. “We are like Siamese Twins sharing a common blood supply.”

What’s ailing the springs — and contaminating the aquifer — is no mystery. We are pumping too much water out of the ground and leaking too much fertilizer, pesticides, septic tank and dairy wastes, and other nutrient-laden toxics into Florida’s porous karst subsurface. There are “fixes” available — water conservation, alternative water sources, limits on farm and lawn treatments, better waste treatment and so on — but they will neither be cheap nor painless. And given the disposition of our political ruling class, the springs won’t be saved unless Floridians insist on it.

Still, Knight is both a realist and an optimist. Hence his subtitle, “Tragedy to Hope.”

“Is there a recipe for water resource sustainability in Florida that can accommodate over 20 million people and still maintain a healthy economy and healthy springs,” he poses. The answer is yes. But only if Floridians care enough about clean water to lead their leaders for a change. There must be a way to get the citizens back into the Florida political picture.

ALACHUA COUNTY, ALACHUA CITY BATTLING OVER WATER PROTECTION

After months of negotiating and debating over the proposed Walmart development in the city of Alachua, “the city of Alachua and Alachua County couldn’t reach agreement on the issue before the County Commission filed a legal challenge last week.” said the Gainesville Sun.

There is a long history of conflicts between the city and county over local control that made reaching such an agreement more difficult. But both sides need to put aside differences to work together on an issue important to us all: protecting water quality in the aquifer and, by extension, the area’s springs and drinking water supply.

Fortunately, the legal challenge doesn’t mean both sides will immediately duke it out in court. There are still opportunities for officials to reach an agreement on advanced stormwater treatment and pollution prevention measures on the site. Hopefully, we can put politics aside and do the right thing for our water resources. Stay tuned. This is a critical juncture in water protection on the local level.

SWFWMD LIKELY TO SELL OUR CONSERVATION LAND

The governing Board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District deliberated the sale of thousands of acres of conservation land on Tuesday, May 19. We negotiated tenaciously to convince their representatives to spare many of these parcels. As I reported last month, the Tri-County Working Group was able to save the Halpata Taskanaki parcel near Dunnellon, but no others so far have been removed from the list.

After watching for the minutes of the May 19 meeting and calling the District, I was told the minutes are not yet published and that no one is available that has that information. It is a sad commentary on the recently-shaken administration that receives this non-news. My feeling is that the lands will be sold (or traded) and that development will cover the previously conserved land.