Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170;

February 2016 Prez Sez

Maureen and I spent the first week of February on the Big Bend area of Florida, camping at the Ochlokonee River State park, paddling the rivers and creeks and birding and photographing at St Marks NWR and hiking trails at Wakulla Springs State Park.  The ORSP protects a large tract of Longleaf Pine forest as habitat for the Red Cockaded Woodpecker ( we saw two of them, photo of one banded); Wakulla Springs SP protects one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world.  We hiked some of the forest and hammock trails and saw the sinkholes that gather rain water and filter it into the aquifer.

Back home in reality-ville, Governor Scott and his DEP chief appointee want to turn state parks into cattle ranches, logging operations and hunting grounds.

The governor believes parks should pay for themselves.

The Governor and Legislature are planning to sell conservation lands and are promoting changes in management that are detrimental to Florida’s wildlife and waters. In addition, this legislation would gut funding for land conservation by allowing Florida Forever funds to be spent on local water projects, instead of acquiring land and development rights as intended. These plans were enshrined in SB 1290 and HB 1075, hastily passed despite democratic attempts to amend them and the Governor signed them into law.  Under the law, Florida’s protected state lands, purchased over the past three decades through Florida Forever and other programs, could be sold.

Didn’t we go through this a couple of years ago when the Water Management Districts “studied” the possibility of divesting of lands they deemed surplus to their needs?  Didn’t public outcry send them packing?

Florida environmental officials intend to permit a new landfill for Space Coast construction waste, yard trash and other waste. But conservationists say the planned landfill off U.S. 192, on Brevard County's western border, will fill more than 187 acres of wetlands. Charles Lee, director of advocacy for Audubon Florida said:”It is located right at the edge of the inundated floodplain of the St Johns River; this is a very bad site for a landfill."

In 2000, state and federal pledges were made to clean up the ailing Everglades, Legislators  passed a law hailed as a landmark and key to an ambitious $8 billion restoration plan: the Lake Okeechobee Protection Act.

The legislation was designed to mitigate decades of pollution pouring into the lake from farms, pastures and stormwater pipes around its rim. Lawmakers set a January 2015 goal to sharply reduce damaging nutrients flowing into the lake that historically flowed into the Everglades.

The deadline passed without achieving the goal. So this month, the Florida Legislature passed another law, touted again as a landmark — but which fell far short of the expectations of environmentalists and longtime Everglades restoration advocates.

The same powerful business interests who previously stalled cleanup efforts helped push through the new plan which simply deletes the deadline and sets another, at least 20 years down the road.  Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law.

Gov. Rick Scott  also signed SB 552, touted as a major milestone in addressing our water quality concerns in north, central and South Florida.

It was ostensibly an ambitious plan to clean up Florida springs, rivers and lakes and protect aquifers. In fact, however, it favors special interests, ties the hands of local water management districts and could saddle taxpayers with the cost of pollution clean-ups.

It lets the polluters monitor their discharges into our waters!

Will there be no respite for the waters that nourish us?  What about nourishing the millions of people these YAYHOO’s in Tallahassee are trying to attract to the state?