We Can’t Afford to Lose the Environmental Protection Agency

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

 

Algae growth from elevated nitrate levels chokes out grasses in Econfina Creek

I have prepared a brief statement in response to FL Representative Matt Gaetz’s proposed bill to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency.

My name is Beverly Hill, and in addition to being an outdoor lover and kayaking enthusiast, I am also a Florida Master Naturalist and I strongly disagree with Representative Gaetz’s position to dismantle the EPA. I don’t share his optimism that Florida regulators would be able to protect our waterways, much less be able to force our neighbors to the north of us into complying with regulations to prevent contaminates from flowing downstream or being injected into the water table. I have a few examples to illustrate my point.

On July 26th, 2016, the Florida Environmental Regulatory Commission (an unpaid volunteer committee appointed by the Governor) voted to approve higher levels of toxins that can be discharged into Florida’s rivers, lakes, streams, and estuaries, including the cancer causing agent, Benzene, for which approved levels were doubled. Drew Bartlett, DEP’s deputy secretary for ecosystem restoration, said the new standards would protect the average Floridian at a cancer-risk level of one in a million. Others would have higher or lower protection depending on how much they weigh and how much fish and water they consume.

On August 27, 2016, Mosiac, a fertilizer plant in Mulberry, Fl, leaked over 215 million gallons of radioactive* water into the Florida Aquifer which supplies drinking water to millions of Floridians. The State of Florida failed to notify the public of the contamination for 19 days after the event. Mosaic is currently seeking new permits to expand their phosphate mining operation in Manatee County.

The Sabal Pipeline is a 3.2 billion dollar pipeline owned jointly by Spectra Energy, Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light, created to transport natural fracked gas to Florida Energy plants. This pipeline will tunnel under the Withlacoochee, Suwannee and Santa Fe rivers and cross dozens of watersheds that are vital to the health of Florida’s springs and aquifer.

And in Miami, Florida Power & Light is pushing to store radioactive waste in a lower water table beneath the Florida Aquifer in a layer named the Boulder Zone. Research has shown that contamination can filter back up into the main aquifer, as well as having the potential to pollute Biscanye Bay.

In closing, it would appear that a push to dismantle the EPA is not for the benefit of Americans or Florida’s residents, but for the sole purpose of furthering Corporate interests. I urge Representative Gaetz to be a Champion for Florida and withdraw his proposed bill.

Notes:

For those that are unfamiliar with Florida’s karst system, it is a porous layer of limestone through which groundwater filters down into the aquifer.

Phosphogypsum is a radioactive by-product of phosphate mining.

Gaetz said Reps. Steven Palazzo (R-MS), Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) have agreed to co-sponsor a bill to the House Committee on Natural Resources to eliminate the agency.

Citations:

Miami News Times http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/fpl-wins-battle-to-store-radioactive-waste-under-miamis-drinking-water-aquifer-9059210

WFLA Channel 8 News http://wfla.com/2016/09/16/state-believes-radioactive-water-swallowed-by-sinkhole-has-been-contained/

Bradenton Herald http://www.bradenton.com/opinion/editorials/article128650939.html

Tallahassee Democrat http://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/2016/12/17/sabal-trail-pipeline-cuts-through-heart-springs-country/95470950/

http://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/2016/07/26/erc-signs-off-controversial-water-standards/87585308/

Tampa Bay Times http://www.tampabay.com/news/environment/water/mosaic-reports-third-spill-at-one-of-its-plants-the-second-under-new/2298452

Pensacola News Journal http://www.pnj.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/02/obliterating-epa-would-create-chaos-experts-say/97399494/

Posted in News, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Saving the Endangered Species Act

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

 

Trio of Brown Pelicans
Photo ©Beverly Hill

I remember, as a young girl, riding in the car along Hwy 90 in Biloxi, Mississippi and looking out the window across the beach and watching a large, lone bird glide just inches above the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. I asked my mom, “What kind of bird is that?” She replied, “That’s a Brown Pelican. Take a good look, because you might not see many more of those in your lifetime.” What followed next was a discussion about how the Brown Pelicans were dying off from the effects of a pesticide called DDT. The pelicans would eat fish contaminated with DDT, which in turn caused the shells of their eggs to become increasingly brittle, resulting in egg breakage during the incubation period.

Brown Pelican
Photo © Beverly Hill

By 1960 there were almost no Brown Pelican left along the Gulf Coast. In 1970 under a new law that preceded the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Brown Pelican as endangered. In 1972 the The Environmental Proction Agency finally banned the use of DDT. From 1968 to 1980 the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries began a program to reintroduce the Brown Pelican, and finally in 2009 the Brown Pelican population had recovered successfully and was removed from the Endangerd and Threatened Species Act, although in California they are still at risk.

Stellar Sea Lions
Photo © Beverly Hill

On a recent trip to Alaska I encountered more examples of success stories. On a whale-watching trip in Sitka, not only did I get to see a Humpback Whale bubble-net fishing just yards from our boat, but while circling a buoy, we spotted a couple of Stellar Sea Lions. And although I’m finally starting to spot the occasional Bald Eagle here in the Florida panhandle, in Alaska I was able to spot our nation’s symbol, delisted from the Endangered Species Act in 2007, almost everywhere I went.

Bald Eagle in Flight
Photo © Beverly Hill

Another species poised to make a comeback is the Gopher Tortoise. Although not out of the woods yet in Alabama, Mississippi and eastern Louisiana, great strides are being made with the eastern population of Gopher Tortoises. This keystone species, meaning that other animals depend on it to survive, requires large tracts of undevloped land such as Longleaf pine-flatwoods in order to survive. These same endangered Longleaf pines provide habitat for the endangered Red-Cockaded Woodpecker. As many as 360 species, including some endangered and threatened species, also utilize Gopher Tortoise burrows. Everything is connected.

Gopher Tortoise
Photo used with permission © Glenn Phillips

Right now there is a concerted effort by the House GOP to remove the Endangered Species Act and dismantle the Environmental Protection Act, undoing all of the progress that has been made over the last 44 years. The underlying political agenda behind this is to free up National and Federal lands for logging, mining and drilling for the sole purpose of lining the pockets of Big Corporations. Destroying endangered animals, plants and the ecosystems they inhabit on the whim of corporate greed cannot be allowed to happen. Saving nature and the environment should be among our top priorities and is a reflection of good stewardship and a statement of what we can achieve. Corporations and politics be damned! I’ll take an endangered species over a corrupt politician any day.

How can you help? Write or call your politicians. Donate to organizations that actively fight legislation like Earthjustice.org and Nature.org. Educate your friends and family about the importance of protecting endangered species. One voice can make a difference.

Citations:

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Delisted Endangered Species

Posted in News, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Personal Victory: Completing the Florida Master Naturalist Program

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

Three years ago I embarked on a journey to become a Florida Master Naturalist. It’s an adult education program created by the University of Florida/IFAS intended to promote awareness and understanding of Florida’s unique environment. I am happy to announce that on November 15th I completed the my final course in the program, Upland Systems, and now I am a fully certified Florida Master Naturalist.

Beverly Hill, Florida Master Naturalist

Beverly Hill, Florida Master Naturalist

So what’s next? I am going to look into local volunteer opportunities where I can further help educate visitors and residents of Florida. If one looks past the rampant commercialism and urbanization that is happening to our state, you will find an amazing natural world that cannot be replaced or duplicated. It is imperative that we raise awareness and strive to protect these systems, animals and plant communities.

Below I have posted my Final Project. It is a 10 minute video that explores the amazing world of the Southern Flying Squirrel. I hope you enjoy it.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Personal Victory: Completing the Florida Master Naturalist Program

What the Heck is SCORP and How Can it Help Outdoor People?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

 

Slide Showing Economic Impacts in Florida

Slide Showing Economic Impacts in Florida

This past Tuesday, at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City, FL, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection with the help of partner agencies conducted a Statewide Recreation Outdoor Recreation Workshop (SCORP) for the panhandle region of Florida in an effort to connect public and private recreation providers, users and professionals with resources that can help improve awareness in a variety of areas as it relates to outdoor recreation and access. There were quite a few attendees that came out for the one-day workshop that featured 10 different group sessions on topics ranging from Partnerships in Recreation Resource Management to Active Leisure for Life: All Ages & All Abilities and more.

Paul Arthur with "Sasquatch" the Eastern Screech Owl

Paul Arthur with “Sasquatch” the Eastern Screech Owl

Along with opportunities to network with individuals and agencies, participants were invited to have lunch while listening to Linda Reeves with the Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program (FRDAP) and Paul Arthur (and furry friends) from the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center near Freeport, Fl. As one can imagine, Mr. Arthur’s furry friends garnered a lot of attention from the audience.

One of the big takeaways from the workshop is how integral volunteers are at helping and complimenting larger organizations like the Florida State Parks system and the work being done by the Florida Trail System volunteers in coordination with the Florida Forest Service. These volunteers perform vital functions in a variety of areas including educating youth on Florida ecosystems to trail maintenance on over 1,000 miles of the Florida Scenic Trail.

Q & A Panel at the Panama City SCORP Workshop

Q & A Panel at the Panama City SCORP Workshop

Other information provided was Land and Recreation Grant Programs, the FORI (Florida Outdoor Recreation Inventory and various handouts explaining the huge financial contribution that outdoor recreation has on jobs, tourism, health and fitness, wildlife and conservation, quality of life and sustainability. The workshop finished on a strong point with a question and answer panel that reiterated making real Florida available to future generations.

Simply, SCORP’s plan is to provide resources and guidance to communities, businesses and organizations in an effort to create more diversity and better accessibility for everyone, including youth, people with disabilities, and seniors. Potential activities that stand to benefit are hiking trails, campsites, birdwatching areas, boat ramp access and many more.

For more information be sure to check out SCORP at www.dep.state.fl.us/parks/outdoors/scorp.htm and follow the Florida DEP on Twitter @FLDEPAlert and @FLDEPNews to stay up to date on upcoming events in your area.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on What the Heck is SCORP and How Can it Help Outdoor People?

Exploring Coastal Systems with the Florida Master Naturalist Program

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

For the second year in a row I enrolled in the University of Florida’s Florida Master Naturalist Program. This year I took the Coastal Course out of Leon County in Tallahassee. Rather than wake up at O-Dark-Thirty for each class, I loaded up my camper and made weekends out of it by staying at several of Florida’s State Parks located within easy driving distance of not only the Extension Bldg in Tallahassee, but our various field trips located near Port St. Joe, Panacea, St. Theresa, and St. Marks. This gave me ample opportunity to collect photographs and material for many new articles to come.

This class was double the size of the class I attended in Okaloosa County last year. No doubt the larger city size had something to do with it. Regardless, because I was the only student with such a long commute, I got to go solo on my group project. I’ve included it here.

Posted in News | Comments Off on Exploring Coastal Systems with the Florida Master Naturalist Program