Thursday, July 24, 2008

A victory for the Everglades....maybe

Today the Everglades are a little safer from poorly planned development.

Thousands of Floridians from around the state signed the Progress Florida/Hold The Line petition to Gov. Crist urging his Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to reject two developments, including a Lowe's big box retail center that threatened the Everglades. On Friday July 18th DCA did exactly that.

But our work isn't done. Lowe's, who still wants to cement urban sprawl to the edge of the Everglades, plans to fight this decision.

"We feel confident that the decision will be overturned,'' declared a Lowe's attorney in response to the DCA's decision.

There are 111 Lowe's stores in Florida but there's only one Everglades.

We need to send a message to Lowe's right now and tell them to protect the Everglades, not pave it.

We've made it very easy to send a message to Lowes CEO, simply click the picture below:

It seems like every day, some politically connected developer is proposing an unsustainable, poorly planned development somewhere in Florida. This time they're trying to expand westward into the increasingly vulnerable Everglades. Lowe's has 15 vacant acres inside the UDB, yet they are fighting to build outside the UDB on top of critically important wetlands at the edge of the Everglades.

This change in Miami-Dade's comprehensive plan was rejected by the DCA. That decision represents a major victory for the Everglades and for smart growth. However, it may be short lived if Lowe's has their way. That's where you come in.

We need to send a message to Lowe's right now and tell them to protect the Everglades, not pave it.

To send your message right now, simply click here.

The voice of Floridians made the difference in the DCA's decision, and it can make the difference again by putting pressure on Lowe's to drop their legal efforts that threaten the Everglades.

NOTE: You can listen to Florida Public Radio’s coverage of this issue by clicking here.

Wildwood Preservation Society is a non-profit 501(c)(4) project of the Advocacy Consortium for the Common Good. Click here to learn more.

"it's all connected"

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wood storks in peril

Endangered Wood Storks nesting in Fred George Basin, May 2008

Note: This has been an active wood stork mating season in Fred George Basin. Preliminary estimates for the Wildwood rookery suggest about a 75% nesting success rate. Unfortunately, historically large colonies in the south are being ravaged by drought and overdevelopment as evidenced by the article below. The protection of wood stork nesting and core foraging areas in places like Fred George Basin is more critical now than ever. Read on…

Wood storks in peril
By Jenna Buzzacco
Naples News
July 10, 2008

Here’s one first no one is celebrating: For the first time in 50 years, wood storks have not returned to nest at Corkscrew Swamp for two consecutive years.

And with the potential for a third year looming on the horizon, wood stork experts are concerned about what could happen to the species.

“Wood storks are an indicator,” said Jason Lauritsen, a science coordinator at the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. “The wood stork is the gauge. The wood stork lets us know what’s going on out there.”

What’s going on out there is a drought. And that, paired with continuing development throughout South Florida, could be the reason the storks aren’t returning to nest.

The water levels in 2007 were about 20 inches below average. Last year was the first time since 2002 that no nests or fledglings were reported. In 2002, according to an annual rainfall report, water levels were less than five inches below average.

There’s a correlation between rainfall and the number of wood storks nesting each year, Lauritsen said. That’s because the birds depend on having just the right amount of water in marshes, cypress sloughs and pine flatwoods to survive.

Wood stork nesting season can start as early as November, Lauritsen said. In Southwest Florida, though, wood storks have typically begun nesting in January or February.

About 15 to 18 inches of water is deep enough to provide enough small fish for adults and their chicks. It’s also shallow enough for the adults to easily wade through to catch food.

But walk down Corkscrew’s boardwalk and you’ll find that there’s not 15 inches of water in sight. The lettuce lakes are empty. And with only about an inch of water in the vast open space, it’s hard to even picture it as a swamp.

It’s not just Southwest Florida that’s seeing a decrease in wood storks, though. Bill Brooks, a wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Jacksonville, said nesting appears to be down throughout Central and Southwest Florida.

“It’s related to the drought that we have been going through, so conditions won’t be right (in some areas),” Brooks said. “But as you move further north, the nesting conditions must be better. There is nesting going on.”

Nesting is happening in northern Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Brooks said Georgia saw a record number of nests this spring. According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, birds were found nesting in 24 colonies in 14 Georgia counties, resulting in about 2,225 nests.

In 2006, a record for wood stork nests was set in Georgia when about 1,900 were found.

Lauritsen said Corkscrew saw about 1,550 birds fledge — or leave the nest — in 2006. About 800 nests were reported that year.

“Southwest Florida has historically been the most important (place), but it has also been the most unstable,” Lauritsen said. “There’s more and more (wood storks) in Georgia and South Carolina. It is possible that those trends will stabilize. We lose them, but at least there are still storks.”

Losing the wood stork is a risk. The stork was listed on the federal endangered species list in 1984, but there have been efforts to downgrade the species to threatened. Brooks said a five-year study showed the birds could be considered threatened, not endangered, but said that could change since nesting numbers are lower than expected.

Not only does losing the wood stork mean losing an important gauge on what’s going on in the environment, Lauritsen said it also means people will lose an “amazing” creature.

“It’s amazing,” he said as he talked about the birds learning how to fly. “It’s awesome. They’re reckless acrobats.”

It’s too early to tell whether the birds will be back to nest next year, Lauritsen said. But he also said people shouldn’t depend solely on the weather to bring the birds back.

“If we’re betting on recovering the wood stork and betting on the weather ... (the weather) is something we can’t control,” he said.

Due to dryness in the past year, moon vine has taken over much of the lettuce lake area of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, a habitat that is normally comfortable nesting ground for wood storks. The species became listed as endangered in 1984, but has generally thrived in southwest Florida until the drought conditions of the last two years. According to biologist Jason Lauritsen, "Southwest Florida has historically been the most important region for wood storks in biologists' minds, but also the most vulnerable due to land use changes."

Survival Story- Wood Storks Thriving in Georgia
The Brunswick News
July 9, 2008
Endangered wood storks double number of nests
Florida The Times-Union
July 2, 2008
A rare bird all but vanishes from Everglades
Miami Herald
July 5, 2008

Wildwood Preservation Society is a non-profit 501(c)(4) project of the Advocacy Consortium for the Common Good. Click here to learn more.

"it's all connected"

Tallahassee volunteer greenway clean-up this Saturday, July 19

If you are in the Tallahassee area, please read the letter below from Tallahassee-Leon County Senior Planner Steve Hodges and consider joining us this Saturday!

This Saturday, July 19th, at 9 a.m., a small group of FSU environmental service students, organized and led by Misty Penton, founder of Wildwood Preservation Society, will gather at the SE corner of Gaines and Lake Bradford to pick up trash along a City-owned trail easement. This easement is intended to be the final trail connection between the City's Lake Elberta Park and the FSU stadium that will connect the St. Marks Trail to FSU.

We're looking for additional volunteers to help clean up this corridor. Following the cleanup, City Parks and Recreation staff will clear and grade the trail, and hopefully put down a hard surface. City staff are working with CSX to clean up a small storage facility along the easement, and other City staff are working to secure additional property that will connect the trail to the crossing at Gaines and Lake Bradford.

This is an important link in the local greenway system, and its opening is closer than it has been in years. Come if you can, and help extend our urban trail system. Bring gloves, closed-toe shoes, bug spray, and drinking water. We'll be done by noon, barring bad weather. Ride your bicycle to this event if you can.

Fred George Sink clean-up crew, February 2008

PS: If you are in the Leon County area and have not signed the Stop the Mahan Massacre petition, please click the picture below and pass the word along to friends and family. Thank you!

Wildwood Preservation Society is a non-profit 501(c)(4) project of the Advocacy Consortium for the Common Good. Click here to learn more.

"it's all connected"

Leon County: Help stop the Mahan Massacre!


If you thought the Fallschase development on Mahan Drive was an abomination, wait until you see the newest plan another big developer has for this once picturesque, unique gateway into Tallahassee.

Known as the "Rockaway" project, this proposed development will allow up to 500 residential units in a rural area currently zoned for 50.

Making matters worse, the Leon County Commission has given preliminary approval to change the county's official blueprint for growth to allow it.

Please take a few seconds to sign a petition to Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Secretary Tom Pelham, urging him to oppose this change to Leon County's growth plan that only benefits one deep-pocketed developer. Then, please forward this Email to your family and friends. Follow this link to sign the petition:

If you're tired of more traffic, more pollution, more overcrowded schools and more taxpayer dollars needed to pay for the impacts of poorly planned growth, then take action today.

Located at the intersection of Mahan drive and Wadesboro road, the proposed "Rockaway" development has been called "the poster child for urban sprawl," by Tallahassee City Commissioner Debbie Lightsey.

The Tallahassee City Commission voted unanimously to oppose this massive new development located outside the Urban Services Area, and the Planning Department for the city and county said this level of development is out of compliance with our own comprehensive plan.

Despite this opposition, and the opposition of a dozen neighboring residents who waited for hours to testify against the development, the Leon County Commission voted 5-1 to move forward with amending Leon County's growth plan to accommodate the wishes of one politically connected and deep-pocketed developer. Commissioner Cliff Thaell was the only one who voted against it. (Commissioner Bob Rackleff was out of town but strongly opposes this reckless development.)

Because the proposed development by Rockaway LLP of Jacksonville is outside the city limit, the county commission's vote is the one that counts. Now, the state DCA will review the proposed change to Leon County's Comprehensive Plan and that's where you come in.

Please take a few seconds to sign a petition to DCA Secretary Tom Pelham, urging him to oppose this request to change Leon County's growth plan to benefit one deep-pocketed developer. Then, please forward this Email to your family and friends. Follow this link to sign the petition:

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Support Hold The Line if you are in the Miami-Dade area.
Support Hometown Democracy if you are in Florida.
Recommend reading: Green Empire: The St. Joe Company and the Remaking of Florida's Panhandle by Kathryn Ziewitz and June Wiaz.

Wildwood Preservation Society is a non-profit 501(c)(4) project of the Advocacy Consortium for the Common Good. Click here to learn more.

"it's all connected"