Blogging for a Healthy Gulf

 

Here's a great editorial from the Biloxi Sun Herald, underscoring the concerns of the Save the Bait coalition. I hope that a few key commissioners pay attention to their request for a little intellectual curiosity towards this ecosystem keystone for a healthy Mississippi Sound.

From the editorial:

Dr. Vernon Asper, who chairs the commission, has said he agrees more study needs to be done, but he typically doesn’t vote under the commission’s rules unless there is a tie. On this issue, he should.

He should be joined by commission member Shelby Drummond, who represents recreational fishermen. Drummond has said he is willing “to go along with the science,” so he should support a scientific study of the situation.

At least two pressing questions must be answered:

1. Are so many menhaden being caught that it could wreck the food supply for other fish that eat them?

2. Are the nets used to catch menhaden pulling up too many other species as bycatch?

These are legitimate issues and the commission does not appear to have reliable information to satisfy those concerned about either one.

Aaron Viles is GRN's Campaign Director

 
Today, February 19th, 2009 is . . . mardigrastimecallin graphic.jpg

Please pick up your phone right now and call Lowe's, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart to tell them to say NO to cypress mulch. For more information including phone numbers and talking points, visit the Mardi Gras Time Call-In Day Action Page.

 

As a budget-cutting measure the State of Florida is considering closing a number of state parks including Egmont Key State Park at the mouth of Tampa Bay, which as been managed since 1989 under a cooperative agreement between the State of Florida and the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Egmont Key is among the few remaining and critically important seabird nesting sites on the west coast of Florida, annually providing shelter and food for thousands of pairs of nesting gulls, terns, pelicans and other shorebirds. The Egmont Key State Park facilitates and controls public use and organizes volunteers on the island and provides around the clock rangers to protect its wildlife. If the state pulls out of Egmont Key, the island will be unprotected and subjected to disturbance and vandalism.

Last fall Birdlife International (http://www.birdlife.org) reported the accelerating pace of decline of the populations of the world’s 9,856 living bird species. On Florida’s west coast we have had a ring-side seat to this decline as we are one of the richest bird regions in the southeast, abundantly endowed with a variety of habitats and located on a key migratory flyway. Each spring and summer volunteers from local conservation groups struggle to protect the few remaining undisturbed nesting beaches and document the status of beach-nesting bird species.

The Birdlife International report attributes the causes of bird loss to a bewildering long list of human disturbances including industrial scale agriculture, logging, and fishing; mining and energy production; housing development; invasive species; and pollution. Additionally, the report predicts that climate change will cause major changes in the distribution and abundance of bird populations. Put more simply, the relentless growth of human populations, changing demographics and the increasing demand on natural areas, particularly barrier islands and beaches for development, recreation and resources are altering forever the natural systems of our planet.

The familiar Florida statistics are worth repeating. In 1900 our population was just over 500,000 people. By 2000 our population increased to just under 16 million—a 30-fold increase. Between 2004 and 2010, Florida's population is expected to increase from 17.5 million to 20 million. We are witnessing a the slow development of a crisis in our relationship with nature, one that will ultimately destroy our nationally famous life style and damage our economy which is so dependent upon tourism and untrammeled nature.

What can we do? Recent local actions, large and small, come immediately to mind, for example, the purchases of the large 871-acre Eldridge-Wilde well field in the Brooker Creek Preserve and the tiny Bird Island in Coffee Pot Bayou in St. Petersburg. We must continue to work with local governments to increase protection of multiple use public land as was done with the recent management plan for Shell Key-- another critical nesting site for seabirds.

Those of us of a certain age almost dare not think back to birds as we knew them 50 years ago.
We will not recover the natural world of our youth. Here in this most populous of counties in a rapidly growing state, we must work harder to manage and protect as much undeveloped natural habitat as possible while there is time. We need no better reason to do this than the importance of birds and undisturbed nature to tourism and to our economy, but on a much deeper level we owe this to future generations.

Isolated and remote, Egmont Key State Park must continue to provide protection for birds that have no other place to nest. The Legislature must hear from concerned citizens this month.

John Ogden, Ph.D. is USF Professor of Biology and Director of the Florida Institute of Oceanography in St. Petersburg

 

Despite impassioned calls from national, regional, and local community and conservation organizations to protect habitat for Florida Black Bears, today the Coastal Rivers Basin Board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District voted to allow a controversial land swap to move forward.

For more information, read the GRN's press release,
http://healthygulf.org/press-releases/southwest-florida-water-management-district-moves-forward-with-controversial-land-swap.html

Dan Favre is GRN's Campaign Organizer.

 

This January 23-25, the Gulf Restoration Network hosted the Students United for A Healthy Gulf Leadership Conference at Tulane University in New Orleans. The group of 22 student leaders attending came from the Gulf Coast of Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi; as well as the New Orleans metro area, in order to gain the knowledge, skills, and inspiration to be effective advocates for a healthy Gulf.

On Friday evening, after an introduction to GRN by Executive Director, Cyn Sarthou, everyone got to know one another over a po-boy dinner and continued to build the community of students working on Gulf environmental issues.

Saturday consisted of issue briefings from GRN staff, followed by workshops to develop grassroots organizing skills, such as petitioning, tabling, and public speaking. Assisting the workshops were experienced GRN interns Jennifer Pipitone, Liz Doyaga, and Sunshine Bond, and students had the opportunity to get practical experience petitioning on Tulane's and Loyola's campuses.

Sunday capped off the weekend with a canoe trip along Cane Bayou that feeds into Lake Pontchartrain, with guidance from tour director Byron Almquist. Students got to witness first hand the natural beauty offered by Louisiana, while also seeing the unintended consequences of reckless development on our wetlands. With this inspiration, we held an impromptu Save Our Cypress rally at a Home Depot in Covington to protest the unsustainable production of cypress mulch.

Many thanks to Canoe and Trail Adventure for donating the guided canoe trip, and to Whole Foods for providing breakfast. Most of all, thanks to all the dedicated student activists who work with GRN to defend our Gulf!

 
Thursday, February 19th, 2009 is . . . mardigrastimecallin graphic.jpg
This Thursday, February 19, 2009, join activists, gardeners, and concerned citizens throughout the Gulf in calling Lowe's, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart to tell them to say NO to cypress mulch. For more information including phone numbers and talking points, visit the Mardi Gras Time Call-In Day Action Page.

If you'd like to get more involved and help by recruiting friends to join in, you can find more information at the link below:

pdfMardi Gras Time Call-In Coordinator Guide

 

Save one of America's last, large free-flowing rivers: Protect the Pascagoula!

 

Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction - in an effort to expand the nation's petroleum reserve, the Department of Energy is prepared to hollow out a series of salt domes near Richton, Mississippi. In other words, they're planning on pumping oil back into the ground! To do this, they will pump 50 million gallons of water from Mississippi's Pascagoula River everyday for five years to dissolve underground salt and then dump the salty, polluted byproduct off the coast of one of Mississippi's barrier islands. This process could have serious consequences for Gulf of Mexico and Pascagoula River fisheries and the businesses and jobs that rely on a healthy ecosystem.


To pour salt on the wound, this wholesale environmental destruction will cost taxpayers $4 billion. With a new head of the Department of Energy, now is the time to stop this madness: send the DOE your personal message now.


Our nation faces a variety of real and pressing challenges, from the growing economic turmoil to the impending consequences of global climate change. Amidst all these significant challenges, it's hard to believe that the Department of Energy is ready to squander $4 billion dollars on this environmentally destructive project. It's time that the federal government focused its efforts on ending our dependence on oil rather than squandering precious dollars on solving yesterday's problems. Send a strong message to the Department of Energy today asking them to stop the salt dome madness before it's too late!


Matt Rota is Director of GRN's Water Resources Program

 

Again, that DC bureau rock star, Bruce Alpert of the Times-Picayune, brings us another painful scoop for the region's recovery.

Yeah, remember that category 5 plan to rebuild Louisiana's coastal wetlands and defend our communities? The plan Congress passed legislation demanding back in December of 2005? That gave the Corps of Engineers until December 2007 to deliver? That we still haven't seen? That's not even a plan so much as a 'decision-matrix'? Yeah, that plan.

Turns out, we won't have a final version until the end of August of 2009. Nearly two years late. I can hear the thud now. Let's remind Congress that the Corps is ridiculously late in delivering their insufficient assignment. Do that here.

Aaron Viles is GRN's Campaign Director

 

Bruce Alpert with the Times-Picayune wrote a great story about Army Corps money in the stimulus package.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has included $4.6 billion in money for Army Corps projects. Unfortunately, very little of this money appears to be going to the kind of environmental restoration projects that the Gulf Coast desperately needs. It appears to favor more of the same costly, destructive projects that have characterized the Corps' past.

The largest category in the bill is $500 million for major rehabilitation of inland waterway locks and dams. These projects are among the most costly and often lack economic justification. To make things worse, Congress is proposing to waive the usual cost-sharing provision, setting a very dangerous precedent. In 2008 barge companies received an enormous 91 percent taxpayer subsidy for all the costs of inland waterways.

There is an emphasis on "shovel-ready" projects in the stimulus package. In the case of the Army Corps, we have to ask what type of projects are ready to go. I'm afraid what the answer may be. There are a number of wasteful, destructive projects that are "ready to go," but haven't been funded in the past for that very reason.

Jeff Grimes is Assistant Director of the Water Resources Program for the Gulf Restoration Network

 

Over the last few months, GRN's Healthy Waters Team has been busy fighting to keep the rivers, bayous and streams of the Gulf region safe for ourselves and future generations. We've been waging this battle on several fronts from opposing an ill-conceived Army Corps of Engineers plan in Louisiana to protecting coastal Mississippi communities, defending the integrity of Florida's drinking water, and educating individuals across the Gulf about how to keep their communities safe from dangerous sewage pollution.

Despite the significant challenges facing the communities along the Gulf Coast, GRN's Healthy Waters team is committed to protecting the long-term health of the Gulf of Mexico and its waters.

For more about our recent efforts and successes, check out this issue of WaveMakers' News:
http://healthygulf.org/images/stories/healthywaters/wavemakers/wave_maker_news_feb_2009.pdf


Matt Rota is Director of the Water Resources Program at Gulf Restoration Network.

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