Wave Maker’s News: Fall on Florida’s Nature Coast

This article is excerpted from Wave Maker’s News, our quarterly update on all things water in the Gulf of Mexico, check out the full newsletter here. Withlacoochee RiverPhoto Courtesy of Kolin Toney. In November, the Gulf Restoration Network along with Withlacoochee Area Residents, local chapters of the Florida Native Plant Society, and Southwings organized and hosted the Nature Coast Coalition’s Fall Conference.Florida’s Nature Coast is one of Florida’s longest natural coastlines and holds an amazing mosaic of wetlands, rivers, springs, seagrass beds, coastal marshes, and uplands.One the central subjects discussed was the impacts of mining in the Nature Coast area – especially as it relates to our effort to protect the Nature Coast from Tarmac Company’s proposed limestone mining operation.Steven Noll and David Tegeder, co-authors of Ditch of Dreams: The Cross Florida Barge Canal and the Struggle for Florida’s Future, began the day with an overall look at the history of mining in Florida and the Nature Coast’s history of fighting and stopping behemoth mining projects.That presentation set the stage for Edward Michaels and Jack Scofield of the Withlacoochee Area Residents to update the audience about the Tarmac limestone project, which proposes to mine 3,800 acres in Levy County and take out 2,300 acres of wetlands. Public hearings on this issue will begin next year.Sue Mullins provided a lively update on the current atmosphere of politics and policy in Tallahassee. Governor Rick Scott has recently appointed developer Bill Buzzett of the St. Joe Company to head the Department of Community Affairs and Jacksonville shipping industry executive Herschel Vinyard to Department of Environmental Protection. There is great deal of uncertainty about how Governor Scott will treat environmental policies and the agencies that oversee the environment in Florida. The state is currently looking at plans to merge the Department of Community Affairs, Department of Environmental Protection, and the Department of Transportation into a mega agency.The day ended with a strategy discussion that focused on the best ways for the coalition to coordinate our work against Tarmac limestone mining threats. The Coalition also brainstormed ways to promote the Nature Coast identity as a special part of natural Florida with a legacy of wetlands, springs, and forests.The Coalition will meet again early in 2011 to continue our exciting work, for more info check out NatureCoastCoalition.org.Darden Rice is the Florida Program Director for Gulf Restoration Network.

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