2012 Sea Turtle Nesting Season Begins In Florida

Hawksbill Turtle (details)

Hawksbill Sea Turtle

Today, May 1st,  marks the first day of sea turtle nesting season in Florida. Sea turtles are such majestic creatures, reptiles who can trace their lineage back to prehistoric times. They have survived the test of time, but today, all seven species of sea turtles are endangered.  Three of these species-  the hawksbill, the kemp’s ridley (the tiniest and rarest sea turtle), and the leatherback ( at up to 1500 pounds, the world’s largest and fastest sea turtle) -are critically endangered. Critically endangered species are those whose numbers have or will decrease by 80% in three generations.

With five of the seven species of endangered sea turtles nesting on its beaches and over 90% of sea turtle activity in the United States occurring there, Floridians and the state’s cherished tourists have a great responsibility to preserve the habitat for these amazing animals.

Sea turtles have always faced many threats, but only recently have they faced the risk of survival from their biggest predator, humans. Both direct and indirect human contact has reduced the number of sea turtles today to all time lows.

From fishing lines to six-pack rings, to plastic bags, turtles are caught by and ingest large quantities of plastic each year. It is impossible to eliminate this scourge from the sea. One small counter measure is to reduce the use of plastic. In my last post, I talked about some cities that are working to ban plastic bags. These bags blanket the beach and the ocean. To our sea turtle friends, especially the leatherback, who eats a diet almost exclusively of jelly fish, these bags look like dinner. Make every visit to the beach a beach clean up.

Photos and maps related to Padre Island. Padre...

Kemps Ridley Sea Turtle Nesting(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Other dangers sea turtles face are boat propellers, commercial fishing practices-like shrimp trawlers, long line fishing, and large net fishing-, and run-off from pesticides and human-made chemicals coming from the land.

Last fall, I wrote a post on how turtle hatchlings, looking for the brightest star on the horizon to orient themselves to return to sea, become disoriented from the bright night lights of beach establishments and go the wrong way. This often results in their death either from being run over by a car or dehydration. Volunteers tirelessly work every night of sea turtle season, watching turtle nests for hatchlings and when they go the wrong way, they try to catch them.

In 2011, Fort Lauderdale volunteers saved almost 14,000 baby sea turtles heading toward the bright lights of A1A. That might seem like a lot, but with only enough volunteers to monitor 33% of nests (clutches) and up to 100 hatchlings in a clutch, these numbers only reflect a small portion of disoriented hatchlings.

So, let’s honor the sea turtle by doing our part whether we live near the ocean or not.

-Reduce plastic use.

-Bring a bag to the beach for clean up whenever you go for pleasure. (Don’t expect someone else to do it. That’s how we got to where we are right now.)

-Be a responsible boater.

-Only eat fish that has been sustainably caught.

-Make sure your city enforces their turtle friendly lighting ordinance if you live in Fort Lauderdale or another coastal Florida city.

Sea Turtle Resources:

Turtle Hospital- Marathon, FL:  http://www.turtlehospital.org/

Sea Turtle Oversight Protection: http://seaturtleop.org/broward/

Global Sea Turtle Network: http://www.seaturtle.org/

Sea Turtle Conservancy: http://www.conserveturtles.org/seaturtleinformation.php

Read this Book:

 
You can only conserve what you love and after you read this book, by James Spotila, you will love sea turtles.♥

 

 

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Endangered Baby Sea Turtles Die Because Fort Lauderdale Fails to Enforce Lighting Ordinance

N. Ft. Lauderdale Sea Turtle Lighitng IssuesClose to 90% of sea turtle nesting in the US occurs in Florida. The City of Fort Lauderdale advertises sea turtle nesting season (March-October) on its website.  Yet, Fort Lauderdale is also a city that prides itself as an international tourist destination.

Humans can create many perils for sea turtles during nesting season. These include plastic and other litter left on the beach that can entangle or block the sea turtle’s way and beach furniture that can entrap turtles. But, by far the worst hazard is beach lighting. This not only disorients sea turtle mothers laying their eggs, but creates a greater hazard for hatchlings confused by the light. Sea turtle hatchlings instinctively head in the direction of the brightest light. On a beach without humans, this would be toward the ocean.

In fact beach lighting puts baby sea turtles in such jeopardy of survival that Fort Lauderdale has a lighting ordinance on the books. Ft. Lauderdale Lighting Ordinance Sec. 6-51 states, “It is the policy of the City of Fort Lauderdale that no artificial light shall illuminate any area of the incorporated beaches of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.”…

Alas, laws only work as well as they are enforced and on Fort Lauderdale’s illuminated A1A, there isn’t a lot of enforcement going on. The result is as expected, new hatchlings, often 100% disoriented, head directly for the busy A1A strip. There they face dehydration, the risk of falling in a storm drain, and the worst scenario, being run over by cars cruising up and down the strip.

Thanks to STOP (Sea Turtle Oversight Protection), a group of tireless volunteers, thousands of baby sea turtles have been saved from certain death. But the volunteers can’t catch every disoriented hatchling every night, so many of them end their brief lives, under the wheels of a car on A1A. Much of this could be prevented if the city of Fort Lauderdale would enforce its own ordinance and protect these endangered sea turtles.

Mayor Jack Seiler‘s response to private citizen activists lobbying for stronger code enforcement has been one of effective avoidance. In response to turtle activist emails, Seiler countered “your facts are wrong.” But what are the ‘facts’ Mayor Seiler is referring to? Take a look at the embedded video and you can see the sea turtle disorientation from the failed enforcement of the lighting ordinance for yourself.  Visit this facebook page for the latest details.

Mayor Jack Seiler can be reached at jack.seiler@fortlauderdale.gov, jackseiler@aol.com

Fort Lauderdale City Hall – PHONE: 954-828-8000 

Complaints: http://ci.ftlaud.fl.us/contact.htm

City Mayor Jack Seiler – CELL: 954-562-0958    PHONE: 954-828-5003

City Manager Lee Feldman – PHONE: 954-828-5013

Commissioner Bruce Roberts – PHONE: 954-828-5004

Commissioner Charlotte E. Rodstrom – PHONE: 954-828-5923 – CELL: 954-292-9378

Commissioner Bobby DuBose – PHONE: 954-828-5004

Commissioner Romney Rogers – PHONE: 954-828-5004

 

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Students Heading Back To School Go Green

International Recycle Symbol

Image via Wikipedia

Students Heading Back To School Go Green- Click This Link to See a Recent Channel 10 Interview with Ian and Maria

Its wonderful to see so many ‘green’ back-to-school products this year out in stores. All companies want to be green  and some are greener than others, so make sure you do your homework before making those purchases. Look for products made from post-consumer recycled materials and products bearing the Forest Stewardship Council logo. Products bearing the FSC logo guarantee that the wood is from a certified well-managed forest.

Remember the first R is Reduce, so don’t buy more than you need. According to the Story of Stuff.com, 99% of the stuff we purchase (in North America) is trashed within 6 months of buying it. “How can we run a planet on that level of materials throughput?”, asks Annie Leonard.

The average American generates 4.5 pounds of garbage everyday! Floridians make twice the national average at 9 pounds of waste a day. And that is just a small portion of the trash created upstream to make the things we buy. From the Story of Stuff, for every one garbage can of waste you put out on the curb, 70 garbage cans of waste were made upstream (in production of the products we purchase) to create that one garbage can of junk.

There are a  few additional things you can do to make your child’s school year more sustainable. Find out if your school has a recycling program, and not just for paper. Plastic water and juice bottles, cans and glass are a major source of waste. Lunches are a big source of waste also. It’s estimated that on average, schoolchildren generate 67 pounds of waste every year thanks to the plastic baggies, brown bags, and other waste used to pack lunches. Buy your child a reusable drink bottle, get rid of the brown paper bag lunch and try a laptop lunch box with reusable containers. Pack a cloth napkin rather than a paper napkin.

Many schools are adopting edible schoolyard garden projects. Find out if your child’s school has one. These projects are excellent ways to connect children to the natural world around them as well as their food supply. They serve as hands-on science laboratories. Children can also learn about vermiculture as a means to compost their lunch scraps.

Everyone taking small steps together leads to big change.

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Florida’s Great Senator- The Oldest Cypress Tree in North America

Senator CypressEvery young student can tell you what are the biggest theme-park attractions in Orlando.  But probably very few can tell you about Big Tree Park, home Florida’s oldest and most distinguished resident, the Senator bald cypress tree. Located in Longwood, FL , the Senator majestically looms high as if he could touch the clouds, above a land blanketed with way too many strip malls and concrete.

Big Tree Park, part of the Spring Hammock Preserve is a nice reprieve from the modernized world and also a nice glimpse back at what Florida’s past must have looked like. Its amazing that the Senator still exists and wasn’t a casualty along the road of Florida’s development frenzy. (In fact, cypress wood was highly prized  for building by early Floridians, as the heartwood is famous for its resistance to insects and decay.  This characteristic is only found in very old cypress trees.)

The Senator has the the distinction of being the oldest cypress tree in North America and also the largest tree of any species east of the Mississippi River. Its estimated to be 3500 years old,  and according to Wikipedia, the fifth oldest tree in the world. It is 125 feet (38 m) tall, with a trunk diameter of 17.5 feet (5.3 m). As you can read from the dedication plaque, the Seminole Indians and other Native Americans Indians used the tree as a landmark. In 1925, a hurricane destroyed the top of  the tree, reducing its height by 47 feet.

Continue down the boardwalk and you will meet the Senator’s companion, Lady Liberty, a mere 2,000 years young.

Park admission is free and it is usually not very busy. I like to visit the Senator in different seasons. Its like returning to see an old friend, there is always something different and interesting going on.

Its almost impossible to capture the massiveness of the Senator cypress in a photo. To appreciate it, you will just have to visit in person (about a half hour drive from downtown Orlando).


Map Symbol Maps with Driving Directions [Seminole County Disclaimer]
Location: West of U.S. 17-92  at 761 General Hutchinson Parkway Longwood, FL 32750
Hours: The park hours are 8:00 a.m. to sunset seven days a week 363 days a year. (Note:Parks Close at 5pm on the day before Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve.)The park is closed for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Contact: 407-665-2001

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Plus 10 Reasons to Plant (Native to Your Area) Trees in Your Neighborhood

1. Trees Give us Clean Fresh Air– Trees absorb carbon dioxide and turn it into oxygen. Every mature urban tree removes up to 26 pounds of carbon dioxide and releases 13 pounds of oxygen into the air each year.

2. Trees Cool Our Earth– Trees cool the earth by giving us shade and by transpiring water through their leaves. Trees are known as carbon sinks because they remove the heat-trapping greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide from the air and store it.

3.Trees Act As Wind Break in a Storm or Hurricane-Trees that are planted and maintained correctly, serve as barriers against strong winds.

4. Trees Clean Our Water– Roots absorb and remove pollutants from the water that recharges our drinking water aquifer.

5. Trees Reduce Storm Runoff and Protect Against Topsoil Erosion– Humans need fertile topsoil to grow crops. The roots of trees hold onto the soil and save it from erosion.

6. Trees Provide Habitat for Native Wildlife and Migrating Birds– Trees provide nectar, nuts sees and fruit for wildlife to eat. Trees also provide another component of habitat, shelter and a place to raise young.

7. Trees Provide Food For Humans As Well.

8. Trees Increase Property Values and Add Beauty to the Landscape– Well cared for trees add 5-7% to the sale price of a home.

9. Trees Contribute to Community Pride and Peace– Urban communities with trees are more peaceful, quiet, and cooler and act as a deterrent to crime.

10. Without Trees There Would Be No Humans– Trees play a vital role in our planet’s ecosystems. The Amazon rainforest has been named the “Lungs of the Planet” because it provides the essential service of recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen and  produces nearly 20% of the world’s oxygen.

More info on Trees:

Florida Urban Forestry Council

Treelink.org

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Vegetable Planting Guide by Month for South Florida Gardeners

Gardens can be planted year-round in Florida, but fall is the preferred seed-planting season. Below is a planting guide published by the University of Florida/IFAS with recommendations for vegetable planting by month.

Many factors influence the productivity of a garden -including; soil quality, water, drainage, amount of available sunlight, nutrients and integrated pest management. We’ll explore some of these in later posts. Happy Planting!

January

February

March

April

May

June

BeetsBroccoli

Cabbage

Carrots

Cauliflower

Collards

Corn

Chinese Cabbage

Endive

English & Southern Peas

Escarole

Eggplant

Kohlrabi

Lettuce

Lima, Pole, & Bush Beans

Mustard

Onions

Parsley

Peppers

Potatoes

Radish

Spinach

Summer & Winter Squash

Tomatoes

Turnips

BeetsCantaloupes

Carrots

Collards

Corn

Cucumbers

Eggplant

English & Southern Peas

Kohlrabi

Lima, Pole, & Bush Beans

Mustard

Onions

Okra

Peppers

Radish

Summer & Winter Squash

Sweet Corn

Sweet Potatoes

Tomatoes

Turnips

Watermelon

CantaloupesCucumbers

Corn

Lima, Pole, & Bush Beans

Mustard

Onions

Okra

Peas (Southern)

Peppers

Radish

Summer Squash

Sweet Potatoes

Tomatoes

Watermelon

Lima, Pole & Bush BeansSweet Potatoes

Peas (Southern)

Black-Eyed Peas

Sweet Potatoes

Watermelon

Cassava

Chayote

Cherry Tomatoes

Chinese Yams

Malanga

Pigeon Pea

Pumpkin

Sweet Potatoes

July

August

September

October

November

December

CassavaChayote

Malanga

Summer Squash

Yard Long Beans

CantaloupesCarrots

Collards

Corn

Eggplant

Escarole

Lima & Pole Beans

Mustard

Onions

Okra

Peppers

Potatoes

Radish

Summer Spinach

Summer Squash

Tomatoes (larger fruit varieties)

Watermelon

BroccoliCabbage

Cantaloupes

Collards

Corn

Cucumber

Eggplant

Endive

English & Southern Peas

Lettuce

Lima, Pole, & Bush Beans

Onions

Okra

Parsley

Peppers

Potatoes

Tomatoes (larger fruit varieties)

Summer & Winter Squash

Watermelon

BeetsBroccoli

Cabbage

Carrots

Cauliflower

Collards

Corn

Cucumber

Eggplant

Endive

English & Southern Peas

Escarole

Kohlrabi

Lettuce

Lima , Pole, & Bush Beans

Mustard

Onions

Parsley

Peppers

Potatoes

Radish

Spinach

Strawberries

Summer Squash

Tomatoes (larger fruit varieties)

Turnips

BeetsBroccoli

Cabbage (regular & Chinese)

Carrots

Cauliflower

Collards

Corn

Cucumber

Endive

English & Southern Peas

Escarole

Kohlrabi

Lettuce

Lima, Pole, & Bush Beans

Mustard

Onions

Parsley

Peppers

Potatoes

Radish

Spinach

Strawberries

Tomatoes (larger fruit varieties)

Turnips

BroccoliCabbage

Carrots

Cauliflower

Chinese Cabbage

Collards

Corn

Cucumber

Endive

English & Southern Peas

Escarole

Eggplant

Kohlrabi

Lettuce

Lima, Pole, & Bush Beans

Mustard

Onions

Parsley

Peppers

Potatoes

Radish

Spinach

Strawberries

Tomatoes (larger fruit varieties)

Turnips

This book is by James Stephens, a professor in horticultural studies at the University of Florida. It is well illustrated and an excellent reference guide for vegetable gardening in Florida.

 

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Living Beyond Earth’s Budget & Happiness

Thanksgiving is a recognizable holiday to most Americans but can anyone remember the event that fell on September 25th of this year?

September 25th was Earth Overshoot Day and marked the day when humanity begins living beyond its ecological means.

According to the Global Footprint Network, collectively at the present time, humanity is using 1.4 planets worth of resources. Many people in western countries like the US  are using four to five planets worth of resources. Since we only have one planet, I want to pause here for a moment because living beyond our means in this context doesn’t mean just paying some interest on a credit card. It is, quite literally, taking more than our fair share. In order to be sustainable, civilization must meet current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

But even today, we have over a billion people on the planet whose basic needs are not being met. While those people need to consume more, others are literally drowning in ‘stuff’. Annie Leonard used the term “stuff-saturated”  to describe this phenomenon in her presentation to the Bioneers Conference this year.

The Environmental Protection Agency reports the United States produces approximately 220 million tons of garbage each year. That’s an average of five pounds of garbage for every man woman and child in the USA. But, guess what?  Studies show Floridians generate almost double the national average of garbage – creating nine pounds of municipal solid waste each day.

What you throw out is only part of the story. In order to get one can of garbage, approximately 70 garbage cans of waste were created upstream in manufacturing the products we throw away. Looking at this system, it becomes painfully obvious that we are trashing the planet.

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Image via Wikipedia

So does having all this stuff make us happy? The studies show a resounding no!  The Happy Planet Index measures happiness over resource consumption or the efficiency that a country converts natural resources into human well-being. In 2009, out of 143 countries, the US ranked 114th, ahead of just a few African nations. The happiest country on the planet this year was Costa Rica, which is a country that notably has no standing army.

Another Happiness Index was just published this month by Mainstreet.com. It found Florida ranked dead last in happiness of Americans by state. Is it a coincidence that Florida showed up as both the top producer of waste and the bottom of the Happiness Index?

Next time we will explore some alternatives to going crazy at the mall this holiday season as I pack for my holiday in Costa Rica.

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