Dedicated to the protection of birds, other animals, and their habitats through education and activism
Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170; president@SEVolusiaAudubon.org
There are an increasing number of completed and on-going scientific studies of water quality and the biotic communities in the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) ecosystem. These studies, based on a foundation of sound science and evolving data, have been used to justify, design and analyze the on-going, environmental remediation and restoration activities among municipal, county, state and federal agencies.
Many studies have ascertained and classified the current and historical effects of environmental degradation on the living communities of the IRL and identified the sources of the ecological damage. As a corollary to this recognition of the constellation of negative effects—from large-scale die-offs of fish and marine grasses to reductions in tourist revenues—there has been implementation of remediation activities in the IRL that are actively supported by residents through self-imposed taxes.
On the Central East Coast of Florida, Brevard County is leading the way in taxpayer funded clean-up initiatives with their large-scale muck dredging program that will ramp up this year. There are also local and state initiatives to reduce or prevent nutrient discharges from septic systems, runoff from lawns and farms, and other non-point sources of pollution. These changes have been a long time coming and the citizens, scientists and municipal, county and state officials and employees involved in these efforts are to be commended for their work.
The years of field studies about the harm to the waters and lands and biotic communities of Florida have encountered much push-back from developers’ organizations and state-wide groups whose particular interests are often counter to that of the majority of citizens who wish to have their lands and waters protected from additional degradation. For example, for the past three years organized business interest have lobbied against the implementation of state-wide anti-fracking laws. Environmental push-back also comes from local and State officials whose only notion of progress is enhanced property and sales tax revenues. Negative effects on Quality-of-life issues are often not planning priorities and are often only recognized well after the profits are taken.
Still, there has been a sea change in recognition that Florida’s waters and lands are nearing an environmental redline, or have already passed the line where environmental remediation and restoration is required (e.g. many of the lakes in Central Florida). The on-going damage to the Florida natural world has generally been recognized, and the voters of Florida have approved several environmental initiatives at the municipal, county and state levels. These voter-initiated environmental initiatives have not gone unchallenged or have been misinterpreted. One only needs to look at the first two years of the Florida Land and Water Legacy Act (aka Amendment 1) to see how the intentions of this Constitutional Amendment have been widely ignored in the State House and Senate. However, despite the pushback from some elected officials, state funds for land acquisition and programs to correct the sources of pollution are being increased in this legislative year. Allocating funds for large-scale replacement of home septic systems, updating and build-out of waste treatment facilities, acquisition of conservation lands, and protection of springs are examples of the environmental-related programs that should receive substantial increases in funding during the 2018 legislative session.
Legislation acknowledging and responding to the deleterious effects of aspects of our industrial culture can, however, take some years to come into being and to have an effect on the environment. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published in 1962 but the federal laws phasing-out the use of DDT did not go into effect until 1972. After several years of long-term studies, the carcinogenic chemicals known as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were banned by the EPA. In response to this ban, GE was ordered to spend $1.7 billion dollars to remove sediment from 40 miles of the Hudson River above Troy, NY. This removal took place from 2009-2015, and at present the State of New York has not accepted the efficacy of the work, and states that the remediation actions also need to be completed for contaminated floodplains along the Hudson River.
Environmental remediation can involve very high allocations and many years of active remediation and keeping the “10,000 ft” historical view of the process is important. The editorial and legal response to the initial years of non-implementation of “Amendment 1” in Florida proves that a high-level of environmental awareness is embedded in our citizenry and this awareness will continue to influence the course of land and water acquisition, and the environmental remediation and restoration efforts that will be required in our state over the long term.