Friday, October 21, 2011

"Defend this Forest" Documentary Trailor Released!

Serving as a microcosm for what's happening to the entire planet, this film tells the story of a dedicated group of activists striving to fend off the destruction of a 700-acre forest to make way for a biotech park.  The first round of permits were issured to make way for Scripps' biotech research park, and for construction of surrounding housing and retail development in the watershed of the Northeast Everglades bioregion.  On Valentine's Day, 2011, member of Everglades Earth First! began what became a six-week tree sit with a huge banner visible, "DEFEND THIS FOREST".  The banner, visible to thousands of commuters daily along I-95, became the symbol of a resistance that would inspire a new era in environmental action in the state of Florida.

To learn a more in depth account of scripps, watch this
brief video
  from Everglades Earth First!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mourning the Loss of a Fallen Warrior

 Endangered Florida Scrub Jay atop Ellen's hat 

Ellen Peterson, 87, of Estero, Florida passed away on October 14th, 2011. She was a fierce advocate for wilderness devoting over 4 decades of her life to environmental protection. She served on many boards and advisory committees such as: the Agency for Bay Management, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, Save Our Creeks, the Responsible Growth Management Coalition, The Everglades Committee, the Environmental Peace and Education Center and the Sierra Club's Calusa Group. Ellen founded the Calusa group over 30 years ago and remained the chairperson until her death.

Along with others, Ellen was personally responsible for saving one of the most beautiful places in all of Florida, Fisheating Creek. She has stood as a guardian of Florida’s waterways.
Ellen fought to save the Florida panther, heritage trees, and many other listed and endangered species. She succeeded in obtaining outstanding Florida waterways designations for many of our local rivers and streams, providing them higher levels of protection. With the help of several environmental groups, Ellen fought and won the battle to stop a coal-fired power plant from going into Glades County.
She protested and picketed against nuclear plants and was arrested for civil disobedience. She created a presentation to save the Imperial River and was successful in preventing the Water Management District from eliminating the oxbows, an action which could have destroyed much of the river, such as killing off fish hatcheries during flood events. 
Ellen herself was threatened on many occasions, and at least one attempt was made on her life. Even so she pressed forward and continued her good works. She continually fought to protect several of our local beaches and islands. With the backing of several local environmental groups, Ellen filed suit against the developers who wanted to overbuild and destroy our density-reduction ground water resource area. She was responsible for involving a scientist whom Lee County would later hire to do water quality testing. This scientist discovered that our red tides were directly linked to the releases from the Caloosahatchee River and Lake Okeechobee.  
Ellen Peterson was a fierce, protective voice for all living creatures on Earth: human, animal, and plant. She championed many social causes, such as equal rights for women and fair wages for farm workers.  She advocated for those who could not speak for themselves. Her absence is profound. She will be grieved for and missed. While the environmental community has suffered a great loss with her passing, we are inspired by her courage, her bright sense of humor, her compassion and her absolute dedication to service. Ellen is our hero!
Ellen wanted two going-away celebrations to be held: one in Estero and one at Fisheating Creek. Public invitations to these celebrations will be announced as soon as all of the arrangements have been made.   
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Happehatchee Center, P.O. Box 345 Estero, Florida 33929-0345 or Save Our Creeks, P.O. Box 135, Palmdale, Florida 33944.
Her passing was also commemorated on the Everglades Commons and News-Press of southwest Florida. And as late as last week, her strong and passionate voice was still being heard, as she called for the resignation of Florida Audubon’s Eric Draper, who recently sold out Nicodemus Slough (in the Fisheating Creek watershed) and has been running the supposed conservation organization in service of energy companies, rock miners, cattle ranchers and their political lackeys. Read her full letter and see a video of Eric Draper kissing Jeb Bush’s ass on behald of FPL.

Ellen Peterson: Florida Audubon off mission and something must change

Below is an editorial Ellen submitted regarding Eric Draper and the Florida Audobon Society:

Florida Audubon is so far from its core mission under the leadership of Executive Director Eric Draper, that either he or the organization should go.

Mr. Draper's letter supporting Lykes Brothers' plan for the conversion of Nicodemus Slough into a shallow holding tank for industrial-strength polluted water from Lake Okeechobee shows his true colors. He will sacrifice the migratory roosting site of the rare swallow-tail kites, caracara nesting sites and other habitat in the Everglades to support his power base, Lykes Brothers and other developers.

Supporting development projects regardless of the environmental cost has been a strong pattern of Mr. Draper. He and Lykes Brothers are the authors of the placement of dams in Fisheating Creek, formerly the last unimpeded waterway in South Florida. Local environmental advocates fighting development are often faced with this question from their commissioners: "Why doesn't Florida Audubon object to this?"

One can speculate: Why does Mr. Draper curry favor from large wealthy landowners? Is he going to want their continued support to make another run for agriculture commissioner? Is the Lykes Brothers-connected member of the Florida Audubon board of directors paying his salary?

What is clear is that under Draper's leadership, Florida Audubon has moved its mission from preserving and restoring natural habitats to industrializing them and calling it a victory. Draper boldly stated to the newspaper that the Nicodemus Slough project represents a "very sound investment in storing and cleaning water."

In fact, it is a step backwards for water quality, quantity and the environment.

The amount of water to be stored is so small that neither Lake Okeechobee nor the Caloosahatchee will benefit, but the loss of over 16,000 acres of wildlife habitat will be forever. The 11 billion gallons of projected storage are equal to only one day of high flow on the Caloosahatchee River during peak discharge. A new downstream point source of pollution will be created for receiving Lee County waters!
As for Lake Okeechobee, there is no plan to clean the water or return it to the lake. The amount taken from this 730 square mile lake is insignificant. Between drought and over-allocation, will there ever be enough water to store at Nicodemus Slough?

As for benefiting Fisheating Creek, there is no connection to Fisheating Creek since the Herbert Hoover Dike severed this arm of the creek from its natural flow.

Nicodemus Slough was once so important to the state of Florida that it was part of a public "Save Our Rivers" purchase from Lykes. It is currently identified as a top priority for Florida Forever funds and was a park open to the public. It was later horse-traded back to Lykes in a deal without meaningful public input.

Now the public will pay three times for this ill-advised project: first for the loss of the environment, second for initial and ongoing costs, and third, when Lykes gets the infrastructure back at the end of the 10-year lease.

Decades of ditching, diking and damming have only led us to the need for more. SFWMD should have learned from its dismal track record of failed environmental interventions. If state efforts and resources were put toward cleaning up water pollution at its source rather than sacrificing downstream environments, then real solutions to these problems could be found.

Creating unnatural impoundments got us here in the first place. Let's send SFWMD back to the drawing board and save Nicodemus Slough.