The Mysteries of FP

FP is a big question mark for marine researchers. It's a herpesvirus that primarily effects the endangered green sea turtle, manifesting in debilitating cauliflower-looking tumors. It was first documented in 1938 in the Florida keys, but in the nearly 80 years since, there’s a disturbing amount still unknown about FP. Like what cocktail of factors is causing it. And why it’s spreading so quickly. Where most FP cases were once observed off Florida’s coasts, there have now been reports in all major oceans.

Today, we visit two places working to save sea turtles from FP and rehab dwindling populations.

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On the Fringe of 450

On September 8th, 2015, thousands flocked to St. Augustine's Mission Nombre de Dios to watch Pedro Menendez de Aviles re-claim this land for Spain. It's St. Augustine's 450th birthday, and the reenactment of the Spanish landing is one of the final commemorative activities scheduled. All weekend, the Nation's Oldest City put its best foot forward with a variety of musical acts, cultural displays, fireworks and birthday cake. 

The mission of the St. Augustine 450th Commemoration is to...tell the story of St. Augustine’s 450 years of rich multicultural history and enduring people.
— "St. Augustine 450th Commemoration," www.staugustine-450.com

But not everyone welcomed Celebrate 450!

Environmental and social justice groups criticized the City of St. Augustine, saying the weekend's events are insulting to native peoples whose history here extends much further than 450 years. Resist 450, a coalition of activists, protested the celebration, including Menendez's landing at the Mission. The group asked the City for more sensitivity to indigenous peoples whose ancestors were illegally captured, imprisoned, and killed by Europeans—and Americans—over the last 450 years. "When you’re editing history, especially in an official, public event," says Resist 450 supporter Benjamin Franklin (yes, his real name), "then you are explicitly endorsing some points of view and erasing other ones."

Resist 450 protestors flank Spanish reenactors at St. Augustine's Mission Nombre de Dios. Photo courtesy of Walter Coker.

Resist 450 protestors flank Spanish reenactors at St. Augustine's Mission Nombre de Dios. Photo courtesy of Walter Coker.

How should we commemorate historical milestones like this? What can we learn from the stories we tell about ourselves? Today on Watershed, we grapple with these ideas to spotlight our cultural landscape, and the different ideas of history weaving through it.

Bobby C. Billie, a spiritual leader and member of the Council of the Original Miccosukee Simanolee Nation of Aboriginal Peoples, protests Celebrate 450!. Photo courtesy of Walter Coker. 

Bobby C. Billie, a spiritual leader and member of the Council of the Original Miccosukee Simanolee Nation of Aboriginal Peoples, protests Celebrate 450!. Photo courtesy of Walter Coker. 

Billie stands with Resist 450 at St. Augustine's Mission Nombre de Dios. Photo courtesy of Walter Coker.  

Billie stands with Resist 450 at St. Augustine's Mission Nombre de Dios. Photo courtesy of Walter Coker.  

I don’t think Ponce de Leon and Columbus and Pedro Menendez—they didn’t discover [Florida]. We had history. And you’re still not hearing us.
— Bobby C. Billie addressing the St. Augustine City Commission in 2013

LINKS:

-St. Augustine soup: St. Augustine's 450th Commemoration Director says we're a melting pot of multiculturalism.

-Telling a more inclusive story: great coverage of the 450th demonstrations in Folio Weekly by St. Augustine's own Greg Parlier, and an article from the Florida Times-Union. Also, hear Bobbie C. Billy's full presentation to the St. Augustine City Commission in 2013. Billy is a spiritual leader and member of the Council of the Original Miccosukee Simanolee Nation of Aboriginal Peoples.

-400 years young: how we celebrated the quadricentennial.

-Expanding the St. Augustine story: eight things you may not know about the Oldest City. Knowledge = power.

Listen to this episode via the SoundCloud player at the top of the page. Subscribe to Watershed via iTunes. Listen to us via SoundCloud. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

This is Home

In the small farming town of Hastings, Wayne Smith is looking to his roots to define the future. As one of Hastings' last legacy farm families, the Smiths are adapting and diversifying to keep their farm afloat. "You’re looking at an area that had, when I graduated from college, about 270 potato growers," Wayne says. Today, "we’re down to 25, 30 at the most."

"There's hardly any left," says Wayne Smith of Hastings' dwindling farmers. Photo by Daniel Ward.

"There's hardly any left," says Wayne Smith of Hastings' dwindling farmers. Photo by Daniel Ward.

From 1982 to 2010, Florida lost an estimated 95,000 acres of rural land per year to development. Wayne says he wants to ensure his family's future on the farm and protect the rural character of his community—which is why he is selling the development rights on 238 acres of his farm through the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program.

Rural and Family Lands was established in 2001 to slow a rising tide of development across the state, while keeping agriculture land on the tax rolls and protecting Florida’s farming families. The ecological piece? Farmers’ stewardship of rural lands directly impacts water resources and wildlife habitat.

Cows graze in the Smith woods. Photo by Daniel Ward.

Cows graze in the Smith woods. Photo by Daniel Ward.

The "Monkey Tree," a live oak in the Smith woods. Photo by Daniel Ward.

The "Monkey Tree," a live oak in the Smith woods. Photo by Daniel Ward.

The Governor and Cabinet approved the Smiths' conservation easement in April 2015, adding to the 8,765 acres already protected from development under the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. Admittedly, this is a small drop in the bucket compared to Florida’s total agricultural acreage. But if you ask participants like Smith, they’ll tell you it’s made a local difference.

They say a man without vision perisheth. I’m not perishing yet—I’ve still got vision.
— Wayne Smith

This interactive map from the Florida Forest Service shows the various Rural and Family Lands parcels across the state. A version of this story aired on WJCT.

Listen to this episode via the SoundCloud player at the top of the page. Subscribe to Watershed via iTunes. Listen to us via SoundCloud. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

75%

Aliki Moncrief remembers the shock she felt on election night in 2014 when she heard that Florida voters had passed Amendment 1 by a sweeping 75%. 

“We thought we were going to be up till midnight,” Moncrief says. “It was a such a resounding victory. It was such a resounding statement that voters were making, that we at 8:00 in the evening learned that we had won.”

Moncrief is Executive Director of Florida’s Water and Land Legacy, a coalition that campaigned for Amendment 1, the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment. In 2009, the state eliminated Florida Forever, the esteemed $300 million a year land-buying program. Moncrief says that Amendment 1 would revive Florida Forever, and thus address a gap between how Floridians felt about conservation and what the legislature was funding. 

Amendment 1 campaign materials at Florida's Water and Land Legacy. Photo by Daniel Ward.

Amendment 1 campaign materials at Florida's Water and Land Legacy. Photo by Daniel Ward.

“What the conservation community did—they researched,” she says. “How did Florida voters feel about this issue? Is there a disconnect between how everyday citizens think about water and land conservation and how our legislators are funding water and land conservation? They found an egregious disconnect.”

Amendment 1 would restore Florida Forever’s funding for the purchase and management of conservation lands for 20 years. For the upcoming budget year, the mandate is expected to generate more than $700 million from an existing tax on property exchanges.

Though Florida voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 1, the fight for the amendment is not over. Its fate rests with lawmakers in Tallahassee, who have thus far allocated scant funding for conservation and land acquisition. Last Thursday, the Senate passed a budget with $35 million for Florida Forever and $20 million for restoration of the Kissimmee River. And as of last Wednesday, the House was proposing just $10 million for land acquisition. Both are paltry compared to Florida Forever’s historic $300 million annual budget.

Conservation advocates worry that lawmakers aren’t honoring the will of the voters, and say that they’ll consider legal action if the legislature veers too far from the amendment’s intent. 

Citizens want new parks. They want to protect wildlife habitat. They want to make sure that we’re protecting the lands that keep our rivers clean and keep our springs clean. Floridians intimately understand the connection between protecting our undisturbed natural areas and protecting our waters.
— Aliki Moncrief, Executive Director, Florida's Water and Land Legacy

shorter version of this story aired on WJCT on April 3rd, 2015.

When we have over 90% of our waters polluted, when we don’t have habitat corridors for some of our species like the Florida panther, when we have black bears that we’re going to have to hunt because they don’t have enough land to live on—the evidence that we don’t own enough conservation land is everywhere. I don’t see any evidence to say that we have enough.
— Ryan Smart, President, One Thousand Friends of Florida

Listen to this episode via the SoundCloud player at the top of the page. Subscribe to Watershed via iTunes. Listen to us via SoundCloud. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Tree that Built the South

Ben and Louann Williams are renovating a forest.

A handful of years ago, the Williams bought 3,400 acres in northeast Florida from a major timber company. It was an investment with perks: they wanted to grow trees, spend some time outside, and make a return. In researching land management, they decided to adopt a holistic approach to forestry, including selective harvesting instead of clear-cutting, conducting controlled burns, and reestablishing the longleaf pine. 

Wild blueberries in bloom in the Williams' woods. Photo by Daniel Ward.

Wild blueberries in bloom in the Williams' woods. Photo by Daniel Ward.

Bear tracks near the Williams' border. Photo by DCW.

Bear tracks near the Williams' border. Photo by DCW.

Williams' dog Molly runs behind Louann's golf cart. Photo by DCW.

Williams' dog Molly runs behind Louann's golf cart. Photo by DCW.

Historically, longleaf pine was the pine of the Southern United States. The ecosystem once dominated the Southern landscape from southeast Virginia, extending down through Florida, and west to Texas. Early settlers and naturalists marveled at the majestic landscape helmed by the longleaf pine. According to the Longleaf Alliance, the longleaf “was literally the tree that built the South.” But over 150 years of human settlement, activity, and exploitation, the longleaf pine ecosystem fragmented and waned. Today less than 1% of the South’s natural stands remain, representing one of the world's most severe cases of habitat loss.

Adolescent longleaf pines on the Williams property. Photo by DCW.

Adolescent longleaf pines on the Williams property. Photo by DCW.

Fire crew sets fire during a prescribed burn at the Williams'. Photo by DCW.

Fire crew sets fire during a prescribed burn at the Williams'. Photo by DCW.

Fire takes hold during prescribed burn at the Williams'. Photo by DCW.

Fire takes hold during prescribed burn at the Williams'. Photo by DCW.

So what’s to be gained by renewing an ecosystem that has almost disappeared? For Ben and Louann, a longleaf forest offers a diverse habitat for native plants and animals, provides a robust hunting ground, and produces quality pine for harvest. The Williams have already planted several of their acres in longleaf pine—the young trees look a lot like feather dusters, with shiny green needles shooting up towards the sky and cascading out—though it'll be some years before they're ready to cut. Perhaps private landowners like Ben and Louann will serve as a model for balancing a functioning longleaf pine ecosystem with profits.

We’re not crazed tree huggers. If you can produce income, provide a place for the guys that love to hunt to hunt, have a place for the animals—if you can do all of those things, why not? Why not?
— Ben Williams

The Longleaf Alliance is a fantastic and extensive resource for anything and everything longleaf. Here's a short manifesto on prescribed burning and fire ecology in pine forests from Mississippi State University's Extension Service, as well as a case for converting planted slash and loblolly to longleaf from Clemson University's Extension Forester. Now we're getting to some of my favorites: a gripping article about the roots of ecological conservation in Southern longleaf pine forests, Janisse Ray's gorgeous ode to the longleaf, and Lawrence Early's environmental history of the longleaf.

This month's episode is made possible in part by the fine folks at the Southern Documentary Project at the University of Mississippi. Thank you SouthDocs! And dear listeners: be sure to check out the trailers for Longleaf, their upcoming film about the South's longleaf pine forests—they're beautiful.

Listen to this episode via the SoundCloud player at the top of the page. Subscribe to Watershed via iTunes. Listen to us via SoundCloud. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

The pine rockland ecosystem is a mixture of a slash pine canopy, scrubby ground layer, and fossilized coral reef. Rocklands once spanned 185,000 acres, but over nearly 100 years of south Florida development, that has shriveled to less than 2% of the original range. An incredible amalgam of rare and endangered plants and animal species rely on the globally-imperiled pine rockland, including the Florida bonneted bat, Bartram’s hairstreak butterfly, and the Miami tiger beetle.

Pine rocklands. Photo by Daniel Ward.

Pine rocklands. Photo by Daniel Ward.

Fossilized coral lies underfoot in the pine rocklands. Photo by Anna Hamilton.

Fossilized coral lies underfoot in the pine rocklands. Photo by Anna Hamilton.

Today, a pocket of pine rockland is mired in controversy. Parts of a property surrounding Zoo Miami are slated for two separate development plans: One, a proposed apartment and shopping center complex with stores like Walmart, Chik-Fil-A and L.A. Fitness. The other is a 20th Century Fox theme park ironically named Miami Wilds. 

These plans have provoked the ire of many people and organizations. On Saturday of Martin Luther King Day weekend, over 700 concerned Floridians gathered for the Rally for the Rockland to protest the planned developments. Their concern is shared by the Center for Biological Diversity, Pine Rockland Coalition, Sierra Club, the South Florida Wildlands Association, among others.

Bruce Wayne, a baby bonneted bat under the care of Dr. Frank Ridgley at Zoo Miami. Bonneted bats rely on the pine rockland ecosystem. Photo by Daniel Ward.

Bruce Wayne, a baby bonneted bat under the care of Dr. Frank Ridgley at Zoo Miami. Bonneted bats rely on the pine rockland ecosystem. Photo by Daniel Ward.

'Rally for the Rocklands' protestors head from Zoo Miami to the proposed shopping center site. Photo by Daniel Ward.

'Rally for the Rocklands' protestors head from Zoo Miami to the proposed shopping center site. Photo by Daniel Ward.

What’s galling for the rally organizers is what’s at stake if this globally-imperiled ecosystem is developed. What does it say about our state, that commercial development is privileged over ecosystem and resource management? More than that, what does it say about Florida, that we’re even having this conversation?

This is Martin Luther King weekend, I keep thinking about that. There was a time when segregation in the South was considered normal. To some extent, our attitudes about wildlife and habitat need to change dramatically. We need to say that it’s not OK to take rare habitat and turn it into commercial development. We need to have that same negative connotation that comes up when you think about segregation and apartheid—we need to have that with habitat destruction. If we’re going to develop, there are other ways to develop.
— Matthew Schwartz, Executive Director of South Florida Wildlands Association

Miami Herald reported on the Rally for the Rockland, as did WLRN. Learn about Zoo Miami's pine rockland preservation. Find out more about the plethora of pine rockland species like the Florida bonneted bat, the Miami tiger beetle (the vicious "Godzilla monster" of the ecosystem), and Bartram's hairstreak through the Center for Biological Diversity. Stay tuned for updates from the South Florida Wildlands Association.

As always, you can listen to this week's episode with the SoundCloud player at the top of the page. Subscribe to Watershed via iTunes. Listen to us via SoundCloud. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

A Missing Piece

Carlton Ward is a conservation photographer who got his start working in Africa between 2001 and 2004. "I was, for lack of a better description, like an embedded journalist on the front line of science and conservation," Ward says. "You had...all this science and cutting edge discovery taking place, and I had the fortune of having a camera there to record it all." 

Anna Hamilton interviews Carlton Ward at The Gallery in St. Petersburg, FL. Photo courtesy of Alexandra Jane Photography.

Anna Hamilton interviews Carlton Ward at The Gallery in St. Petersburg, FL. Photo courtesy of Alexandra Jane Photography.

But something was happening to Florida during Ward's time abroad. "I later learned Florida was losing 200,000 acres of agricultural and natural land to development every single year," Ward says. "I [didn't] feel that the heritage and wild places that were being lost were being adequately celebrated...It was an introspective moment where, here I am, a young privileged man from Florida running off to try and promote conservation in central and west Africa, whereas every time I get on a plane and go away a piece of Florida goes missing. So that was kind of the draw home."

If you’re a Floridian, you may be familiar with Ward's work. His name has become synonymous with images of wild Florida and Florida cowboys, which he has called an emblem of our state. Follow Ward's journey with the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition team as they begin their second trek (#GladestoGulf) on January 10, 2015.

I think it I weren’t inherently an optimist I couldn’t be doing this. I’m not someone who dwells on the negative in an opportunity. I’m always looking for that sliver of hope or the common ground.
— Carlton Ward

As always, you can listen to this week's episode with the SoundCloud player at the top of the page. Subscribe to Watershed via iTunes. Listen to us via SoundCloud. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Murky Waters

Let's chat for a second. When we first started Watershed, we had a hard time grappling with how we should define ourselves. True, we’re a podcast about the environment: the science of ecosystems, our cultural attachments to the environment, the perceptions and interpretations of this space around us.

But an “environmental” label limits us, and has become fused with strong connotations that can alienate many listeners we actually want to reach. So how do you tell the stories you believe are compelling and important, whilst combatting a stigma?

The tension of trying to do good work and facing negative assumptions led us to this week's episode. It's about one man's uphill battle—a man who began his career in his family’s bathtub. Listen on, listen on (here or via our Episodes page).

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Seismic Airgun Testing

Comin' atcha with a new episode! For which we head to St. Augustine, Florida, the Nation's Oldest City. Listen via this post, or head over to our Episodes page.

In the summer of 2014, President Obama gave the green light for oil and gas exploration off the Atlantic coast. Today, nine applications for seismic air gun testing are under consideration at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Seismic testing—sometimes known more graphically as “seismic air gun blasting”—is a technology that maps oil and gas deposits in the ocean. The process involves sonic bursts in 10 second intervals that continue for days, weeks, and sometimes months. The “bursts” are 100,000 times more intense than a jet engine.

The impacts from the proposed seismic airgun testing could be devastating on a number of fronts, but a coalition of concerned organizations is taking a stand.

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Consider the Oyster—and the Oysterman

Welcome to Episode 2! This week: "Consider the Oyster—and the Oysterman." You can listen here, on the homepage, or head on over to our Episodes page for more info.

Oysters are the foundation of culture and economy in Apalachicola, a small, Franklin County fishing town in Florida’s panhandle. In many ways, the oyster is Apalachicola’s culinary mascot. But the bay, so famous for its eponymous oyster, is in serious trouble.

2.6 million pounds of oysters came from the Apalachicola Bay in 2009, but that number plummeted to 470,000 pounds in 2013. Yields this year aren't looking any better, and Franklin County residents are grappling with what to do.

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I love it. It’s what I’ve always done, it’s what my parent’s have always done. I have the Gulf of Mexico right at my front door. I have the Apalachicola River at my back door, and the forest in my yard. So why would I want to leave?
— -Ricky Banks, Apalachicola oysterman and vice president of the Franklin County Seafood Workers' Association.

We're Live!


Watershed is live, people. Welcome! Watershed is a brand new, bi-weekly podcast about the intersecting cultures and environments of Florida. Every other week we feature a story about Florida in flux. Learn more about us on the About page.

Our inaugural episode brings us to Homosassa Springs, where activists and policy makers from across the state have gathered in support of Florida's wild lands and waters. Among them is former Florida Governor and United States Senator Bob Graham, who hopes to shake up the crowd and garner votes for Amendment 1 on Florida's November 4th ballot. 

In 2011, the Florida legislature slashed statewide funding for conservation. Amendment 1 is a cry for restored funding, and if passed by voters, would authorize much-needed conservation programs to protect and maintain sensitive Florida lands—like Homosassa Springs.

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[Conservation is] the key to protecting the natural systems of Florida which, in turn, are what we live on, both individually and economically. It’s the very beauty of Florida. It’s fresh and abundant water. It’s beautiful coast line that causes people to want to come here; [they] create jobs and offer economic opportunity for our people.
— Former Florida Governor and United States Senator Bob Graham