Celebrated social justice activist and Jacksonville native Stetson Kennedy would have celebrated his 100th birthday this October. Kennedy is well known for his work documenting Florida folklife with the Works Progress Administration, infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan, and his prolific publications. We're tipping our hats to Kennedy and bringing you a short audio postcard from Lake Beluthahatchee, Kennedy’s homesite.Read More
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.Read More
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.
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."
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.
-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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
“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.
A shorter version of this story aired on WJCT on April 3rd, 2015.
- Want to read Amendment 1 for yourself? Take a gander—how would you interpret it?
- The Tampa Tribune hopes Gov. Scott will talk some sense into an obstinate legislature.
- The Gainesville Sun debates the futility of constitutional amendments.
- The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition team advocates conservation funding with some serious experiential street cred (so jealous).
- The ever-vigilant Bruce Ritchie lays out the specifics of the legislative budget proposals.
- Estus Whitfield defends the voters' will and the vision for Amendment 1.
- Curious about what we can do with conservation funding? Check out the details on Florida Forever, the first land-buying program IN THE COUNTRY (read: be proud, Florida!).
- Take action through Florida's Water & Land Legacy's 'Take Action' tab. Call and tweet your representatives!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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."
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.
Happy news, dear listeners! Listening to the Watershed podcast just got a whole lot easier—you can now find us on iTunes! Just click the link to subscribe to Watershed in the iTunes store, and new episodes will automatically download.
Of course, you'll always be able to listen to our episodes here on our website, www.watershedradio.com. This is our home base and we love it dearly.
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).
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.
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.
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.