Back to Nature (Published on - May 17, 2006)
Are you aware?
Photo by Rick Tremmel
Bulldozers and heavy equipment go to work to clear a path for future development.
You’re intelligent, caring, and conscientious. You wouldn’t throw a cigarette butt out of the car window. You wouldn’t pour waste products into the lake or river adjacent to your home.

You always make certain that you properly put out your campfire. You would never leave beer bottles and trash behind. You recycle. You buy recycled greeting cards and other environment friendly products. You feel you are doing your part in your own way.

But are you aware of the real shape we’re in?

Do you know that Florida has the second highest number of listed endangered and threatened species of any state? Do you know there are less than 50 Florida panthers living in the wild? Do you know that early this century the number of black bears in Florida numbered roughly 11,000 and now black bear numbers are reported to be between 500 and 1,500? Are you aware that 112 species are listed threatened or endangered just here in the state of Florida? If we were to include that complete 112 listings, this column would read five pages long. Here is a list of endangered species.

USFWS Endangered Species System (TESS) – Status Species/Listing Name: Listed species (based on published population data) -- 112 listings. Animals – 57

Bat, gray (Myotis grisescens)

Beetle, American burying (Nicrophorus americanus)

Butterfly, Schaus swallowtail (Heraclides aristodemus ponceanus)

Crocodile, American (Crocodylus acutus)

Curlew, Eskimo (Numenius borealis)

Darter, Okaloosa (Etheostoma okaloosae)

Deer, key (Odocoileus virginianus clavium)

Kite, Everglade snail Fla. pop. (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus)

Manatee, West Indian (Trichechus manatus)

Moccasinshell, Gulf (Medionidus penicillatus)

Moccasinshell, Ochlockonee (Medionidus simpsonianus)

Mouse, Anastasia Island beach (Peromyscus polionotus phasma)

Mouse, Choctawhatchee beach (Peromyscus polionotus allophrys)

Mouse, Key Largo cotton (Peromyscus gossypinus allapaticola)

Mouse, Perdido Key beach (Peromyscus polionotus trissyllepsis)

Mouse, St. Andrew beach (Peromyscus polionotus peninsularis)

Panther, Florida (Puma (=Felis) concolor coryi)

Pigtoe, oval (Pleurobema pyriforme)

Pocketbook, shinyrayed (Lampsilis subangulata)

Rabbit, Lower Keys marsh (Sylvilagus palustris hefneri)

Rice rat, Lower Fla. Keys (Oryzomys palustris natator)

Sawfish, smalltooth (Pristis pectinata)

Sea turtle, green Fla., Mexico nesting pops. (Chelonia mydas)

Sea turtle, hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata)

Sea turtle, Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)

Sea turtle, leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea)

Seal, Caribbean monk (Monachus tropicalis)

Sparrow, Cape Sable seaside (Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis)

Sparrow, Florida grasshopper (Ammodramus savannarum floridanus)

Stork, wood Ala., Fla., Ga., S.C. (Mycteria americana)

Sturgeon, shortnose (Acipenser brevirostrum)

Three-ridge, fat (mussel) (Amblema neislerii)

Vole, Florida salt marsh (Microtus pennsylvanicus dukecampbelli)

Whale, finback (Balaenoptera physalus)

Whale, humpback (Megaptera novaeangliae)

Whale, right (Balaena glacialis (incl. australis))

Wolf, gray lower 48 States, except MN and where XN; Mexico (Canis lupus)

Woodpecker, red-cockaded (Picoides borealis)

Woodrat, Key Largo (Neotoma floridana smalli)

You may access the complete list at:

Facts are boring. Stats are mind numbing, but without them we’re unable to gauge our situation. If your child has a fever you’ll get out a thermometer to gauge the heat of that fever, wouldn’t you? You wouldn’t take a look at the child, determine she’s hot and then simply hand her a couple of Tylenol. It is necessary to figure out the bigger picture. What is her temperature? Why does she have a fever? How serious is this fever? How do you treat that fever based on the information you have acquired?

Recent statistics from Sierra and NPG show Florida is now the leading state for urban sprawl. When the Sierra Club rated cities on sprawl, Florida had the largest presence of any state. Fort Lauderdale ranked ninth among the “most sprawled threatened cities” of 1 million or more. Florida loses 860 acres of its forests and farmlands to development each month. The Tampa - St. Petersburg area ranked eighth out of the 100 largest U.S. Urbanized Areas by square miles of sprawl the Land Area Data derived from the U.S. Census Bureau’s report on Urbanized Areas, between 1970-1990.

“In Florida, many acres of forest or agricultural land are converted to new developments. One study (Powers, 1990) indicated about 30,000 acres are developed each year in Florida. Florida developers seek permits for development plans that often exceed 1,000 acres and occasionally more than 10,000 acres. Historically, developments are designed to maximize buildable lots to maximize potential profit. This design strategy often compromises natural land features that enhance the community environment.” (Florida Solar Energy Center)

Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to stick our heads in the sand?

That way we wouldn’t have to be faced with reality. We do what we do and so be it for the rest. But ignorance is no excuse for turning a blind eye. Solutions must be created for balance, growth, progress, restoration. Education and awareness is necessary to contribute to the maintenance and equilibrium of our environment.

You may be feeling, I can’t solve all the problems of the state of Florida. You may feel that there is nothing you can do to change things now anyway. Nothing can be further from the truth. It only takes one person to get involved. It only takes one issue addressed, one question to a politician or government agency. It only takes one of you. You are the only one that can make a difference. You hold the key to responsible actions for the future. You are the only one that can save the panther, the black bear and the snail kite.

You are the only one that can help restore balance … back to nature.

Karen can be reached at

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