Sunday, December 14, 2014

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Miami Dade Pine Rockland Almost Gone

Article reprinted courtesy Coccoloba Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society
To learn more and receive the newsletter, visit www.fnpscoccoloba.org .

Pine Rocklands Update

As some of you may already know, Miami-Dade County is in the process of losing one of its last intact tracts of endangered pine rockland. The 88 acres of the land was sold from the University of Miami to a developer known as Ram. This development company is using the rare land to build various stores and apartments. The development will further endanger several species of rare plants and animals. This includes the Bartram’s and atala hairstreak butterflies, bald eagles, indigo snakes, and the Florida bonneted bats.

In an attempt at remediation, Ram has agreed to set aside 40 of the acres for a preserve. Unfortunately, this is not a solution due to the fact that much of the land has been overrun by non-native species, and much of the native creatures inhabiting the area are already extremely close to extinction.

Fortunately, conservationists are working hard to help protect this area from being destroyed. There has already been a large amount of success, including the 90,000 signatures of petitions from people all over the world wanting to save this land.
            
Want to learn more and stay up to date with this project? See the links below for more information and to see how you can help:

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Read Between the Lines


It's all over Facebook! Home Depot to require suppliers label plants sprayed with neonics.
Big friggin' deal! Home Depot will continue to SELL those plants. Home Depot is not out any money, staff or effort. They say they REQUIRE the labels. Big deal. If they actually cared they would stop dealing with ANY supplier who is known to spray with deadly chemicals. That, however, would take real balls, real caring and a real sense of being part of a healthy community.

Do not fall for this kind of false concern, this false action as if they "hear" us and are actually doing something about our concerns. Put YOUR money where your mouth is and shop at local, NATIVE nurseries. Wherever you live, you can search for nurseries that sell native plants and do not use pesticides. They ARE out there.

In Florida, I know you can go to www.plantrealflorida.org and find the retail native nursery closest to you.  Please don't fall for ruses that don't actually mean real positive change.

Our pollinators depend on it!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Turf Rule Info From Sierra Club

You're probably wondering what this is all about and why you should care. It's all about fertilizer companies and those who sell sod, chemicals, mowers, blowers etc having friends in Tallahassee who want to determine what you can and cannot do in your own yard. They especially do NOT want you to get rid of your turf grass, add natives or stop using chemicals.

November 20, 2014

Weldon Collier
Program Planning Coordinator, Division of Agricultural Environmental Services
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
3125 Conner Boulevard
Suite E, Room 136
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1650

Re:  Proposed Changes to 5E-1.003 / Urban Turf Rule
           
Dear Mr. Collier:
The rule change to 5E-1.003 by DACS, published in the Florida Administrative Register on November 10, 2014 fails to incorporate suggested changes as offered in the public hearing on September 8, 2014 and in comments submitted on September 2 and 12, 2014 by the Sierra Club.

We see the following as major deficiencies with the proposed rule:

1. The proposed rule fails to properly address the ten county and eighty-one municipal fertilizer ordinances currently established in Florida. The addition of the sentence “Check with your county or city government to determine if there are local regulations for fertilizer use alone does not go far enough to ensure that the rule does not impede the implementation or enforcement of local ordinances adopted in conformity with 403.9336 and 403.9337 F.S. 
The Annual Fertilization Guidelines for Established Turfgrass Lawns in Three Regions of Florida / Nitrogen Recommendations table in its current draft directly contradicts existing law in ten Florida counties and eighty-one Florida municipalities.
2. The definition of “actively growing” is vague and arbitrary.  Adopting and incorporating ENH 10 “Mowing Your Florida Lawn” https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Byjb07VUznvMcG9zX1Z1Vi0zdXM/edit?usp=sharing by reference into the rule is a clear overreach; there is no legislative authority regarding how often grass should/must be mowed. 
·         The definition depends on circular reasoning:  If, as stated in ENH 10, lawn growth rate associated with seasonal changes is subject to modification by lawn management practices involving fertilization and watering, then it is reasonable to infer that fertilization and watering will result in a “need” for more frequent mowing.  Since mowing frequency is the determinant for fertilizer application in the proposed rule, this means applying fertilizer will result in a longer period of time during which N can be applied per the definition. 

·         There is no rationale offered in ENH 10 for a one-size-fits-all mowing frequency to determine whether grass is “actively growing” or not since different species and cultivars grow in different patterns and at different rates.

·         Cutting height and frequency are dependent on multiple factors, one of which is based purely on subjective aesthetic preference.

·         The proposed definition ignores whether mowing has positive or negative effects on turf or the environment.  ENH 10 states: “Mowing also greatly influences rooting depth, with development of a deeper root system in response to higher mowing heights. Advantages of the deeper root system are greater tolerances to drought, insects, disease, nematodes, temperature stress, poor soil conditions, nutrient deficiencies, and traffic.”  If this is correct, not mowing, or mowing less frequently, should be best for both since the root zone would be deepest in that instance. 

·         The frequency of mowing varies markedly with the height at which grass is mowed in the first place.  If we assume that the blade length of grass increases at an approximately steady rate, then the length of time for the grass blade to grow by 50% will vary widely depending on what is set as the height at which it should be mowed.

3. The PNOC memorandum and associated materials https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Byjb07VUznvMS29JV3NKYm9rV2s/edit?usp=sharing, the only basis/argument provided for (1) the “0.7 lbs. of readily available nitrogen, per 1000 sq. ft.” per application standard, and (2) the “summer” nitrogen application language, cannot be used to scientifically substantiate the proposed rule changes.
·         The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) recommends that no more than 0.5 pounds of water-soluble N per 1,000 square feet be applied in a normal application.

·         The FDEP-funded studies upon which (1) the .7 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. per application standard; and (2) the “summer” nitrogen application language, were not mass balance studies. 

·         The research findings from those non-mass balance studies accounted for only 20 to 30% of the total nitrogen applied.
conclude:  "While it is outside the scope of this research to determine if impairment of ground or surface waters will result from application of the currently recommended N rates, this research indicates that these rates will produce minimal NO3–N leaching, particularly from St. Augustinegrass.  Further research is needed to determine the impacts of runoff from lawn fertilizers.”
The use of the word "minimal" here is grossly inaccurate, especially when considering the cumulative impact on all of the urban watersheds that are already impaired in the state.

4. Zero-P should be the standard application rate with exceptions (up to 0.25 lbs. P2O5/1000 sq. ft. per application and not to exceed 0.50 lbs. P2O5/1000 sq. ft. per year) based on an annual soil sample.  No-Phosphorous rules have been adopted by at least eleven states in the last twelve years.
5. Since 2006, FDEP/IFAS Florida Yards and Neighborhoods (FYN) Handbooks have recommended a 10-foot fertilizer-free zone, and the 2010 FDEP Model Ordinance includes a recommended 10-foot low-maintenance zone.  These FDEP recommendations should be included in the rule.

The above comments are hereby submitted for consideration by the agency and requested to be made a part of the record of the rulemaking proceeding.

We urge the Department to modify the rule to incorporate proposed changes or withdraw the rule in part or in whole.

 Sincerely,


Cris Costello
Regional Organizing Representative
Sierra Club
2127 S. Tamiami Trail
Osprey, FL 34229
Cell:  941-914-0421
Office:  941-966-9508


SAMPLE LETTER YOU CAN USE
November X, 2014

Weldon Collier
Program Planning Coordinator, Division of Agricultural Environmental Services
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
3125 Conner Boulevard
Suite E, Room 136
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1650

Re:  Proposed Changes to 5E-1.003 / Urban Turf Rule
           
Dear Mr. Collier:
The rule change to 5E-1.003 by DACS, published in the Florida Administrative Register on November 10, 2014 fails to incorporate suggested changes as offered in the public hearing on September 8, 2014 and/or in comments submitted on [month day], 2014 by _____________________________.

We see the following as major deficiencies with the proposed rule:

1. The proposed rule fails to properly address the ten county and eighty-one municipal fertilizer ordinances currently established in Florida. The addition of the sentence “Check with your county or city government to determine if there are local regulations for fertilizer use alone does not go far enough to ensure that the rule does not impede the implementation or enforcement of local ordinances adopted in conformity with 403.9336 and 403.9337 F.S. 
The Annual Fertilization Guidelines for Established Turfgrass Lawns in Three Regions of Florida / Nitrogen Recommendations table in its current draft directly contradicts existing law in ten Florida counties and eighty-one Florida municipalities.
2. The definition of “actively growing” is vague and arbitrary.  Adopting and incorporating ENH 10 “Mowing Your Florida Lawn” https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Byjb07VUznvMcG9zX1Z1Vi0zdXM/edit?usp=sharing by reference into the rule is a clear overreach; there is no legislative authority regarding how often grass should/must be mowed. 
3. The PNOC memorandum and associated materials https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Byjb07VUznvMS29JV3NKYm9rV2s/edit?usp=sharing, the only basis/argument provided for (1) the “0.7 lbs. of readily available nitrogen, per 1000 sq. ft.” per application standard, and (2) the “summer” nitrogen application language, are not sufficient to substantiate the proposed rule changes.
4. Zero-P should be the standard application rate with exceptions (up to 0.25 lbs. P2O5/1000 sq. ft. per application and not to exceed 0.50 lbs. P2O5/1000 sq. ft. per year) based on an annual soil sample.  No-Phosphorous rules have been adopted by at least eleven states in the last twelve years.
5. Since 2006, FDEP/IFAS Florida Yards and Neighborhoods (FYN) Handbooks have recommended a 10-foot fertilizer-free zone, and the 2010 FDEP Model Ordinance includes a recommended 10-foot low-maintenance zone.  These FDEP recommendations should be included in the rule.

The above comments are hereby submitted for consideration by the agency and requested to be made a part of the record of the rulemaking proceeding.

We urge the Department to modify the rule to incorporate proposed changes or withdraw the rule in part or in whole.


Sincerely,

Name
Organization
Address
Phone
Email

Friday, November 14, 2014

My Very Own Yard Tour

This is my own yard in SW Florida. Even though I rent, I am still able to do more for wildlife!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Welcome Life Into Your Landscape!

Some Things Are Worth Repeating


In his groundbreaking book, Bringing Nature Home, entomologist Douglas Tallamy presents us with dire predictions for the fate of all life on this planet if we don’t get our act together.  Through agriculture, cities and suburban landscapes, we have shrunk the lower 48 states in effect, to 1/20 their original size. He states, “Unless we modify the places we live, work and play to meet not only our own needs but the needs of other species as well, nearly all species of wildlife native to the United States will disappear forever.”  A prediction that as he reveals so eloquently, does not need to happen.


In our efforts to create what we think of as livable landscapes, and to impress ourselves and each other, we have created yards and workplaces, parks and schools devoid of any life at all.  Lawn is king, and a status symbol of all we have achieved.  “Pests”, any living thing without fur or feathers, are not allowed, and we have been spraying our way toward Armageddon at an alarming rate. Our children have been affected by all the man-made chemicals we have poured onto to the ground and into the air, with links to autism, ADHD and other childhood illnesses and issues. And every year, Americans pour money hand over fist to “pest” control companies to poison their soil in an effort to control what we do not realize are species essential to all life forms on this planet, including humans.


Love birds? Then we must love “bugs” as well!  Herbivorous arthropods (insects, spiders etc.) that are able to eat the leaves of plants and turn that stored energy into something usable by others, are the first trophic layer after plants on earth. They are the engines that keep us all going.  They, in turn, are consumed by other arthropods, birds, mammals (including humans in many areas of the world) and become energy on another trophic layer.  These layers combine in ways that are integrated, and have evolved over millions of years. So, what happens when the bugs in that first layer after plants are given nothing but non native, or exotic plants to eat? They can’t!  Many people of course, when they don’t know any better, want that. It seems like a great way to kill off all those “pests”.  So what happens to the song birds and other wildlife we enjoy when our yards are pest free? They die.  Without protein for their babies to grow fast and strong flight muscles, song birds cannot survive. And if they do not survive, neither do hawks and eagles. And then, there can be too many of one kind of bug, and everything goes to hell in a hand basket! Now that fall migration has begun, birds following the major flyway peninsula of Florida depend on the seeds and nectar of native plants as they have for thousands of years.


The truth is most people DO like life in their yards. And, as Doug says, “…they may be willing to change decades-old patterns of landscaping if the payoff is more wildlife.”  How do we begin to change those outdated, archaic, obviously not quite right patterns of landscaping?  The answer is simple…go native!  Wherever you live, there are hundreds if not thousands of species of plants that evolved right where you are. Trees, shrubs, vines, wildflowers, plants that grow in water and rich loamy soil, plants that grow in sand and everything in between.  Plants that need lots of sun, some that like some shade and some that needs to be in full shade. Whatever the conditions are in your current landscape, there are native plants that can grow there…with NO pesticides, NO fertilizer, NO soil amendments.  Plants will only ask for a three inch layer of organic mulch to get started. (But NOT cypress mulch, after all, cypress trees are native to Florida!)