Florida’s Oyster Reef Restoration Program

“Along Florida’s coasts, oysters play a vitally-important role in supporting healthy estuaries. Oyster reefs provide multiple benefits, from providing habitat and food for wildlife, to filtering water, removing nitrogen, and stabilizing eroding coastlines. Oysters are also a favorite cuisine for people and Florida once had robust oyster fisheries in many areas throughout the state.

“’Oysters are the quiet, unsung heroes of our estuaries, working hard every day to protect our coasts, clean our waters, feed and shelter fish, birds, crabs, shrimp and other wildlife,’” said Anne Birch, marine program manager for The Nature Conservancy in Florida. “When we help to restore and conserve oyster habitat and support the fishery we’re also helping our estuaries and our coastal communities flourish.”

Source: Florida’s Oyster Reef Restoration Program

Storms, reduced river water flows, and pollution are taking their toll on oysters, including those along the Florida Panhandle’s gulf coast where I grew up and where I’ve set many of my books. I’m happy to see that the Nature Conservancy chose to study and solve this problem–one that’s worldwide, actually.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s Florida Panhandle books include “Widely Scattered Ghosts” and “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”

Rescued Florida Bobcat Release in Protected Preserve

florida-bob-catThis cute kitten is called Spirit Feather. She was found on a road near Orlando last summer, turned over to Big Cat Rescue, and given medical care, food, and the kind of training she needed to live in the wild–including how to hunt.

“Spirit Feather has grown up to become a strong, feisty bobcat equipped with the skills to return to the wild where she belongs,” said Jamie Veronica, President of Big Cat Rescue. “We are very happy that she will be released on a vast, protected property and find everything she needs there to thrive.”

You can see pictures of the work behind the scenes here as well as a video showing the bobcat’s release several days ago. I really applaud the work of these folks. Florida has diverse habitats and animals. If things had been done right over time, we wouldn’t see long lists of flora and fauna on endangered lists. The Nature Conservancy is a partner in many of the rescue, re-establishment and conservation projects,

Let’s hope it’s not too late to save the Gopher Tortoise, the Indigo Snake, and the Florida Panther as well.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s Florida Piney Woods novel “Conjure Woman’s Cat” will be on sale Friday, January 20th on Amazon.

Saving the Florida Panther – I hope it’s not too late

“The Florida Panther is one of the most endangered mammals on the planet. Less than 160 cats remain in the wild. Most live around Okaloacoochee Slough, including the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, near Naples.” – The Nature Conservancy

floridapantherI grew up in North Florida during the 1950s and 1960s before the state became as overdeveloped as it is now. At the time, there was a captive Florida Panther at a local animal museum that had been injured either by guns or automobiles and was there to recover. It was my favorite animal in the place, one that still lived in the wild in the Florida Panhandle.

In my recent contemporary fantasy novel The Seeker, some of the action takes place at a wild, wonderful and somewhat forbidding tract of piney woods, swamps and wet prairies near the mouth of the Apalachicola River called “Tate’s Hell.” That name comes from the legendary man named Cebe Tate who chased a panther through the swamp because he thought it was killing his stock. He disappeared.

He was bitten by a rattlesnake. When searchers found him, his last words were, “My name’s Tate and I’ve been through hell.”

I grew up with that legend–one that included a folk song about Tate by Florida singer Will McLean–and knew the area well. So naturally, I mentioned the legend in my novel which is set at a time when Panthers were still there.

Catching up on the status of the Panther as I wrote the novel was a sad experience. While I was pleased to hear that in addition to the Nature Conservancy, organizations like Panther Net and Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge were working hard to protect the panther and its vanishing habitat, I was saddened to see how much ground and how many panthers had been lost since the says when I hiked in Tate’s Hell.

One conservation push in many areas of the country is wildlife corridors, protected strips or chunks of land that link up with vital habitats, creating a way for animals to travel between them. In some places, you will see green-space overpasses and underpasses routing animals past Interstate highways. Last year, the Nature Conservancy was able to protect a 1,278 acre tract in Glades County, Florida that Panthers in protected areas can use to increase the size of their range near Naples, FL.

According to the Nature Conservancy, “This acquisition will encourage the natural recovery of the Florida panther population by providing habitat where animals can den and stalk prey, and migrate from southern Florida to areas north of the river. Other species will benefit as well.” The range for a male panther is 200 square miles. The range for a female panther is a 75-mile block within the male’s territory.

I hope the efforts of hard-working people to save the Florida Panther will succeed. In a tourist and development-minded state, playgrounds often trump wild places and vital habitats in the eyes of government, Chambers of Commerce and the public. Too bad. It’s a short-sighted view of one’s world.

Malcolm

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Montana Milestone for 2008 – Swan Valley

Looking back on environmental and conservation milestones for 2008, many of us recall bad news, among the items, more lunancy about killing wolves and polar bears, the government often in a hurry to give away resources and habitats one way or another.

When the winter 2008 issue of the Nature Conservancy magazine arrived, I was reminded that in June while I was busy with work, steps were taken in Montana to protect 320,000 acres of mountain land often referred to as the backbone of the world and the crown of the continent.

The Trust for Public Land and the Nature Conservancy bought forest land acreage from the Plum Creek Timber Company in the Swan Valley; this is part of what the Nature Conservancy describes as part of  “a 10-million acre expanse of mountains, valleys and prairies that represents one of the largest, most-intact ecosystems in the continental United States.”

You can read more about the ongoing work in Montana by visiting the website of the Montana Legacy Project.

How often we miss good news like this.