Blogging for a Healthy Gulf


Ahh, pine straw in the flower beds. I knew I certainly wouldn’t find cypress mulch at Vivian Todd’s house, but it’s still nice to see sustainable alternatives to cypress mulch actually in use. Mrs. Todd is the incoming-president of the Magnolia Garden Club in Beaumont, TX, and she has been an outspoken opponent of unsustainable cypress mulch since she first started learning about it through the Garden Club of America and our emails.

I was pulling up to Mrs. Todd’s house at the end of my week long tour through Texas to inform folks about the destruction caused by cypress mulch, about the sustainable mulch alternatives that exist, and about how they can get involved by calling on Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart to stop selling cypress mulch. Last week, I spoke with native plant lovers, student activists, reporters, a building contractor, and gardeners, and all of them understood how important and easy it is to save cypress forests of the Gulf.

As I was setting up the Mulch Matters Kit in the dining room, members of the garden club started pouring. Eventually, around 20 ladies settled in the living room to hear more about the cypress forests of the Gulf. When I got to talking about mulch and sustainable alternatives to cypress, other folks started to chime in as well. It turns out that most of them had been using sustainable alternatives all along, often even before they knew about the dangers of cypress mulch. Here are a few of the options that came:

Pine Straw- Stays in place well, very attractive, and renewable. You can rake pine needles from your yard, or buy them at a store after they’ve been raked up from the floor of a pine plantation.

Pine Bark Mulch- Lasts a long time, comes in nuggets or shredded form, and is a by-product of timber milling. Pine bark is made from the scraps of trees that are turned into lumber, turning a waste product in a beneficial mulch.

Eucalyptus Mulch- Farmed for mulch, very aromatic, insect resistant, and looks similar to cypress. If it’s the aesthetics of cypress you like, this is your substitute! Plus, it helps keeps bugs and weeds away very well.

Melaleuca Mulch- Made from an invasive species that is being removed from Southern Florida swamps and the mulch least favored by termites. Melaleuca trees are overtaking swamps in Florida and massive removal efforts are underway. One great way to dispose of the trees is to heat treat them to kill any seeds and grind them up for mulch.

Recycled Yard Waste- Free and easily available! Don’t throw away those leaves and then go buy mulch at the store. Some of the best mulch out there is right in your backyard, you just have to collect it.

Other creative choices include: sugarcane bagasse, recycled pecan shells, gravel and rocks, recycled newspapers, and many more!

The women in the Magnolia Garden Club aren’t just good gardeners though, they also understand strategy and what it takes to make an even larger impact. Members of the conservation committee had already participated in the Save Our Cypress Day of Action in November 2007, and after hearing the talk, they were fired up for more.

Everyone in the room signed postcards to Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart asking them to stop selling cypress mulch. The Magnolia Garden Club is taking the message to all of their members and also enlisting other garden clubs in the area to join the cause. They’re speaking with their local nurseries and the managers of the local Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart outlets. Some folks were especially excited when I told them that I had the emails and insider phone numbers for the CEO’s of the big companies!

Please join the Magnolia Garden Club, gardeners throughout Texas, and the countless other students, moms, activists, conservationists, hunters, and others who care about cypress in calling for an end to the destruction caused by cypress mulch being sold at Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart.

To get started, you can send an email, make a phone call, or deliver a letter to your local manager. Also, make sure to tell your friends! If you’d like to use a Mulch Matters Kit to educate your club and inspire action, or if you have any other ideas you’d like help implementing, please contact me at

To convince these giant companies to take the steps necessary for protecting the Gulf’s cypress, a huge coalition of diverse individuals and groups must call on them with one voice: Save Our Cypress!! After traveling last week in Texas, I’m more confident than ever. Join us!

Dan Favre is the Campaign Organizer at the Gulf Restoration Network.


Over 40 organizations in Florida have already signed on to the greater Save Our Cypress Coalition. Now we are making sure that Lowe's, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart hear specifically from organizations in one of the states most effected by cypress mulch production. The pictures and the open letter to the retailers tell the story. If you'd like add your organization's good name to this letter, please send me an email at

Robert Niblock, CEO
Lowe’s Companies, Inc.
1000 Lowe’s Boulevard
Mooresville, NC 28117

H. Lee Scott, CEO
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
702 S.W. 8th Street
Bentonville, AR 72716

Frank Blake, CEO
The Home Depot, Inc.
2455 Paces Ferry Rd. NW
Atlanta, GA 30339

Dear Sirs,

We, the undersigned, are greatly concerned about The Home Depot, Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and Lowe’s Inc. contributing to the destruction of cypress forests and wetlands in Florida, the Gulf Coast and throughout the country. Cypress deforestation for mulch is compromising the sustainability of our wetlands, coastal areas, and our natural systems. As Floridians, and Florida organizations we formally request that your stores immediately cease all sales of cypress mulch.

Cypress forests, wetlands, and natural systems in Florida provide an incredible array of critical natural functions both to people and wildlife. Some of these ecosystems services include:
• Helping to ensure a safe and sustainable water supply as cypress domes and wetlands act as natural filters in areas of aquifer recharge. This is critical to our water supply.
• Helping to reduce flooding and protect ever expanding human communities from flooding and storm surge.
• Providing habitat for threatened and endangered species
• Ensuring the health of our commercial and recreational fisheries by stabilizing habitat and ensuring healthy and productive aquatic and coastal ecosystems.
• Providing places for birders, hunters, hikers, and outdoor recreation and outdoor recreation based economic activity.

In a state with a population rapidly passing 18 million people we must continue to redefine sustainability. As more of natural Florida is lost and our wetlands and water based natural resources are increasingly developed, what may have been considered an acceptable practice in the past is no longer. We need cypress trees in our wetlands, in our swamps, in cypress domes, and in bottom land forests not in plastic bags as mulch.

Areas in Florida that are experiencing large loss of cypress forests, including places like Florida’s Panhandle and Florida’s Nature Coast, are facing tremendous development pressures. The cypress systems that are currently still in place are essential to the future of these regions.

Sustainable mulch alternatives exist, and some are already capable of delivering on the commercial scale that your companies require. The innovative FloriMulch is made from melaleuca, an invasive species that is harming Florida’s Everglades and wetlands systems in southwest and southeast Florida. Removing melaleuca from natural systems and using it for mulch is a win-win for Florida’s Everglades, and Florida cypress. Additionally pine straw can be raked up from existing pine plantations to provide sustainable mulch on a very large scale. Other options include pine bark and more creative choices like pecan shells.

Individual consumers can only make a small difference, but your companies have the retail power to make an enormous difference towards ensuring that the incredible and necessary natural functions that Florida cypress forests and wetlands provide for people, wildlife, and our drinking water supply are not lost forever.

Please be national industry leaders and cease the sale of all cypress mulch products from your stores today. Contact Joe Murphy, Florida Programs Cooridinator for the Gulf Restoration Network, at 352-583-0870 or to see more evidence of cypress destruction for mulch in Florida and to set up further conversations on this topic.

Joe Murphy is the GRN Florida Programs Coordinator.


Since the Magnuson-Stevens fisheries management act was reauthorized in 1996 as the Sustainable Fisheries Act, there's been a mandate for 'ecosystem management' of the fish in the oceans of the United States (this was reaffirmed with last year's reauthorization of the MSA). I think it's fair to say, whether you look at the North Pacific, the North Atlantic, or our own Gulf of Mexico - most fish managers don't know what it means, and don't know how to do it. As a result, it hasn't been done. But do I have any specific direction to these poor managers of our shared natural resources? Can I write down how they should be 'managing ecosystems?'

Probably not as explicitly as the fish managers would like, but I can take a stab at it, and point to some movement around the globe that gives me hope that we can start to make it happen on a more wide-scale level:

First, to enact ecosystem management, we should remember the wise words of Aldo Leopold (though he was writing of a 'land ethic' I think he'd be alright with us applying his values to a 'marine ethic' as well): "To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering." We need to keep all the pieces of a functioning ecosystem, to keep it healthy. We can expect the law of unintended consequences to apply to our seas.

One way to keep all the pieces is to simply fence off the most pristine and intact habitats we have left. Recently the tiny island nation of Kirbati in the north Pacific created the largest marine sanctuary in the world. Choosing to forgo the immediate gain of commercial fishing leases and recreational fishing permits, the country decided to add to their existing Phoenix Islands Protected Area, to total over 158,000 square miles! Trumping President Bush's Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawaii, this is the payoff of important work by the island nation, conservation international and the New England Aquarium.

The unfortunate reality in the U.S. is that recreational and commercial fishing interests react with violent opposition to any talk of 'restricted areas', even though the argument can be made that by keeping some areas free of fishing, the fish in those areas can become so productive that they actually 'seed' other areas that are open to fishing. Here in the Gulf, one of our marine sanctuaries, the Flower Garden Banks, is right now considering closing some of the banks to fishing and diving to see what the affect will be. An even larger proposal has been floated called, "Islands in the Stream." This concept is the brain child of Billy Causey, who helped create the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary. The stream in the name is the circling currents of the Gulf of Mexico, which connects even distant areas. The islands would be a network of different protected areas along that current - stretching from the Yucatan around to the Keys. Some are areas that already have some protection, such as the Flower Garden Banks, but most are areas that researchers know contain high-value habitat, but are as yet, unprotected.

Aside from creating sanctuaries, ecosystem management must work to consider, characterize and quantify the interactions between fish species - such as the red snapper - shrimp interactions that have been quantified in the finally finalized new rules to rebuild red snapper. These rules are a good first step, as they acknowledge that shrimp trawl bycatch has a significant impact on red snapper, and needs to be a factor in that species management. But this regulation is the exception, not the rule, and for the most part bycatch isn't significantly considered in the single-species management rules that exist in the Gulf.

Texas is taking the lead in protecting a key forage species, currently proposing a limit on menhaden catch in state waters, specifically because so many species from birds to marine mammals to predatory fish rely on this unassuming schooling fish. Of course, this isn't news, and as my friend Mark Muhich with the Galveston Sierra Club points out - the NY Times was writing about the importance of this species to other species some 100+ years ago. We think the Texas cap is a good first step, but would like to see observers on menhaden boats to characterize and quantify the catch and bycatch as the pogie boats strip mine the schools, as well as some far more intense species management modeling which takes into account the whole ecosystem's need for menhaden and sets some catch levels which respect those interactions. (Agree? Take action here).

It all comes down to this: Humanity has had a significant impact on our marine ecosystems. A new map out of Stanford shows that over 40% of the world's oceans have been hammered by humans - whether it's fishing, coastal development, land-based pollution running into the oceans, shipping pollution or atmospheric deposition, the seemingly endless oceans are running out of untouched areas where the cogs and wheels are still running smoothly. Trawling, purse seines or longlines, the inherently unfair arms race we've engaged in with our fish friends (no arms on their side, just flippers) has hammered habitats and winnowed fish populations. The photo to the right, a google earth image from our friends at Skytruth shows the mud plumes of shrimp trawlers off the Louisiana coast, churning the benthic habitat and leaving an indelible mark visible from space.

It's time to get serious saving cogs.

Aaron Viles is the GRN's Campaign Director


“I am sorry Universe but I just can’t take these Humans a moment longer.” Sad, but the book The Suicidal Planet makes one ponder such things. Though it sells itself as a book about preventing global catastrophe, the major focus is on the science, consequences, and lack of commitment to fixing the problem. Written by Mayer Hillman, Tina Fawcett, and Sudhir Chella Rajan, the Suicidal Planet is well organized and voraciously researched.

The book is split into three parts: The Problem, Current Strategies, and the Solution. The first and second sections are disturbing, in-your-face facts with a heavy dose of pessimism. The major “Problem”, clarified in chapter three, titled “Eyes Wide Shut, The Response of the General Public”, is us. And, it is hard to argue this point. The authors tell us that we are using energy “as if there’s no tomorrow” and have been hoodwinked by the powerful and rich fossil fuel industry into questioning the science. That leads right into part two, Current Strategies.

In this section we learn that our government is “fiddling while Rome burns”. To carry home the point the authors mention President Bush’s State of the Union address in January 2006. The President announced that we need to end our addiction to oil by promoting ethanol use. Unfortunately, the very next week, the agency that would have been responsible for implementing this policy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, lost $10 million in federal budget cuts and was forced to lay off 40 workers. In this section we also get a warning that an over reliance on technology to save us is just “wishful thinking”.

The book takes a positive turn in part three: The Solution, where Hillman outlines his plan for decreasing carbon emissions. It is called “The Carbon Allowance Card”; each person would receive an electronic card containing one year’s worth of carbon credits. It would work much like a debit card in that every time you made an energy purchase, credits would be deducted from your smart card. At the end of each year we could sell unused credits. The amount of credits decreases each year until we reach a near zero emissions society and a stable climate.

The authors promote this type of cap-and-trade system versus a carbon tax system mainly due to ethical issues regarding poverty and the burden a new tax would place on lower income families. People in the lower income brackets tend to use less energy at home, travel less, and use public transportation more. Hence, lower income families would be able to supplement their incomes by selling carbon credits to those people who fly, live in large homes, and commute to work. A tax, on the other hand, would make essentials like heating/cooling and transportation much more expensive.

Suicidal Planet lays out an interesting solution though I wonder if some Americans may view actual suicide a better alternative than having to curb trips to Aruba and ride the bus. Nevertheless, this well thought out plan has merit and the planet needs creative solutions. Otherwise, Earth’s suicide note could say “If I am going down, I am taking those humans with me!” Hopefully the next book will not be titled “The Homicidal Planet”.

Casey DeMoss Roberts is the Special Projects Coordinator for the Gulf Restoration Network.


Friday 5:00pm, the parades are lining up and the city becomes un-navigable.

Of course, this is the time for our local and regional interns and student activists to coalesce at TulaneUniversity to begin a weekend of grassroots organizing training. The local interns, Laney White, Mallory Domingue, and Megan Milliken, make it there along with a big crowd of interested students and our Tulane service learners. With traffic and transportation difficulties, we had yet to see a regional intern. By 6:00pm, the last of the regional interns finally arrives. In spite of everything working against them to get there, everyone is rearing to get started on their environmental advocacy education.

The Students United for a Healthy Gulf Conference brought together students from all over the Gulf to learn about the pressing environmental issues facing the Gulf and how students have the power to affect positive change. The weekend was a great success, and all the students gained the skills and knowledge they will need for a successful semester working with the GRN, and it started them down the path of a lifetime of civic engagement.

Once everyone arrives, I rush off to grab some dinner to bring back while Cyn Sarthou, GRN’s executive director, introduces the organization. As I come back in with po-boys and French fries, Aaron Viles, GRN’s campaign director, is briefing students on the situation facing the coastal wetlands and the Flood Washington campaign he crafted in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Next up, Casey Mintzer, a GRN fall semester intern, does a quick intro to the basic principles and tips for public speaking because being able to present your message to large groups of people is a key component of environmental advocacy campaigns. Afterwards, all the students dig into the food before heading off to enjoy a Mardi Gras parade.

Bringing young Gulf conservationists together helps build the sense of community across the region and it creates a movement of engaged and concerned young citizens. With the locals hosting the regional interns, we helped create something that weekend that transcended any one person present, student or GRN staffer.

The next morning we come back together in the same place to begin a full day of training. But first off, we enjoy a delicious breakfast and coffee generously donated by Whole Foods Market. Thanks Whole Foods! In the first briefing of the day, Dan elaborates on the knowledge the students gained the night before by giving a presentation on the Save Our Cypress Campaign, effective campaign strategies, and the campaign’s relevance to wetland restoration and environmental change. After he finishes up, Anat Belasen, a GRN fall intern, discusses the grassroots organizing tool of postcarding and how we utilize postcards to show Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, and Home Depot that there is public support against their sale of cypress mulch. She goes over the keys to successful postcarding and then has the students pair up and practice doing the rap with each other. Due to bad weather, they unfortunately don’t get to take their new skills to the street.

When lunch is done, Sarah Helm, our intern from Texas A&M, bravely stands up and delivers an example of the class rap Casey had demonstrated the night before. Stephanie Powell, GRN Outreach Associate for the Healthy Waters Program, and I begin a skills training on volunteer recruitment and management because engaging volunteers is the best way to build the environmental movement. Our high school volunteer, Sophie Giberga, had really awesome ideas for what makes a good leader. The students all participated in role-playing how to train volunteers to postcard and how to lead an individual meeting with a volunteer. Megan did a great job encouraging her group to get over their initial discomfort. As we wrapped up, Matt Rota, director of the Water Resources Program, came in to talk to students about the pollution that causes a huge part of the Gulf of Mexico to be completely devoid of life every summer and what we can do about it. The training day ends with a briefing on internet organizing. Dan discusses the opportunity the internet provides to educate and activate people and lays out ways the students can raise the visibility of the GRN and its campaign on the web.

The ability to recruit, train, and manage volunteers; talk to community and campus groups and classes; and educate people and advocate for a healthy coast are all essential skills for organizing to protect cypress forests and the Gulf of Mexico. The Students United for a Healthy Gulf Conference did a great job of training young students and activists that they are capable of great things. Each and every one of the participants has now become part of a new generation of environmental activists. You all rock!

The next morning, we all come together again at Tulane to enjoy a tasty free breakfast compliments of Whole Foods and see some of the ecosystem we are all pumped to save. We drive out to Manchac to go on a boat tour with Professor Rob Moreau of SELU. When we arrive, Rob gives us a wetlands presentation specific to Turtle Cove and the Manchac area. It’s a chilly day so all of us bundle up as we head onto the boat. Rob shows us the areas devastated by logging and the loss that continues to take place as a legacy to the logging. As we head back to our cars, we leave with a vision of what could happen to all of the wetlands if people don’t act now.

We encourage you to get engaged. Sign up for our email list, take our e-actions, and join us as a member. Take a line from these students and help us fight for the coast every day.

United for a Healthy Gulf!

Amy Medtlie is an Outreach Associate for the Gulf Restoration Network.


February 1 brought some great news - The Environmental Protection Agency is initiating a veto of the Yazoo Pumps project. There are countless individuals and organizations that have worked to stop this project for too many years to count, and it has been a major campaign of the GRN. The Pumps project is unlikely to go away without a fight, and there will be much more work to do yet, but EPA's action is a major, positive step in the right direction.

The Yazoo Pumps project is a major boondoggle that would drain over 200,000 acres of wetlands (roughly the size of New York City including all five boroughs). As the EPA wrote in its letter to the Corps, "The Yazoo Backwater Area contains some of the richest wetland and aquatic resources in the nation, including highly productive fisheries, a highly productive yet increasingly rare bottomland hardwood forest ecosystem, hemispherically important migratory bird foraging grounds, habitat for endangered species, and wetlands providing a suite of important ecological support functions."

The last time the EPA exercised its veto authority to stop a project was in 1989, and George H.W. Bush was president. Of course, the Yazoo Pumps project would destroy 25 times more wetlands than all the projects combined that the EPA has vetoed in the past. We should all be thankful that in this case, the EPA has lived up to its responsibility to protect the environment.

Jeff Grimes is Assistant Director of Water Resources for the GRN


Of the hundreds of projects we have come across, the Yazoo Pumps stands out as one of the most (if not the most) environmentally damaging. This winter over 1,700 GRN members sent comments to the Corps opposing the pumps.

Wednesday the Vicksburg Post ran an article, where the Corps suggested that comments from people outside the Mississippi Delta carried less weight. It’s disconcerting that an official from a federal agency would hint, as he did, that voices from people throughout the country are somehow less valid.

We have joined with many organizations and citizens to voice our concern not only about the incredible threat to wetlands, but also the amount of federal tax payer money going to fund the project. Yes, some of these groups are national, but many are regional as well as local, and all have members that are impacted by the Yazoo Pumps project in one way or another.

When a national treasure is at risk, people from across the nation deserve the opportunity to speak their voices (and over 20,000 did). There’s also the issue of federal tax money. Typically locals have to pay a percentage of the project costs, but Thad Cochran removed that requirement the for Yazoo Pumps Project in 1996 legislation. That means that the cost, over $220 million, is on the shoulders of the federal tax payer. Is the Corps arguing that your voice counts less even though your tax dollars are going to fund the project?

It’s also disturbing that the Corps would say that this project is “environmentally friendly.” As the article noted, “Benjamin Grumbles, the EPA's assistant administrator for water, said in a statement the project as proposed would affect 67,000 acres of ‘some of the richest wetland and aquatic resources in the nation’ and the Corps has not exhausted other methods for flood control in the Delta.”

I am a downstream resident and a federal taxpayer. As someone who gets her drinking water from the Mississippi and loves shrimp and seafood caught in the Gulf of Mexico, I worry about the degradation of over 67,000 acres of water absorbing, pollution filtering wetlands upstream. The Yazoo project impacts anyone downstream and anyone who pays taxes—our voices count.

Dump the Pumps!

Stephanie Powell is the Outreach Associate for the GRN's Healthy Waters Program


Wind power is supposed to be good, allegedly a no brainer for environmentalists. The main reason for this support is wind energy has a very small carbon footprint which helps solve the global warming crisis. Currently scientists report that if we do nothing to slow global warming 50% of all species on the planet could perish by the year 2100. So, it may be confusing when people hear that environmentalists are disputing a wind project. How can this happen?

General consensus agrees that the controversy over wind power started with the ill placed wind project at Altamont Pass, CA in the 1970’s. The turbines were small, very fast, and placed in the worst location possible: a migratory bird path and home to prey animals for raptors. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimated that the Altamont Pass Wind Farm is the deadliest wind farm in the country responsible for approximately 1000 bird collision deaths each year.

The problem persisted for more than 20 years before a reasonable solution was adopted in 2005 by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. They passed a well developed bird management plan demanding that the 100-200 oldest and deadliest turbines be replaced with more technologically advanced turbines that were higher off the ground, very slow, and easier for the birds to avoid. The design of turbine towers have been made more bird friendly by exchanging the latticed towers with smooth ones that the birds can not perch on. In addition, half the turbines must be switched off during migration periods to allow spaces between the turbines.

Many hard lessons were learned from Altamont pass, aka do not create a solid wall of turbine blades and avoid high migratory bird routes. Other advancements include electromagnetic devices which warn bats away from the turbines. The photo above contains not a broken wind turbine but a unique solution to migratory birds. When migration begins a switch allows the turbine to bend down, minimizing the potential for collisions. The blades of the wind turbines on the Galapagos Islands are painted bright colors to increase the contrast from the background. These are all steps in the right direction. After all, we are switching to clean renewable energy to save species, not sacrifice them.


Casey DeMoss Roberts is the Special Projects Coordinator for the Gulf Restoration Network.


The New Year brings with it ample opportunities to make resolutions and to ponder the road less traveled. There are the traditional resolutions to lose weight, get in shape, get more organized, and to manage time more effectively (all of which I have made for 2008 as well by the way). I want to propose, both to myself and to those reading this, that this year another resolution be considered and adopted. This year resolve to make 2008 a Florida Year.

And what is this “Florida Year” you ask? I propose that 2008 be a year in which all of us fall in love with, or renew our passion for, Florida. Florida history, Florida culture, Florida’s odd and eccentric ways and people, and most of all Florida’s great outdoors and wild places all offer opportunities to connect to the place that we live in and discover more about the world around us.

A sense of place grounds us to our communities, our families, and our region. Whether you’re a fifth generation Floridian as my wife is, or you just rolled across the Georgia border in search of sunshine and the Florida Dream, connecting to Florida offers adventure and an opportunity to find magic in what others merely see as backdrop or scenery.

In 2008 get out there. Get out on the rivers and bays, get out on the trails and dirt roads. Look for where the paved road ends and seek out places where you need a map or a trail guide to find your way home. There is something intoxicating about seeking out that next bend in the river, that next curve of the trail and seeing something new and never known to you before. When the road shifts from paved to dirt you are heading in the right direction.

We are blessed in the Tampa Bay region with numerous places to, from the pocket parks in Tampa along the Hillsborough River to the backcountry of Colt Creek State Park in Polk County, get out there and reconnect with Florida and with nature. Public lands are sacred treasures and they provide places of sanctuary for wildlife to live and places for us to nourish our souls. Open spots on the map, those amazing greenspaces devoid of roads, houses, malls, and development, should serve to draw us in to learn what is there and what we have been missing.

A Florida Year is a year of exploring, enjoying, and protecting all things Florida. Once you get out there and see the woods, the rivers, and the Gulf of Mexico the next step is to spend some time being a voice for places that have given so freely to those who seek them out. Naturalist and writer John Muir realized in 1892 that to get Californians to fall in love with the Sierra Nevada range he needed to get folks out there to climb the mountains and swim the creeks. Once they tasted the earth and saw the sunsets they would be connected to preserving those places. That realization led to the founding of the Sierra Club.

I hope to lose some weight this year, and I surely could be better organized. With that said my strongest and most important resolution is to fall in love again with Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, and to share this love and passion with others. We love what we know, and we work to protect what we love.

So, make 2008 a “Florida Year” and think about connections and place. Ponder the wonders of the Gulf of Mexico, and the magic of all things wild and free in Florida. Get out there and find the pathways that are in your heart, and under your feet. That is a resolution worth keeping.

Joe Murphy is the Florida Programs Coordinator for the Gulf Restoration Network.


The other day, I was looking through the New Orleans Corps of Engineers Website, exploring their Regulatory Department. This is the department that is supposed to enforce the Clean Water Act by making sure our nation's waters and wetlands are not unnecessarily harmed by those that want to dredge, fill, or develop them. However, it becomes very obvious that the Corps thinks that it their primary role is to grant permits, not necessarily protect our wetlands. This is made obvious by their permitting FAQ, that states:


Q. Why should I waste my time and yours by applying for a permit when you probably won't let me do the work anyway?

A. Nationwide, only  three percent of all requests for permits are denied. Those few applicants who have been denied permits usually have refused to change the design, timing, or location of the proposed activity. When a permit is denied, an applicant may redesign the project and submit a new application. To avoid unnecessary delays pre-application conferences, particularly for applications for major activities, are recommended. The Corps will endeavor to give you helpful information, including factors which will be considered during the public interest review, and alternatives to consider that may prove to be useful in designing a project.

So, the Corps approves 97% of all of the permits that they see! And they seem very proud of this fact. Under the Clean Water Act, the Corps is supposed to first, and foremost, avoid unnecessary wetland impacts, and I don't see how a 97% permit approval rate reflects this. This demonstrates that the Corps is in serious need of reform--the agency that is in charge of repairing our disappearing Gulf Coast wetlands is at the same time facilitating their destruction, one permit at a time.

Matt Rota is the GRN Water Resources Program Director


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