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Thursday, April 16, 2015

April 2015 Legislative Update

From the F.N.P.S. Policy Team...

Dear Native Plant Advocates and Environmental Stewards:
Thank you for speaking up for more land acquisition funding through Amendment 1. You made a difference and an impression on legislators. They told our lobbyist that callers who identified themselves as FNPS members were both polite and well-informed. There is more work ahead for us on Amendment 1 funding - that Alert remains active on our website - but there are other issues of importance to conserving native plants and native plant communities. Please consider acting on one or more of the issues discussed below and be prepared to act in the near future on an Alert that will demand meaningful funding for land conservation. To find contact information for your legislator, go to www.flsenate.gov and www.myfloridahouse.gov

Growth Management

Without good growth management, it’s hard to conserve habitat for native plants and wildlife. The Senate is getting ready to discuss SB 1216, which is a companion bill to HB 933. The House passed HB 933 on April 9. SB 1216 is a much better bill. Please ask your Senator to MAINTAIN the following provisions that we support:
  • The pilot “connected city corridors” program for Pasco County that supports innovative mixed use, high-tech employment and multi-modal developments via linear transportation and development connections (a new “sector plan” approach)
  • Sector plan language on data and analysis, conservation easements, and authority for long-term water consumptive use permits for DRI master development orders.
  • Keeping counties in regional planning councils
What we want to keep OUT of SB 1216 includes:
  • Confusing concurrency language
  • The “constrained agricultural parcels” language
  • Making private property rights a required element of local comp plans

Water

We continue to support SB 918, sponsored by Senator Dean, because it includes a number of provisions that would benefit Florida springs and should be maintained in any final water legislation, including:
  • Designation of all 1st magnitude springs and five 2nd magnitude springs as Outstanding Florida Springs and requiring priority focus areas for protection of these springs.
  • Adding protective criteria for establishing minimum flows and levels for Outstanding Florida Springs and creating “interim minimum flows and levels” for any OFS that does not already have an adopted minimum flow and level.
  • Creating the Florida Water Resources Advisory Council to recommend projects for funding to the Legislature
  • Establishing guidelines for recovery strategies for springs that do not meet an adopted minimum flow and level.
  • Establishing guidelines for Basin Management Action Plans that restore water quality in Outstanding Florida Springs.
  • Requiring local governments in priority focus areas to implement urban fertilizer ordinances.
  • Requiring local governments in priority focus areas where septic tank systems are identified as a source of nitrogen pollution to create remediation plans.
  • Prohibiting certain future activities such as new wastewater treatment facilities, new facilities for hazardous waste disposal, spreading of biosolids and new agricultural operations that do not implement BMPs or conduct water quality monitoring.

Unfortunately, SB 918 was amended two weeks ago to include some of the troubling provisions of its House counterpart, HB 7003. The language now in SB 918 that we OPPOSE includes:
  • Weakened water quality regulations for Lake Okeechobee
  • A reduction in water management district authority for allocating water
  • Use of public funding for private water projects without requiring mandatory conservation measures

Land Application of Septage

We OPPOSE bills that will continue to allow raw sewage to be dispersed on Florida’s landscape. HB 687 by Rep. Drake, is moving forward on the House Floor. The bill would repeal the ban on spreading of effluent pumped out of septic tanks, which is set to finally go into effect on January 1, 2016. Further delays in banning this practice will allow the devastating impacts on Florida’s rivers, lakes and springs to continue that much longer. Representative Drake filed an amendment last week that would delay the ban on the land application of septage from going into effect until 2018, but would not repeal it.

 Senator Evers’ version, CS/SB 648, would outright eliminate the ban on this third-world practice. It was passed by the Senate Environmental Preservation committee and will be heard next in the Senate Health Policy Committee. Tell your Senator and Representative that you want the 2016 ban to remain in effect.
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posted by Laurie Sheldon

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Secretary Jewell's Big Announcement Shows Success of South Florida Community Partners


By Audrey Peterman, with an introduction by Laurie Sheldon

I have to give credit to Aimee Leteux, FNPS Naples Chapter Rep, for sending me this article. As soon as I read it I knew that it needed to be shared with the members of FNPS. I believe that it highlights one of the most critical elements involved in keeping an organization relevant - creating partnerships with a diverse group of stakeholders and fostering a sense of organizational stewardship in our communities' young people, as they will take the baton into the future. I applaud Audrey Peterman for the outstanding example she has provided, and thank her for emphatically granting me permission to relay her words...

A beautiful vision of the 21st Century National Park System is unfolding in South Florida. When Department Of Interior Secretary Jewell, a member of President Obama's Cabinet, arrived in Miami on the first day of spring to announce a federal initiative to get millions of young people into their national parks, participants on stage and in the audience looked like the face of Miami. The leadership involved was as much Black, Hispanic and young as it was White.

Supt. Pedro Ramos kicks off the announcement with from left, Congresswoman
Frederica Wilson, Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and YMCA CEO Sheryl Woods.
"Miami is blessed with parks and national public lands close by, and a strong network of public and nonprofit leaders committed to getting kids outdoors, active and connected to nature. Through the 50 Cities Initiative, with the financial support of American Express and community connections of the YMCA, we are nurturing a movement to foster the next generation of leaders and outdoor stewards while helping people connect to the public lands in their community - particularly in urban areas like Miami," said Secretary Jewell.

Flanked by Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Park Superintendent Pedro Ramos, formerly Superintendent at the Big Cypress National Preserve who is Hispanic; US Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who is black and whose district includes parts of the Everglades, Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, who is Hispanic and President and CEO of Southern Florida YMCA Sheryl Woods, who is white, the event clearly illustrated our country's changing demographics and the power that resides in diverse communities. Members of the audience were equally diverse by ethnicity, age, city and national parks staff and other community members. The event truly reflected the face of a community united in one common goal.

 This shining spectacle was aided by the efforts of local leaders from the African American, Hispanic and national parks communities that have been working closely together since the 1990s to connect urbanites and the parks. It illustrated the effectiveness of the South Florida Community Partners organization formed in 1997 "to increase community awareness and participation in South Florida's National Parks and Preserves among underrepresented and culturally diverse segments of the population particularly in regard to park accessibility, park use, park programs, park protection, employment and decision making."

Secretary Jewell took time to interact with members of the Everglades Wilderness
Writing Expedition, (left) and young parks stewards from Greening Youth Foundation.

As the Park Service, other federal land management agencies and conservation organizations look for ways to become more "relevant, inclusive and diverse," the South Florida example is a gleaming illustration of what can be accomplished. It shows the myriad ways that the parks get embedded in communities once the diverse grassroots leadership is engaged and a relationship of mutual trust and respect is developed.

We share the genesis of this story in our book, Legacy on the Land published in 2009, but the movement has accelerated since then. We could not have anticipated this big national event happening here when we formed the Community Partners group all those years ago. The group grew out of the national Mosaic in Motion diversity conferences spearheaded by the National Parks Conservation Association in the 1990s. For more than 15 years we worked in lock step with the parks, raising funds and partners to transport thousands of urban families to the parks around Earth Day each year. Many formed lifelong connections, and in places such as Little Haiti and Little Havana a reservoir of love for the national park exists.

The relationship between communities and the parks is one of deep love, trust and collegiality that has spawned untold benefits. For example, our community partner Ranger Alan Scott at Everglades National Park was quick to act on our recommendation for Greening Youth Foundation as a source for diverse young interns. Consequently, many of the newest park employees who had the opportunity to meet Secretary Jewell are interns from the Foundation.

Similarly, a group of young people that we took to Everglades in 2013 to hike 10,000 steps in support of the Denali Expeditioners inspired Ranger Sabrina Diaz to develop the Everglades Wilderness Writing Expedition program. The Wilderness Expeditioners have developed an unquenchable passion for the parks and were in awe of Secretary Jewell's willingness to spend time thinking about and answering their questions.

I saw Supt. Ramos being interviewed by a Hispanic reporter, in Spanish, for a Spanish-focused TV station.

"I bet it's the first time that ever happened," he observed.

Secretary Jewell is flanked by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed who is deeply involved with the
outdoors along with DEL speakers Evonne Blyters and James King, II, right, front and back rows.

Our many friends among the audience included Congresswoman Wilson, whose "500 Role Models of Excellence" young men loved the Everglades when we took them to the park yea rs ago. Since then the Congresswoman has often expressed the desire that all the young men should have that opportunity, and I am encouraged that this new initiative will help make that happen.

As Frank and I were walking to the parking lot, I turned away to compliment a young lady on her beautiful outfit. She turned out to be a reporter for the Miami Herald, and included me in her story here. As she included, Secretary Jewell and I served together on the board of the NPCA for years, part of our focus being how to engage urbanites with our national parks.

When Secretary Jewell went on to Atlanta the following day to announce the initiative, she was joined by many members of Keeping It Wild, the outdoors-focused organization we helped establish there, along with Greening Youth and leaders who are part of DEL's network of speakers.

This morning we received this ecstatic note from a DEL speaker who went out on our first contract assignment last week:

"The main thing I really want the world to know is that DEL is out there WORKING, getting contracts with agencies. And that our presentations and programing are receiving great reviews. To me this is a family effort, one person's success is everyone's success.  So telling our speakers we hit our first home run will make them all proud and eager to go for more."

So far we've been swamped with people who want to be part of DEL, and have had to create a waiting list while we seek out more speaking and training opportunities. If you or your organization or someone you know is planning an environmental conference or other meeting, please check out our team at delnsb.com.

Members of the SF Community Partners Program were an active part of Vintage Day
celebrations in Everglades National Park, March 7. Glenn Gardner photo.
For years we've been advocating that it's easy and productive to develop a relationship between the public lands and grassroots community leaders, and that it's the only way to keep them relevant and viable. I think we've amply illustrated that. Don't you?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

No Funding for Land Conservation is a Legislative Insult to Voters


Are you one of the 4.2 million voters who supported Amendment 1 in the last election? If so, did you believe a primary purpose of the funding was to finance the purchase of additional natural areas as a way to help protect our water resources, wildlife, rivers, beaches and scenic vistas? The Florida legislature doesn’t believe that is what voters actually had in mind when 75% of them voted for passage of Amendment 1.

Is there another way to explain why the House and Senate budgets include NOTHING for the purchase of land through the Florida Forever Program? Our will as voters is essentially being preempted by the people we pay to represent us in Tallahassee! Unless you like being slapped in the face, let's stop this disenfranchisement once and for all.

$20 million to the Kissimmee River Restoration
project (which is 85% complete) is terrific, but
unacceptable as a budgetary substitute for
Florida Forever project funding.
The Senate budget currently proposes to allocate $2 million to purchase conservation easements. The more “generous” House budget would spend $10 million to purchase conservation easements. Neither chamber proposes to allocate ANYTHING for the purchase of lands that would add to our system of state parks, state forests and wildlife management areas.

Don’t be fooled by smoke and mirrors, like the proposed allocation of $20 million to purchase lands along the Kissimmee River in order to complete restoration of the river. It’s a good project that has been in progress for years and deserves to be funded... but it has nothing to do with Florida Forever.

Amendment 1 requires, in simple-to-understand language, that 33% of annual documentary stamp tax revenues must be dedicated to land and water conservation. Most of us interpreted that to mean a substantial amount of the funding would support the protection of natural areas through the purchase of land. Those revenues are projected to total well over $700 million in the first year alone. Both the Senate and House propose to spend millions to cover existing agency operating costs and fund expensive water supply projects, and NOTHING for Florida Forever.

Contact your Representative, Senator, and
any or all of the politicians listed below to
tell them what you think of the way they've
proposed to spend Amendment 1 funds!
The Legislature’s unwillingness to heed the will of the voters is unconscionable. The overwhelming passage of Amendment 1 is an irrefutable testament to the love Floridians have of their natural areas and the concern we have for their future. Please contact the House and Senate leadership this week and tell them what you think about their budget proposals (contact information is provided at the bottom of this blog). If you can, please take the time to contact your own Representative and Senator as well. Some statements you might want to include in your letters/e-mails:
  • The first year of Amendment 1 spending should allocate at least $350 million for the acquisition of approved Florida Forever projects. That amounts to less than half of first-year revenues!
  • The time for debating whether the people of Florida support additional land purchases has passed. You knew what you were voting for when you voted to pass Amendment 1.
  • Amendment 1 was called the Water and Land Legacy Amendment for a reason. Sewage treatment plants and water supply projects are important, but they aren’t the legacy for future generations that we had in mind on Election Day. Rivers and springs clean enough for swimming and fishing; parks and forests where people can recreate and enjoy nature; beaches where our children can play. THAT is the kind of legacy we want to enjoy for ourselves and leave for those who come after us. 

Top Priority Contacts:

Senate

Senate President Andy Gardiner (Orlando)
Capitol: (850) 487-5229
District: (407) 428-5800
Email: gardiner.andy@flsenate.gov

Senate Budget Chairman Tom Lee (Brandon)
Capitol: (850) 487-5024
District: (813) 653-7061
Email: lee.tom@flsenate.gov

Senate General Government Appropriations Committee Chair Alan Hays (Umatilla)
Capitol: (850) 487-5011
District: (352) 742-6441
Email: hays.alan@flsenate.gov

Senate Budget Vice-Chair Lizbeth Benacquisto (Ft Myers)
Capitol: (850) 487-5030
District: (239) 338-2570
Email: benacquisto.lizbeth@flsenate.gov

House

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli (Merritt Island)
Capitol: (850) 488-1450
District: (321) 449-5111
Email: steve.crisafulli@myfloridahouse.gov

House Budget Chairman Richard Corcoran (Lutz)
Capitol: (850) 717-5037
District: (813) 792-5177
Email: richard.corcoran@myfloridahouse.gov

House Ag and Natural Resources Appropriations Chair Ben Albritton (Wauchula)
Capitol: (850) 717-5056
District: (863) 534-0073
Email: ben.albritton@myfloridahouse.gov

House Budget Vice-Chairman Jim Boyd (Bradenton)
Capitol: (850) 717-5071
District: (941) 708-4968
Email: jim.boyd@myfloridahouse.gov

Other Important Contacts:

Senator Joe Negron (Stuart)
Capitol: (850) 487-5032
District: (772) 219-1665
Email: negron.joe@flsenate.gov

Senator Denise Grimsley (Sebring)
Capitol: (850) 487-5021
District: (863) 386-6016
Email: grimsley.denise@flsenate.gov

Senator Charlie Dean (Inverness)
Capitol: (850) 487-5005
District: (352) 860-5175
Email: dean.charles@flsenate.gov

Senator Wilton Simpson (Trilby)
Capitol: (850) 487-5018
District: (352) 540-6074
Email: simpson.wilton@flsenate.gov

Vice-Chair of Senate General Government Appropriations Sen. Oscar Braynon (Miami Gardens)
Capitol: (850) 487-5036
District: (305) 654-7150
Email: braynon.oscar@flsenate.gov

Vice-Chair of House Ag and Nat. Resources Appropriations Rep. Ray Pilon (Sarasota)
Capitol: (850) 717-5072
District: (941) 955-8077
Email: ray.pilon@myfloridahouse.gov

Rep. Greg Steube (Sarasota)
Capitol: (850) 717-5073
District: (941) 341-3117
Email: greg.steube@myfloridahouse.gov
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Posted by Laurie Sheldon 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Legislative Update to the F.N.P.S. 2015 Session, Weeks 1 and 2

By the F.N.P.S. Policy and Legislation Committee

Conservation research on the recovery of
Florida Ziziphus (Ziziphus celata) is one of
the projects that this grant previously funded
Native Plant Conservation Funds

In drafting the Senate legislation to restructure trust funds to implement Amendment 1 (SB 584), the termination of the CARL Program Trust Fund within Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) has created the unintended consequence of eliminating the $250,000 annual transfer from the DEP CARL Trust Fund to the DACS Plant Industry Trust Fund for the Endangered or Threatened Native Flora Conservation Grants program. FNPS lobbyist Sue Mullins met with DACS and DEP officials about the unfortunate by-product of this bill, and will meet with House Budget Chair Albritton to rectify the situation. We originally had $300,000 in our budget line item for the program, of which we expect to restore at least $250,000.

The bill restructures the trust funds to implement the constitutional requirement that documentary stamp taxes directed for environmental purposes must not be commingled with the General Revenue Fund and ensures that these revenues are not commingled with other revenue sources and can be tracked from distribution to expenditure. The bill terminates certain trust funds, including CARL, currently receiving documentary stamp tax revenue intended for expenditure on environmental programs.

Water

The House passed its water resources bill, HB 7003 by a
vote of 106-9 in Week 1 and sent the bill to the Senate. The bill offers very little for conservation or pollution reduction, and instead focuses on some controversial proposals related to the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee. It combines the Lake O phosphorous pollution control programs with the lake’s Basin Management Action Plan adopted under federally-mandated water quality laws, and preempts the use of a long-standing existing rule that could be used by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to set specific limits on pollution entering state waters. Its approach to Lake Okeechobee also centers on shifting more of the blame and burden to the federal government for the scheduled release of water into the lake.
 
Historic water flow in the Everglades ecosystem:
Lake Okeechobee collected water from the
northern Everglades region, which flowed into
the Everglades of the south. Today, this path
has been greatly altered and polluted, leading
to a host of environmental problems.

The Senate is continuing to work on its land and water bill, SB 918. The bill introduces springs legislation similar to what passed the Senate last year, which was to change water policy that determines when the minimum flow or level of spring water bodies were too low to be viable, as well as provide some progressive pollution control measures. The bill addresses water project funding by creating a new statewide Water Resource Advisory Committee that will give preference to water projects that have a measurable impact on improving water quality or water quantity, those in areas of greatest impairment, those of state or regional significance, those recommended by multiple districts or multiple local governments, those with significant monetary commitment from local or private sponsors, and those that are in rural areas of opportunity. FNPS considers this is a critical element of the bill.

The Senate bill does not include the Everglades or Lake Okeechobee provisions that the House bill contains. FNPS worked extensively with Senate staff on this legislation, specifically to set up the criteria for water project funding that would narrow the kinds of local projects eligible for A1 funds. We know from leadership in both chambers that some A1 dollars will inevitably be directed towards water projects, so the bill was crafted to try to make only those projects that are environmentally beneficial be eligible for funding from Amendment 1 dollars.

FNPS’ primary concern remains with the House’s approach to funding a majority of water projects with A1 dollars. Our estimate is that the FY 2015-2016 request is $1,196,953,572, which is much more than the estimated $757 million projected for doc stamp revenues this year and poses a serious risk that a major portion of the A1 dollars will be devoted to local “pipe and pump” water projects.

Amendment 1 Implementation 


Above: Tate's Hell State Forest, a Florida Forever project.
Florida Forever is the country's premier conservation,
water supply protection, and recreation lands acquisition
program. Investing in these resources is critical to
ensuring water quality and quantity, preserving working
lands, protecting wildlife, providing recreational outlets,
and improving the quality of life for all Floridians.
The Senate introduced its policy framework for Amendment 1 implementation. SB 586 is now out along with the legislation released in January that made “structural” changes to implement Amendment 1. Based on the December 2014 Revenue Estimating Conference, 33 percent of documentary stamp funding will amount to $757.7 million. SB 586 keeps existing programs including Florida Forever and the Rural and Family Lands program, as well as more funding for land management.

In the 2014-15 General Appropriations Act, the Legislature appropriated more than $3.5 billion to environmental programs. Currently, approximately 20% of documentary stamp tax revenues ($470.8 million) are distributed under s. 201.15, F.S., to trust funds supporting environmental programs. The legislation maintains existing documentary stamp tax distributions to affordable housing, transportation and economic development at their current effective percentages, however, as a result of the 33% distribution to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund required by the constitution, there will be less doc stamp revenue to distribute to the various other trust funds and General Revenue.

All legislative leaders and the Governor made reference to Amendment 1 on opening day of Session March 3. In his address to the House, Speaker Crisafulli said that while the intention of Amendment 1 is good, there is more to good stewardship than buying more land. “Buying up land that we cannot care for, that falls into disrepair or becomes a breeding ground for harmful invasive species is not a legacy that I am interested in leaving,” Crisafulli said. FNPS is already acting to counter claims that Florida’s existing public conservation lands are mismanaged. We are uniquely positioned to know how mistaken this claim is given the continuing role our members play on Land Management Review teams. FNPS is working with DEP to make a presentation to both the House and Senate on the state of Florida’s land management efforts, which are laudable given the limited resources made available to land management agencies. What other state can claim the number of awards our State Park system has received?

The Florida Water and Land
Conservation Amendment (A1)
was approved in November 2014
by 75% of the state's voters.

Senate President Andy Gardiner stressed the need for transparency in how the Amendment 1 money is spent and about the need to address water policy and land management in his opening day remarks. Gardiner has been a proponent of spending money on bike trails including the Coast-to-Coast Connector across Central Florida. “It’s not just the water — it’s the maintaining of these lands,” Gardiner said. “It’s the access for the public to those lands … as well as ecotourism, which I have talked about with bike trails.”

Sugar Land

The final impediment to implementing A1 as intended by voters may be the looming deadline of October 12, 2015 to purchase 26,100 acres of land owned by U.S. Sugar Corp. in the Everglades. The purchase is estimated to cost at least $350 million. The additional land is needed to store water during the rainy season and eliminate harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers and provide water supply for the natural system. The SFWMD has the opportunity through a legal option to purchase a 46,800-acre parcel of land optimally located south of Lake Okeechobee, which is touted by Everglades advocates as a cost effective water storage solution to help solve Florida's water crisis. Advocates of this approach include the 56-strong-organization Everglades Coalition, and several SE Florida local governments.


Harvesters cutting sugar cane on U.S. Sugar Corp. land
In a strange alignment of allies and skirmishes, rival sugar company Florida Crystals Corp. is pushing back against the coalition of Everglades and local government advocates who are now running TV ads to use A1 dollars for the purchase of U.S. Sugar property south of Lake Okeechobee, by saying such an effort could “derail” ongoing Everglades improvement projects.

Tension has long existed between Florida Forever advocates and Everglades restoration advocates over environmental spending with limited dollars. The fact that there are $757 million on the table this year for the environment via Amendment 1 exacerbates that tension.

Growth Management 


The D.R.I. review process would be eliminated by SB562
Two bills sponsored by Senate Community Affairs Chairman Wilton Simpson that would alter the responsibility local governments have in approving large developments unanimously passed through the Senate Community Affairs Committee on March 10. SB 562 eliminates the older process of reviewing developments of regional impact (DRIs). The sponsor said it won't bring an end to the scrutiny of large projects, but it will have the effect of taking that review away from the state's 11 regional planning councils. Simpson’s bill would instead put DRI-sized developments through the state "coordinated review" known as sector planning that applies to other major developments. This process allows state agencies to study and comment on plans. SB 484, also sponsored by Simpson, does in fact eliminate the state’s 11 Regional Planning Councils and reassigns their duties to other state agencies or subdivisions, including the review of developments of regional impact. There are valid concerns that as presently written, these bills would further weaken what little is left of Florida’s growth management laws.
Legislative Monitoring

FNPS will continue to track these bills on your behalf, and seek ways to influence their modification or withdrawal.

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Post, hyperlinks and images by Laurie Sheldon

Friday, March 13, 2015

Know Before You Grow: All Lantanas Are NOT Created Equal

Webpage of big-box store selling Lantana camara

By Laurie Sheldon


Lantana camara, commonly known as lantana and/or shrub verbena, can (unfortunately) be found throughout the state of Florida. It is a Category 1 invasive species, according to the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council. Category 1 species are defined as

"Invasive exotics that are altering native plant communities by displacing native species, changing community structures or ecological functions, or hybridizing with natives. This definition does not rely on the economic severity or geographic range of the problem, but on the documented ecological damage caused."

These plants are being marketed as "Flowers for Florida" and sold at many big-box home improvement stores. DO NOT BE FOOLED by this rather deceptive advertising. Although they do GROW in Florida, they are in no way FOR Florida.

 

Lantana montevidensis (left), sometimes referred to as "trailing shrubverbena," is another non-native species. Its flowers are pink or lilac with long (8-20mm) corolla tubes.



Fear not - there ARE some native Lantana species which you can plant with confidence in your home landscape! Among these are...

Lantana canescens
Native to the Dade County area, this upright plant has white flowers borne in dense axillary spikes.
Lantana depressa 
Another Dade County native. Unlike L. canescens, its growth is prostrate or decumbent
(it stays low to the ground) and has solid yellow flowers.
 Lantana involucrata
This species grows in the coastal regions of south and central Florida.
Its flowers are white and borne in flat-topped, sometimes involucrate heads.

I hope that you'll remember this brief rundown of Florida's native and non-native Lantana species the next time you're out shopping for plants. Happy gardening!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Tidiness Dilemma

 By Devon Higginbotham

They were driving me nuts!  I have a couple dead Pecan trees in my yard and periodically they drop large dead limbs with gobs of moss.  It’s been a long time since I have seen a green leaf on either of them.  The wood is decayed and crumbly so it’s not difficult to collect the fallen limbs (there are no branches left) but I was dying to chop them down.

Last month, as I lugged another fallen limb to the trash, I looked at one trunk that had slowly dwindled down to 20 ft in height. There is a hole at the base of the tree large enough for a family of hobbits to pass through.  The interior is dark and mysterious and I envisioned a raccoon charging out, obviously very inconvenienced by my snooping into his home, but all I saw was darkness.  No one seemed home.   I suppose it’s time to get rid of them.  My neighbors had been quietly asking the same question.  “Why is she keeping those behemoths?  What an eyesore!”

So I thought, “It’s time to take them down!”  I made a mental note to call my neighbor, Jerry, the next day and have him push them over with his tractor and drag the hulking masses of decaying wood to the trash.  I would be rid of them!  My yard would be tidy once again.

But, the next day, while walking past one dead trunk (that’s all that’s left), I heard the rat-a-tat-tat of a Woodpecker.  Looking up I saw the shy creature as he slipped around to the backside out of view.  I suppose the Woodpeckers are still finding insects in the wood, but the trunks look so dead!  The Woodpeckers will find food in other trees!
Last week, as I listened to Shari Blisset-Clark talk about Florida Forest Bats, she described how bats spend the day in hiding in hollow trees and craggy bark and I thought about the Pecan snags in my yard, ideal habitat for sleepy bats.  “Maybe”, I thought, “I should let them linger”.  The bark was perfect for slumbering creatures and the gaping hole in the trunk must already be home to multiple species of wildlife, even though I don’t see them.

Then today, as I tidied my yard, I heard the distinct call of the Red-shouldered Hawk.  Looking up I caught a glimpse of two hawks mating at the very top of one of the snags!  “Yeah”, I thought, “the snags are staying”!
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posted by Laurie Sheldon

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Gallus Quigley: A Subdivision Apart


Minneola, Florida, resident Gallus Quigley has gone native - and he’s persuaded his whole neighborhood to join him. Like many people, Quigley lives in a subdivision. The landscaping in such communities usually isn’t very enticing to birds, but Quigley wanted to change things up when he bought his home in October 2009. He envisioned a wildlife refuge of native plants.

The problem was how to get his neighbors to go along with it. Quigley became involved in the homeowners’ association that governed the subdivision, was elected secretary, and fnally persuaded the association to embrace native plants for future landscaping. It took more than two years of work, and it helped that Quigley could show other homeowners how he had successfully landscaped his own yard with native plants.

“Seeing something new makes it less scary,” he says.

Quigley explained to the other homeowners the benefts of native plants, such as less water use, lower maintenance costs, and more pollinators for vegetable gardens.

“The best part is that now the community has a unique entrance,” he says. “It isn’t like every other subdivision in the area.”

After some back-and-forth, Gallus Quigley convinced his
homeowner’s association to embrace native plants. Photo © Gallus Quigley
Quigley’s experience shows how one individual can change a whole community, one yard at a time. He says: “You just need to invest a little time and passion into it.”
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Gallus Quigley works for Lake County as a land steward

Article from the May “Conservation and Community” issue of American Birding Association magazine; reprinted with permission

posted by Laurie Sheldon

Monday, February 23, 2015

Flagler Library Embraces Native Landscape

By Joan Bausch
Florida Native Plant Society
Martin County Chapter


A hearty "good job" to the Flagler Beach Library community and director, Ruth Young, for their initiative to subtract lawn and add Florida native plants at the library on 7th Street  (just west of A1A,  south of Route 100). Their efforts are noticed and welcome. Thank you Ruth and your collaborators!

Visiting in Flagler Beach in December, I found that the library there had installed some really nice natives to kick off of their goal of eliminating "lawn" care. I reached out Sonya Guidry, Paw paw Chapter Rep, and eventually recieved an email from Ruth Young, Library Director.

“With funds from our annual book sale, and the help of two special people, a local man who likes not to be recognized, Art Woosley, and MaryLou Baiata (now deceased), a local landscape business owner, this vision became a reality. Art did most of the work, with a little help from a few others. MaryLou was generous with her expertise and discounted prices on trees, plants and mulch. This was definitely a project of lots of labor and love. Please stop in if you are in the area sometime. Sincerely, Ruth Young, Director”

Sonya responded “...sounds as though we should make Flagler Beach Library part of a Flagler area Landscape tour.  Thanks for plugging a good deed well done!"

When you visit Flagler Beach, take a walk out along the natural Betty Steflick Memorial walkway that leads directly from the library to the greenway along the Intracoastal Waterway. You'll be delighted with this lovely natural area!
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posted by Laurie Sheldon

Monday, February 2, 2015

Meet the New Officers of The Villages Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society!


By Karina Veaudry

New Villages Chapter Officers!
Inaugural Meeting

On Friday, January 30th, Steve Turnipseed, inaugural President, led The Villages Chapter inaugural meeting.  Steve had signed up interested persons through website and newspaper publicity ads and we were expecting 30 to 40 people.  By the start of the meeting, 162 people had filed in and we scrambled to set up enough chairs.  It was standing room only!  Within the first 15 minutes, a VP of Programs, VP of Field Trips, Secretary, Treasurer and Chapter Representative were confirmed.  Steve is a strong leader with excellent communication skills.  He has already given tasks and they are on their way to opening a bank account, etc. – and they have the next 4 months speakers recommended and are lining them up.  This chapter will be very successful.

I talked about the history of the FNPS, its mission, typical chapter meeting format, chapter initiatives, field trips, membership dues format, conference information, existing committees and their work, our research and conservation grants, landscape awards, etc.  Nancy Dwyer, President of the Sumter County chapter sent well wishes and Taryn Evans of the Marion Big Scrub Chapter attended the meeting and delivered a greeting and short presentation.

Not only did were officers and members secured, the new chapter had its first program with two speakers. The crowd was both energetic and enthusiastic.

New Memberships

150 membership forms were passed out.   We should expect the new membership forms to start arriving (online and mail-in paper form).  Steve has directed the Officers to join online so that he can record their membership number on the Chapter Approval Form and get it turned in before the BOD meeting on Saturday.  He will submit that form with the names and contact information of all the officers to the appropriate statewide officers and administrators by Friday, February 6th.

The house was packed!

Moving Forward


Devon Higginbotham, Kim Zarillo and Jonnie Spitler (State Finance and Treasury Officers) have already contacted the new chapter leaders and introduced themselves and will be assisting them in 501c3 (or not) set up. Anne Cox, FNPS President, will be attending a meeting within the next several months.

Steve Turnipseed, Villages Chapter President, and Susan, his wife, may be at the B.O.D. retreat at Archbold next weekend.  Please make sure to meet and greet them!

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posted by Laurie Sheldon

Thursday, December 18, 2014

FNPS Annual Fund Drive


Live Oak seedling
By Devon Higgenbotham

Have you ever planted a young Live Oak or Hickory knowing you might never it see reach maturity?
In this age of instant gratification, too often we want results today, but in 1980 the founders of the Florida Native Plant Society had the foresight to start an organization that would outlive them.
"Too old to plant trees for my own gratification I shall do it for posterity."
said Thomas Jefferson, age 83.
The Florida Native Plant Society was started by individuals that were looking into the future and planning for an organization that would grow and provide benefits to all Floridians for many years.  We have been handed the benefits of their foresight, the full grown shade tree that was planted years ago, perhaps before we were around.

We in turn have the responsibility to nurture this organization for the generations that will come after us, keep it healthy and leave it stronger than when we found it. 

This is the time of year for our Annual Fund Drive which provides vital resources for outreach, conservation awards, education, land management and the continuation of our promotion of Florida native plants.  Help us to grow!

Please respond generously to the Annual fund Drive.  Your donation will ensure future generations will enjoy a stronger, more vibrant FNPS.  Do it for posterity!

Mature Live Oak