A Message From Eric Draper
When walking with people in state parks, I like to point out how clean the air is. Then I tell them that the air is clean because Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection works hard to control and reduce air pollution.
Florida’s air quality was not always as clean as it is today. In fact, my desire to protect our air resources was part of my decision to be a conservation advocate. Just a decade after college, I was honored to participate in a meeting at the White House with President George Bush to discuss the federal Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act was established to protect public health by regulating hazardous air pollutants.
In Florida, DEP administers the Clean Air Act and works to protect and improve Florida air quality, helping ensure Florida’s air is among the cleanest in the nation. Thanks to DEP’s efforts statewide, emissions in Florida continue to improve and are now the lowest they have been on record. These reductions in air pollution has given us more vivid and stunning views of the night sky, leading to two of our state parks receiving certification from the International Dark Sky Association.
May is both Clean Air Month and National Bicycling Month. With that in mind, I hope we can all help conserve energy and reduce air pollution by replacing some car trips with walking or cycling.
DEP, along with the Florida Department of Transportation, is making it easier to use a bike to get around and get exercise. We are working together to expand access to state and local bike trails and encouraging bicycle and pedestrian friendly transportation routes. With trails such as the Cross Florida Greenway, the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail and the soon to be built Honeymoon Island spur, there are great places and ways to traverse Florida.
So if you see me out there on the road taking my bike to work, understand that I’m doing my part to help keep our air clean. Please keep a safe distance of three feet and give a friendly smile and wave as you pass by. Please be sure to check out Florida’s bicycle friendly parks at FloridaStateParks.org.
Learn More About Clean Air Month
Springs Restoration at Lafayette Blue
Florida’s springs are a one of a kind resource. With more than 1,000 springs in the state, they provide a home to plant and animal life, a source of freshwater for rivers and streams and the perfect backdrop for memorable experiences. However, some springs around the state are in need of help. Florida State Parks, along with other Florida Department of Environmental Protection staff, are working collaboratively to improve protection and the health of the state’s springs.
Lafayette Blue Springs State Park in Lafayette County is home to an ongoing restoration project. Florida State Parks District Biologist Anne Barkdoll often monitors Lafayette Blue Springs for algae levels and water clarity. She also looks for ways to improve park management and maintenance processes, as well as redesign structures to minimize impacts to the spring. “We’ve redesigned the parking lot to reduce runoff, altered our mowing practices and planted native vegetation to minimize erosion,” Barkdoll said, “we’re taking steps to improve what we can within the park.”
Florida Department of Environmental Protection is also trying to take proactive steps in Lafayette Blue Springs. The Suwannee River Water Management District has drawn up detailed action plans aimed at establishing healthy water flow and levels. They have worked with local communities to help instill the best groundwater pumping and fertilizer use practices. Most importantly all of Florida DEP is working to shift the focus from short-term fixes to long-term, holistic approaches to ensure the protection of clean and abundant groundwater for the future.
Learn More About Florida's Springs
Audubon Shorebird Protection
Summer in the state of Florida means shorebird nesting season is well underway. Although this time of year brings incredible species of birds, like the American oystercatcher, black skimmer and Wilson’s plover, these species face conservation challenges. Florida’s beaches also experience a lot of recreational use, especially during the summer. Shorebird nests are often built in the shallow sand and can be difficult to see, due to camouflaging. Florida State Parks partners with Audubon Florida to help protect shorebirds. Volunteers monitor shorebird nests, rope off areas to encourage shorebird nesting and rope off nests. Audubon volunteers also serve as ambassadors, educating the community on the importance of shorebirds and how everyone can help protect and conserve the environment.
Sean Cooley of Audubon Florida explained how the group assists Florida State Parks and staff. “Most of our work falls into either conservation or education. A lot of people don’t really understand how sensitive these birds are,” Cooley said. When most people see birds sitting on their eggs, they assume it’s to keep them warm and incubated. On the smoldering Florida coast, it’s the opposite. “People will get too close to nests and the bird will run away out of fear. With those eggs left unattended for just a few minutes, they can get too hot and there won’t be a hatchling.”
While state parks staff continue to protect wildlife and the environment, there are ways that everyone can help while enjoying Florida State Parks. Picking up all your trash on the beach, especially properly disposing of monofilament fishing line, is one way visitors can help reduce their impact. Additionally, they can attend a beach cleanup event in a state park or one of the Audubon’s numerous Bird Counts. The partnership between Audubon and Florida State Parks is one that benefits everyone, and thanks to their dedication, Florida residents and visitors can look forward to seeing incredible species of birds for generations to come.
Learn More About Audubon