Heading To Circle B? Have We Got A Weather Report For You

One of the questions many people planning to head to Circle B Bar Reserve for a hike may have is what kind of weather they can expect.

Will it be too hot? too cold? too windy? too rainy?

Ancient Islands Sierra Club has taken the guesswork out of that.

We invested $2,500 recently in the purchase and installation of a weather station that will provide real-time online weather information as well as recent weather data if you go to this link.

This is part of our mission to encourage more people to get outdoors and enjoy the natural resources that Polk County offers.

Also, we hope that after you visit Circle B, you might consider visiting the other public and private nature preserves and parks located all over the county.

Polk Whooping Cranes May Be Moved To Louisiana


Whooping Crane in a pasture in Lake Wales

The remaining Whooping Cranes that survived an unsuccessful attempt to establish a non-migratory flock of these endangered birds may be moved from Polk and surrounding counties to Louisiana, according to a draft proposal issued this week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The cranes, which have attracted birdwatchers to various locations around Lake Wales, are proposed to be relocated because they are in danger of dying out without reproducing.

Federal and state biologists were involved in the release of 289 birds between 1993 and 2005 in an attempt to create a non-migratory flock. Biologists ended releases because the project was unsuccessful.

Fourteen birds from the original releases survive.

The proposal to capture the birds and move them to Louisiana would allow them to join a non-migratory flock that has been re-established there to replace a similar flock that existed until the 1940s.

Federal wildlife officials are seeking comments on the proposal.

Sierra Gets Update On Soil & Water District

Brett Upthagrove addresses Sierra

The newly reorganized Polk County Soil and Water Conservation District is working to get itself known, but it is still struggling without permanent staff, Brett Upthagrove, the panel’s chairman told Ancient Islands Sierra Thursday night.

The district, which is run by an elected five-member board who serves without pay, was founded in 1945. It had been inactive in recent years and was on the verge of being abolished when Upthagrove persuaded some local people from a variety of backgrounds to run for seats on the board in the 2016 general election. They took office early last year.

The agency traditionally aided farmers and other landowners in improving water use and soil management, reflecting the agency’s origins that date from the Dust Bowl conditions of the 1930s caused by poor land management.

Even without staff, the Polk district has secured the approval to host the statewide land-judging contest next year, which will bring 280 students from all over Florida to Polk County to compete, Upthagrove said.

He said the board is working on hiring a field technician, which they hope to have on board by this spring.

That technician will offer advice on irrigation efficiency.

That position is funded through a grant, Upthagrove said.

When the board was active, it received some funding from the County Commission.

One service the agency provided was to provide soil maps that showed the location and types of soils on proposed development sites. The soil information is now only briefly mentioned in staff reports and there are no longer any maps.

After the board was revived, the County Commission, led by Commissioner George Lindsey, decided it would not provide any funding for the agency. None had been requested at the time.


Legislature Proposes Sewer To Aquifer To Tap Water Bill

In some parts of the country water managers are already pushing the idea of using highly treated sewage for drinking water.

In Florida, legislators are taking a more roundabout path.

Legislators in Tallahassee are close to passing bills that would allow treated sewage to be pumped underground to supplement the aquifer from which the clean water that later became sewage originated, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

This follows other proposals to supplement the aquifer by pumping stormwater or by creating more wetlands to recharge it.

The bottom line on all of these proposals is that it is a desperate attempt to keep the growth machine going, regardless of the unintended or ignored environmental effects of such measures.

Sierra Club has so far lobbied unsuccessfully to stop this legislation.

The main problem with this approach, according to critics, is that sewage treatment is geared to remove disease organisms so people don’t get sick from drinking the water, but the standards don’t address many other potentially harmful chemicals contained in modern-day sewage streams as a result of the documented increase in pharmaceutical drugs found in water.

Local Congressmen Score Zero On Environmental Scorecard

U.S. Reps. Dennis Ross and Tom Rooney, each of whom represent parts of Polk and surrounding counties, scored zero in the League of Conservation Voters’ annual evaluation of 35 key votes on topics including air and water pollution regulation, support for the Environmental Protection Agency programs, public health, wildlife protection and related topics.

Ross is seeking re-election this year. Rooney recently announced he is not seeking another term.

For details on the votes and the LCV’s scoring and analysis, go to this link.

Apalachicola’s Threats Topic Of Conference

If you’d like to know more about the threats facing the Apalachicola River and Apalachicola Bay in Florida’s Panhandle, an upcoming conference might fill the bill.

The conference will be held March 14-16 in Tallahassee.

This issue has been debated for the past half century and is the subject of litigation.

The river flows through endangered ecosystems in the Panhandle before reaching the bay, which for years was a key site for harvesting oysters, which survival depends on the right fresh-salt water mix in the estuary and whose marketability depends on keeping the bay clear of major pollution sources.

The conference will feature a number of scientific and legal experts that will discuss the river’s history, its threats and the complex issues that its protection must overcome.

Solar Co-op Proposal Draws Crowd In Polk

The idea that neighbors could band together to install solar panels on their homes and businesses more cheaply than going it alone attracted a crowd Wednesday at Lakeland’s United Methodist Temple during a program sponsored by the Polk County League of Women Voters.

These cooperatives have already been organized in several other Florida counties and are a growing effort that promises to bring Florida into its rightful place in the effort to expand home solar power installations, said Deidre Macnab, who is a volunteer coordinator for LWV’s Florida United Solar Neighbors organization.

She said Florida is a logical place for this effort because of the availability of solar power as a result of its sunny weather year-round and the fact that many residents pay high utility bills to operate air-conditioning systems during hot summers.

Deidre Macnab explains the LWV solar campaign to residents Wednesday

In addition to helping residents to lower their energy bills substantially—the return on investment can be recouped in a little as four years—increased home solar power reduces the impact on climate change and reduces the need to build additional expensive power plants, she said.

In addition to pushing to interest homeowners and business owners in installing solar panels, the effort also involves getting the support of local officials for changing utility rates or approving ordinances that’s would facility solar installation, said Rick Garrity, a longtime Lakeland resident who formerly headed the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission.

One would be to lobby Lakeland commissioners to revise its rate structure in a way that doesn’t include a surcharge that reduces the payback rate for solar conversions.

The other would be to persuade the County Commission to approve an ordinance that would allow property owners to finance solar installation through a lien on their property that would be paid over time on their tax bills.

Macnab said her group is also pushing for lower-cost and faster permitting for solar installations.

“I know we can do it,” Garrity said.

Wednesday’s discussion also broached the idea of installing solar panels on new schools to cut operating costs and use the money that would have been required for power bills to fund educational programs.