Support Victory for Conservation in Florida

Target: Rick Abbott, Chair of the Florida Wildlife Federation.

Goal: Congratulate Florida on passing a constitutional amendment to conserve precious Florida land.

The State of Florida recently passed a constitutional amendment requiring the state spend a billion dollars to purchase land for conservation efforts instead of allowing that land to be developed on. The move was an act by Floridians to ensure that they can keep a legal stake in their home state’s land without having to worry about the land being sold for industrial purposes. Thanks to the ruling by a local judge, Florida now has a billion more dollars to allocate towards land conservation.

Opponents of the move were big companies who wanted to develop on the very land that was up for auction and if they had gotten their way, the land would be demolished and polluted forever. Thanks to some dedicated Floridians and the tireless efforts of conversation groups, the conservation efforts will continue without roadblocks by private entities. Stand with us in thanking Florida for making the right choice.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Abbott,

Thanks to the efforts of the Florida Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club, Florida no longer has to worry about losing a billion dollars worth of valuable resources to industries who only want to abuse that privilege. If we did not have conservation groups like yours fighting the good fight, who knows what would happen to our priceless heritage and resources?

Florida is an essential stitch in the tapestry of ecological diversity we have crafted here in the United States, if we do not protect this tapestry then the very values of America are at stake. We were built with respect for our beautiful ecology and it’s environmental decisions like this that allow us to continue respecting these ecologies. We thank you for your hard work.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Donkey Hotey

Stop Mutilation of Alligators in Florida

Target: Bo Rivard, Commissioner of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Goal: Stop alligator mutilation and strengthen protection of the species.

A rash of alligator killings is being investigated in Tampa, Florida, following the discovery of many decapitated, tail-less alligator corpses on the side of a highway. The most likely cause of their deaths is poaching. The tails may have been taken for their meat and the heads as trophies by hunters. A pair of investigations is currently ongoing.

It is a felony to harm alligators in Florida. The species has long been poached for both its meat and its hide, as alligator purses, shoes, and belts have been popular in the past. It was only in 1973 that alligators were legally declared endangered. Unfortunately, the law has not stopped hunters and poachers, and this current wave of alligator slaughter is proof. Not only is the unknown culprit breaking an important law, but they are taking the lives of innocent animals. Alligators are an important part of Florida’s ecosystem and heritage.

We must not only support these investigations, but ensure that the culprits face justice as soon as they are caught. Additionally, we must call for stronger protection laws to ensure that no more alligators meet such a fate. Sign this petition to put a stop to these horrible mutilations.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Commissioner Rivard,

The decapitated, tail-less corpses of several alligators have been found on the side of a Tampa highway recently, despite the laws of your state forbidding any harm toward an alligator due to their status as endangered. Though the investigations have yet to turn up any clues as to who the culprit is, it is all too possible that hunters and poachers are seeing fit to break the law for their own benefits.

You must tighten the regulations regarding the treatment of this species. Too many endangered species are under attack recently, despite every effort to keep them safe, and alligators are an important part of Florida’s ecosystem and heritage. Additionally, the culprits must face justice as soon as they are found, so that no more alligators will suffer such horrific fates.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Gareth Rasberry

Protect Loggerhead Turtles from Microplastic Pollution

Target: Rick Scott, Governor of Florida

Goal: Expand microbead ban in Florida to protect species that live along the Gulf of Mexico, such as the loggerhead turtle.

Unseen pollution on the beaches along the Gulf of Mexico endangers wildlife such as the loggerhead turtle. Tiny bits of plastic pollution called microplastics are barely noticeable to humans but can significantly impact species that use these beaches, such as loggerhead turtles, who lay their eggs there. Florida needs to reduce this plastic pollution through enforcement of existing laws and the expansion of the Obama administration’s microbead ban in order to protect this wildlife.

Microplastic pollution, made of bits of plastic smaller than 5 mm, is caused by the use of tiny bits of plastic called microbeads in consumer products such as exfoliants and wash-off cosmetics. President Obama banned microbeads by executive order in 2015, which went into effect mid-2017, but this has not been enough. Microbeads can still be used in some products such as leave-on cosmetics and detergents and still find their way into the ocean and onto the beaches. These plastics are nearly impossible to remove from the wastewater stream through conventional treatment. This pollution can impact wildlife directly by accidental digestion or more insidiously by secondary impacts such as through the deposition of these nearly invisible plastics on beaches.

Loggerhead turtles lay eggs in the sands along the Gulf of Mexico and are significantly impacted by this microplastic pollution. Gender determination in loggerhead turtles is largely dependent on the temperature of the sand in which they develop. Plastic holds heat and causes greater temperature increases in the sand compared to moderate fluctuations in air temperature. Scientists have discovered in some cases of extreme plastic pollution that 99% of turtle hatchlings are female. This heat retention is causing dangerous impacts to the turtle populations and their abilities to reproduce, and scientists simply do not yet know the extent of these impacts.

The microbead ban has not tangibly reduced microplastics pollution. Several more loggerhead turtle breeding seasons could take place before the effects of the ban are seen, and even then more microbeads will have entered the environment through their continued use due to loopholes in the ban. By that time, significant changes could occur in the loggerhead turtle populations. Florida needs to expand this ban to cover all products with microbeads before it is too late. Sign the petition to encourage Florida’s governor to take the existing microbead ban further and institute real change to protect this sensitive turtle.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Governor Scott,

Microplastic pollution is impacting loggerhead turtle populations that use Florida’s beaches to lay their eggs. This pollution is caused by the use of microbeads in consumer products that were not included in the 2015 ban by the Obama administration. This ban should be expanded to include all microbeads, especially in areas where impacts to sensitive populations could occur, such as along the Gulf of Mexico.

Loggerhead turtles who lay their eggs in the sand along these beaches are greatly impacted by microplastic pollution. The microbeads hold heat, unduly increasing the sand temperature compared to changes in ambient temperature. The temperature of the sand impacts the gender determination of the turtles, in some cases resulting in groups of eggs hatching that are nearly 99% female. Scientist do not yet know the extent of the impacts, only that microplastics have been found at every breeding site examined and are the likely culprit of the significant gender skewing in the turtle population. These microbeads are nearly impossible to remove from water using conventional wastewater treatment techniques, so a ban on the use of microbeads in all consumer products is critical to reducing this pollution.

Please, enact a more stringent microbead ban in Florida to include all microbeads. It is crucial to the loggerhead turtles’ survival that they be able to lay their eggs on clean beaches. Don’t wait until it is too late.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Hillebrand Steve, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Don’t Allow Rising Sea Levels to Destroy the Everglades

Target: Rick Scott, Governor of Florida

Goal: Take measures to protect the Florida Everglades against climate change and reduce carbon emissions.

The mangroves that make up a large area of southern Florida, including the renowned Everglades National Park, are making a quick retreat as rising sea levels swallow up more of the coastline each year. Scientists predict that in as little as 30 years, the mangroves will have been pushed back as far as they can go before running into man made obstacles, such as levees.

Sea levels have been on the rise in Florida and other low-lying coastal areas around the world due to climate change. Areas that were once wetlands are increasingly being replaced by open water. This includes the iconic Florida Everglades, one of the state’s most popular natural attractions and home to a vast array of wildlife. If the mangroves disappear, it is likely that many species will go with itincluding alligators, crocodiles, manatees and the endangered Florida panther.

While the current outlook for the Everglades seems grim, there are steps that Florida can take to counteract its slow demise. Please sign the petition below to demand that the governor of Florida commit to protecting this treasured ecosystem from destruction through habitat restoration and reducing the state’s carbon emissions.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Governor Scott,

Researchers have found that Florida’s mangroves are rapidly receding from the coastline due to rising sea levels across the southern section of the state. This includes the so-called ‘sea of grass’ wilderness in the beloved Everglades, which could disappear entirely in as little as 30 years.

Numerous studies have shown a strong link between carbon emissions, such as those from gas or coal, and the global climate change that is behind this phenomenon. Although Florida is not solely responsible for causing this problem, it is imperative that your state government do what it can to reduce fossil fuel consumption and emissions. We, the undersigned, urge you to support cleaner energy alternatives and to work to restore the Everglades and other mangrove habitats so that these natural treasures and their many wild inhabitants have a chance to survive.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Chauncey Davis

Help Conservationists Save Endangered Florida Panther from Imminent Extinction

Target: Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator for Florida

Goal: Provide much-needed funding to important organization dedicated to preserving the Florida Panther.

Approximately 180 Florida Panthers are left on Earth— a number that is quickly diminishing. These beautiful animals are going to go extinct if we don’t do anything to stop it. The Land and Water Conservation Fund has preserved millions of acres in an effort to protect Florida Panthers from extinction, but in order to keep the Florida Panther alive, they need funding.

Without funding, the Florida Panther will go extinct and humans are to blame. If Congress refuses to fund this program, then habitats like the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge & Conservation Area and Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge will shut down and there will be dire consequences for these beautiful animals. Programs such as these are essential for the welfare of many animals. Demand that these programs are fully-funded, and the Florida Panther is saved from extinction.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Senator Rubio,

The Florida Panther is on the verge of extinction. With only 180 left in existence, action needs to be taken in order to protect this beautiful species. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is willing to put in the work to save these animals, but funding needs to be provided.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped provide clean water and conserve natural resources for more than 50 years. They have the dedication— all they need is the funding. Please provide full funding for this wonderful program so that the Land and Water Conservation can provide a safe space for the Florida Panther to thrive.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service

Save One of the World’s Rarest Trees

Target: Adam H. Putnam, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture

Goal: Allocate more resources to research in order to help save the endangered Florida torreya.

The Florida torreya is the most endangered conifer in North America due to climate change and a fungal pathogen. In the hopes of saving the species, scientists are now using gene-editing to help plant trees that are resistant to the disease. Organizations are attempting to revive the Florida torreya, with more than 800 specimens in gardens, preserving genetic diversity to restore the species in their natural habitat later on. Another method used is assisted migration, where the trees are moved to a more favorable climate. While the Florida torreya once covered vast stretches of land, today, only 0.22 percent of its former population lives.

A fungal pathogen introduced from China during World War II is responsible for the tree’s decline. This is not the first species of tree that has suffered greatly from fungal pathogens, but this time, with the help of biotechnology, scientists are able to single out genes that will help fight off the pathogen, creating a new generation of trees. The process is tedious and technical, but it provides a new hope for conservationists.

Environmentalists and scientists grapple with the question of whether or not to save the torreya, which has a limited range and little commercial value; this can be an opportunity to instill environmental stewardship values. Commercial value should not determine whether an endangered species should be saved. Saving this species will help save others facing extinction and will help determine our attitude towards conservation. Sign the petition below to urge the Florida Forest Service to allocate more resources to helping save the Florida torreya.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Putnam,

The Florida torreya is an endangered tree species that is suffering from a fungal pathogen introduced back in World War II. While the species once flourished in Florida, now only 0.22 percent of its population remains. Scientists are cultivating sprouts in various gardens and laboratories across the country in the hopes of restoring its population in the wild. Advances in biotechnology have allowed experts and volunteers to extract fungal pathogen-resistant genes and create a stronger group of trees. Furthermore, conservationists have been performing assisted migration, where they help a species relocate to more favorable climates and circumstances. For the torreya, this means moving up north. Without further action, however, the tree could become extinct within the next 50 years.

Several other trees in the area suffer from the same problems, and massive tree population declines in the West mirror the Florida torreya’s fate. This period in the Earth’s lifetime is characterized by massive die-offs not just of trees, but of many plant species. Many people feel conflicted about how to or if they should determine whether or not an endangered species should be saved. I argue that a species should not be saved based on its commercial value, or anything else.

A species should be saved on the basis that it has a place in an ecosystem, and that we are stewards of the environment more than we are owners of it. I hope that you allocate more funds to research for gene editing in order to save the Florida torreya and many other species like it. Without the Florida Forest Service’s support, the Florida torreya will become extinct in 50 years; this is a critical time where scientists, conservationists, and governments need to act together to achieve a common goal.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons