FWC urged to call for review of Cape Sable seaside sparrow plan

TALLAHASSEE — At the July 23 meeting of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, members of the public asked FWC to encourage the governor to go to the Council on Environmental Quality and request a review of the policy that keeps some water control structures under the Tamiami Trail closed nine months of the year to protect the nesting grounds of the Cape Sable seaside sparrow (CSSS).

Daniel Watson said he is concerned about the single species management of the CSSS.

“Throughout the various meetings I attend, there is a constant cry for restoring the Everglades to its natural state,” he said.

The change in hydrology and level of time for high water levels has had detrimental effects on other species, he said. The high water levels north of the Tamiami Trail have increased the mortality rate of fawns, he said.

Ron Bergeron, who is a member of the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board and was a Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission member, added his support to the calls to send more water south under the Tamiami Trail.

He said SFWMD and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are about to finish the structures to allow more water to flow south under the Tamiami Trail. He said the raised bridging and culverts will provide the capacity to allow 1.5 million acre-feet of water to flow under the Tamiami Trail naturally.

“With all these new tools in our toolbox, this has given us the opportunity to equalize water levels,” he continued. Letting more water flow under the trail will save the seagrass in Florida Bay and stop the drowning of the animals in the Central Everglades, he continued.

“When there is three and half feet of water in the Central Everglades, it is not a wetland, it’s a reservoir,” he said.

“A wading bird does not have a three and a half foot leg,” Bergeron added.

He said they need to manage the system for all of the species, noting there are about 70 other endangered species involved.

“We need to work with U.S. Fish and Wildlife to do everything possible for Cape Sable seaside sparrow, but not alter the natural sheetflow,” he said.

“If you want to take care of the wildlife in the future, have to take care of the environment and the wildlife will take care of themselves,” said Bergeron.

“We need to take greater consideration of the damage caused to our Water Conservation Areas (WCAs) and the issues caused upstream by holding water back,” said Richard Martinez of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. “We need to send the water south.”

This year the wood storks did not do well during their nesting season, he continued. “I wonder what would have happened if more water had been allowed to go south.”

Mike Collins said he is a retired fishing guide and former member of the SFWMD Governing Board.

“On the first day I was sworn in as a member of the governing board in 1999, they rolled out the management plan to deal with CSSS,” he said. “My concern that day is what has come to pass, that they would devastate Florida Bay.”

Putting water in Taylor Slough will help Florida Bay, he said.

“For the past 20 years, myself and a whole bunch of other people have requested the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service take up a review of the detrimental effects of the management regime for CSSS,” he added.

Newton Cook of United Waterfowlers Florida said he has been watching the CSSS issues since 2002.

“I have watched this bird destroy the Everglades,” he said, adding the Central Everglades is just as much part of the Everglades as Everglades National Park.

“I have watched the bird destroy the lake.

“I have watched the bird destroy the Caloosahatchee.

“I have watched the bird destroy the St. Lucie.

“As long as that water is not allowed to flow south naturally, the Everglades will never be restored,” he said, “and we will continue to destroy hundreds of those of acres of good wetlands and who knows how many creatures.”

Mike Melton, hunter and fisherman who lives in Miami-Dade County, said he spends a lot of his time in the Everglades.

“As a result of that single species management for the sparrow, it’s drowning out the small islands, the deer and the other native flora and fauna,” he said.

“I have personally witnessed decline of wildlife north of the trail,” said Ray Rosher.

“These are serious, serious problems I have seen with my own eyes,” he continued.

On June 22, the Miccosukee Tribe made a formal request asking the Council on Environmental Quality to review the policy on the sparrow. It seems like decisions made for Everglades Restoration seem to omit the concerns of the Miccosukee Tribe, said Mike Elfenbein.

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