island

Creating a Haven for the Creatures of the Florida Keys

 

Taken by: John D. Ivanko/ecopreneuring.biz

Taken by: John D. Ivanko/ecopreneuring.biz

As my family drove our rental car along the unfamiliar Florida highways, I looked out the window. When we arrived where we staying, I got out of the car.  I stood still and the animals popped out. It revealed to me that you have to slow down to truly see nature at it’s fullest. You see more of nature in the middle of a hiking trail, standing still, than driving by.  What really struck me when I got out of the car was the sheer diversity of the plants and animals surrounding me. In the marina behind our rental house, there were pelicans, cormorants, anoles and so much more. It was not only the diversity of animals but also the diversity of plants that amazed me. I saw everything from coconut trees to mangroves (and in the rental next to us they even had a cactus).  Filled with this wonder of the nature surrounding me, I slept that night with my dreams filled with amazing plants and animals. The next morning my parents woke me up and we went out to an island. As we sped our boat out to the island, I looked in the water and I saw nothing. As I looked at the island from a distance, I saw no living animals. But as soon as I got off our boat and slowed down, it was like my vision had changed.  There were pelicans in the mangroves and anoles climbing around and little Sergeant Major fish swimming around the shallows of our island.  I learned from my trip to Florida that to enjoy something to its fullest, you have to slow down.  Just like eating chocolate bars, you slow down to get the deep flavors.

 

Unfortunately, some animals in this amazing ecosystem have problems:

• Turtles

The turtles have problems because a large part of a turtle’s diet is jelly fish. A turtle can very easily mistake a plastic bag for a jelly fish and eat the bag and then have stomach problems and possibly die.

• Cormorants

Cormorants are a small, one-and-a-half-foot tall bird (only slightly larger that a duck) . It waddles along road in search of food.  A hungry cormorant is a determined one. If it spots a fish in a pond across the road, the cormorant will waddle across the road only to be hit by a car.  Since cormorants are so short, drivers can’t see them and accidentally hit them.  I learned a lot about what I know about cormorants from Kelly Grinter, founder of the Marathon Wild Bird Center.

• Gulls

Gulls are a nuisance to fisherman because they eat the bait off of their fishing poles. Some fishermen get mad and throw rocks at the gulls. The stone could cause serious damage. Gulls also swallow hooks and fishing line from fishing poles when they steal the fish.

But there are people and organizations out there that are working to help these poor injured animals.  The Marathon Turtle Hospital is located on Marathon Key in Florida.  They work to help turtles that have been injured in the wild.  They have an operating room, a physical therapy room and even a lab. They save over a hundred turtles every year. Not content with just saving turtles, they also give lots of educational programs to help people understand how to protect turtles.

It’s not just turtles that people are working to help. The Marathon Wild Bird Center is working to help heal injured birds. Kelly Grinter and her volunteer staff are constantly working to help get these injured birds back into the wild.

But you can also help make life a safer place for these animals!  Just doing simple things like picking up trash and using reusable water bottles can save an amazing animal’s life.  If you are a fisherman, and you have broken fishing line, be sure to dispose of the line properly so it does not end up in the water.

If we all work together we can create a safe haven for the amazing creatures of the Florida Keys and animals everywhere!

Liam is eleven years old and lives in Wisconsin. He likes to read books and go on adventures with his friends. He also likes to have fun with his family. Liam enjoys exploring nature, writing about it and, most of all, helping protect it.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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A Sense of Place

By Pam Lazos, Region 3

Ocracoke, a North Carolina barrier island, part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, is truly a mysterious place. Ocracoke’s physical connection to the rest of the world is tenuous: the only way onto the island is by ferry, private boat or private plane. Sure you can take your car, but fill the tank before you go because there’s only one gas station on the island. Once used for subsistence hunting and fishing by the Hatterask Indians, and a favorite haunt of Edward Teach, a/k/a the pirate Blackbeard, most of the island is preserved and wild, a thin, undeveloped strip of land that barely manages to keep its head at five feet above sea level.

The Ocracoke Village, built at the Southern, wider tip of the island, boasts the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the world’s tallest brick lighthouse and a National Historic Landmark. The village is also known for its parasailing, deep sea fishing, jet skiing, a great local music scene, and a beautiful beach, which is home to federally protected or endangered species such as the piping plover, the seabeach amaranth, and sea turtles. You can walk for miles along its shores without seeing a single building, nothing but dunes, sand and sea. There are amenities, yes: hotels, restaurants, shops, all the usual beach town stuff, but utter the word franchise and it’s as if you’re speaking a foreign language. Therein lies the charm: for hundreds of years, Ocracoke has been an outpost run by locals – including pirates – in their own way. While nature is always redrawing the boundaries of this mostly untamed island, its individualistic character remains intact.

My favorite part of the Ocracoke experience is riding our bikes everywhere while the car sits parked in the driveway. We ride for exercise – roundtrip to the ferry and back is almost 30 miles — we ride to the beach, to dinner and shopping. We’re not alone. Everyone’s either on a bike or a golf cart, the favored modes of transportation, or walking. I don’t think that people are consciously making these sustainable choices. Rather, it’s as if the place expects it of you, like you and the island made a pact the minute you got off the ferry: go slow, live fuller moments, slow down and breathe, leave the car. And so we do.

About the author: Pam Lazos is a Senior Assistant Regional Counsel, working in the Water Branch in Region 3.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.