Houses or Habitats? It’s the same everywhere

As I drove home from visiting one of my favourite wildlife hotspots yesterday I felt decidedly depressed. With the economy downturn in the USA, and tourism practically non-existent at the moment, my wildlife hotspot may end up as houses and shopping malls.

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Polka-dot wasp moth – Syntomeida epilais

Crane Point Nature Centre is right in the middle of built up Marathon, a town of about 10,200 people (about the same as Corfe Mullen in Dorset where I live) half way down the Florida Keys. The area was saved from development back in the 1950’s by a couple who built their house there and wanted to keep the rest of the 63 acres as a nature reserve and protect the fragile habitats. However, by the 1970’s it was again under threat until in 1989 the Florida Keys Land Trust bought the land and in doing so saved:-

“this unique piece of Florida from scheduled development as a complex of private homes and a shopping mall. Crane Point is undisputedly an ecological and cultural treasure and is now the largest and most important property owned by the Trust. Sheltered amidst its tropical forest are numerous rare and endangered species as well as unique archaeological and historical riches. The 63 acres is home to a large thatch palm hammock, a hardwood hammock, a mangrove forest, tidal lagoons, wetland ponds and the fauna that is associated with these various ecosystems.”  (text taken from their website)

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Gulf fritillary – Agraulis vanillae

From the description above you can probably tell why I love Crane Point. So why is it now on the verge of going bust and ending up in the hands of developers? Basically it’s all about money (and the lack of it) plus, it seems, a lack of public commitment to protect it.

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5ft long Southern Black Racer – Coluber constrictor priapus

I’ve done a bit of digging on the internet and strangely I can’t find anything in the United States that compares to our Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), which give our small and large areas of conservation in the UK a degree of legal protection.

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Another Southern Black Racer – much smaller basking on a log

I hope I’m wrong but it seems like (other than the big areas like The Everglades, Yosemite and other State Parks) small areas of land in private ownership don’t have much protection.

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I’d love to know what this is… a wasp?

Talking to someone who works at Crane Point I was also very disappointed to hear that it isn’t supported by local volunteers from the community.  At home in Dorset I know that the Dorset Wildlife Trust has over 1000 volunteers on their books, prepared to help out with scrub clearing, office work and delivering newsletters. I’ve started to realise that this isn’t the case in the Florida Keys.

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Very similar to the one above…. but not quite.
Seemed to be taking nutrients from the soil

That doesn’t mean that no one cares. I’ve met people who volunteer for wildlife projects in the Keys, people who are passionate about protecting their wildlife, but they seem to be fighting a losing battle and don’t have enough public opinion on their side.

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This amazing web (and spider) were on a cactus. Orb Spider of some kind?

I guess at home we feel that every field, every wood, every stream is important in our “small” island country. Here there is so much land that no one has ever really had to worry too much about “habitats”. Even The Everglades are under immense pressure from pollution, deforestation and massive over development nearby.

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A bee (which?) – I hope to get better pictures of these critters!

Since we have been coming to the Florida Keys (probably 6 years now) we have witnessed enormous destruction of habitats and development on a scale you wouldn’t believe.

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And another…

So who is doing something about it? The simple answer is I just don’t know. I’ve been thinking about Crane Point since I visited it the other day and took these photos. On previous visits I’ve watched ospreys nesting, woodpeckers and birds high in the palms.

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I should be able to ID this but just can’t find it in the Florida insect lists
I think it’s a wasp?

OK, some of these creatures can move to different areas but some can’t. Some are so rare and depend on such specific “rare” habitats that they can’t just be “moved” or move themselves.

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I think this is a honey bee

It’s often the small, unnoticed things that are most at risk. The bees, ants, wasps, spiders and rare plants. I guess that’s why I’ve tried to photograph them so much this time.

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These black bumbles (?) are enormous – but I can’t ID it at the moment

I’m hoping that next time we return to the Keys Crane Point will still be here, kids will be visiting it’s education centre and people will be strolling around the nature trails enjoying the wildlife.

I have to admit I’m worried and not optimistic. I really hope I’m wrong.

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A Turkey Buzzard sits on an old Osprey Nest – will the Ospreys be able to return?

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~ by Jane on November 10, 2008.

13 Responses to “Houses or Habitats? It’s the same everywhere”

  1. To lose such a place would be a tragedy! It seems truly to be the same everywhere. I just wish I had any idea of what could be done about it all.

  2. Hi Dragonstar. I quite agree. It really made me realise how lucky I am at home in the UK that there is such great support for nature conservation. Jane

  3. Careful, or you’ll find yourself becoming a wildlife champion in the Keys as well as at home! There must be something similar to the Wildlife Trusts as I can’t believe there are not people in Florida with the same zeal for conservation as we have at home. The weather is obviously ok for the insects, not like our wet and cold at the moment. Chris

  4. Found Wildlife FOundation of Florida nd Florida Wildlife Federation – but they don’t seem to be on the same line as our wildlife trusts. Chris

  5. Hey, you’re meant to be on holiday! It’s a difficult question to answer Jane especially if you’re dipping in and out of a country and don’t have that familiarity with the various government organisations and NGOs. I’m not being very helpful here, but maybe if you find one person with a passion – you could try the Archibald Research Centre at Lake Placid (I think), we have a friend there Hilary Swainson

  6. ps Hilary is the director there I believe. She could be useful

  7. Hi Jane,
    Not surprised you feel low. I suggest you try to track down a fantastic guy called Edward O. Wilson, who has been heralded as a “New Darwin”. At the time of the most recent book of his that I have (2002) “The future of Life” (ISBN 0316 64853 1), he was Pellegrino University Research professor and Honorary Curator in Entomology of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard. His liflong specialism (and love) is ants.
    No dedication at the start of the book but the following quotation:
    “In the end, our society will be defined not only by what we create, but by what we refuse to destroy”. Joahn C. Sawhill (1936-2000), president, The NAture Conservancy 1990-2000.

  8. Hey Sis. Don’t worry no chance of that… although it is a sad to see it in such a state. Still the wildlife goes on without our help.. it’s just a question of whether people will allow it to stay (and that comes down to money). It will be interesting to see what Obama does with conservation/climate change problems in the USA. Jane x

  9. Thanks Paula. Thanks for Hilary’s name. I will check out the Archibald Research Centre. As you say, it’s a bit unfair me dipping in and out of a country without all the facts, all I know is that every year we come to the Keys more and more of the native habitat disappears under new development.

  10. Hi Hilly. Another name I will need to look up. Edward O Wilson sounds an interesting guy. Plenty of ants here… in fact I got eaten alive by some the other day when I sat on a nest by mistake! Jane x

  11. Many private lands are at the whim of the owner or the people who are willing to donate the money to support the preservation. The Keys…well, it is at capacity already, IMO. Beyond capacity, really.

    As for a ranking per se, I would say that your highest protections would be the national wildlife refuge’s. Some of these have very limited access to the public, no hunting etc. Then national parks, then there are state and national forests which are logged still, but replanted as well. And any species protected in these areas under the endangered species act is still protected.

    I haven’t visited Crane Point and will some day!

  12. Hi Misti. I totally agree… well beyond capacity! Thanks for all the useful information. I hope you manage to visit Crane Point one day (it’s a great place) I’ve really enjoyed my time here discovering all the wildlife again. Jane

  13. […] might remember that I wrote about Crane Point when I was here in November. I try to visit it at least once when we visit the Keys and last time I […]

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