02-13-21_The Gulf Coast and Hope

Consistently on our journey from South Dakota through Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida we saw numerous Trump signs.  Even when we hit the Gulf of Mexico this did not change until we hit the big city, landing in St. Petersburg.  However, one thing did change once we hit the coast that gave me a little hope. We began to see signs of humans that are actually concerned about the environment and in particular, the wildlife. Private citizen groups, non-profits and municipalities at every level seem to be taking measures to educate the public and make amends to some of the human destruction that we’ve caused particularly to the ocean environment.

Starting with Gulf Shores on the coast of Alabama, where the beaches are pristine white is where we began to see “No dogs on the Beach” signs, not even if they are on a leash!  Here I learned that the Alabama Dept. of Natural Resources, Marine Division have created manmade reefs called “Circalittoral Reef”.  These manmade reefs are made of concrete and limestone discs or modules that are anchored into the seabed with pilings. They encourages the renewal of close shore marine life such as sponges, barnacles, urchins, crabs and many types of fishes.  The sign encouraged people to report if they found fishing line, ropes, nets which they call “fouling” if they are unable to safely remove it.  Additionally there was a hot line number to report dead sea turtles or ones that get entrapped by the reef complex.   According to another sign at Grayton Beach, these artificial reefs modules are conducive to marine invertebrate growth as the limestone used is composed of natural ancient seabed materials.

In Keaton Beach, there was a sign on the fishing pier for the Sturgeon hotline if you caught one or found one dead. Apparently this species of fish are endangered. There was a separate hotline to report hooked sea turtles, sawfish and dolphins and gave fisherman tips how to avoid accidentally hooking these species.

Another sign in the park talked about the importance of wetlands. In the US, we are losing 2% per year of our nations’ wetlands which amounts to about 290,000 acres to agriculture, development, mining and other manmade activities.

All beaches have ropes and signs protecting the fragile sand dunes.

And in local parks we saw city ordinances prohibiting the pursuit, catching, molesting, or killing of wildlife or disturbing nests or dens. Fish were the only exception.  There was still a fair amount of trash, particularly at Crescent Lake in St. Petersburg, but even here they have a solution. Something called a “Watergoat”, a netting system that catches trash that washes in through storm drains and surrounding neighborhood streets.

Although our human habits and perpetual growth still outweigh the negative impacts to the environment and wildlife, I am glad at least to see that some people are making efforts to correct or at least decrease our impact.

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