Blog Archives

Keeping It Wild

Keeping It Wild

December 7, 2016  |  Ear to the Sand, Uncategorized

What exactly is wilderness? What are we fighting for on Cumberland Island and other wild places across the country? David Cole, Doug Scott, Ed Zahniser, Roger Kaye, George Nickas, and Kevin Proescholdt offer a powerful answer in the December 2017 issue of Wilderness Guardian published by Wilderness Watch, a national organization dedicated to protecting the ecological integrity and wilderness character of the U.S. Wilderness system. An excerpt appears below:

Wilderness character is fundamentally about wildness. It should be defined as the degree to which wilderness is free from deliberate human modification, control, and manipulation of a character and scope that hampers the free play of natural ecological processes.

Protecting wilderness character is about ensuring that wilderness remains untrammeled and undeveloped, without human occupation or domination. We do so by not allowing developments or manipulating wilderness ecosystems to any significant degree.

Manipulations where the intent is more to remove evidence of humans than to intervene in ecological processes, such as restoration of an impacted campsite, are not a concern. Actions that seek to modify wilderness ecosystems significantly, such as a program of herbicide spraying or prescribed fire, are much harder to justify because they degrade wilderness character.

We are not alone in believing that wildness is the central quality of wilderness character. In 1953, Howard Zahniser wrote, “We must remember always that the essential quality of the wilderness is its wildness.” In that same paragraph, Zahniser stated: “we must not only protect the wilderness from commercial exploitation. We must also see that we do not ourselves destroy its wilderness character in our own management programs.”

More recently, Jack Turner wrote that “if we fail to incorporate wildness into what we mean by wilderness we simply define wilderness out of existence.”

Doug Scott, in an article on wilderness character and the Wilderness Act, states that it is the word untrammeled that defines “the wilderness character (that) it is the duty of conservationists and land managers to protect,” a perspective repeated by Proescholdt. Howard Zahniser’s son, Ed, concluded an article on wilderness character with the statement “The wilderness character of designated wilderness is its wildness.

In 1963, Howard Zahniser discussed the stewardship implications of protecting wildness in an editorial that took issue with the Department of Interior’s Leopold Report on wildlife management in national parks. The report recommended that national parks be actively managed to restore their condition at the time they were first visited by white men, to present “a vignette of primitive America.” Zahniser wrote that “… the board’s report poses a serious threat to the wilderness within the national park system and indeed the wilderness concept itself.” It “… is certainly in contrast with the wilderness philosophy of protecting areas at their boundaries and trying to let natural forces operate within the wilderness untrammeled by man.” He concluded the editorial:

“With regard to areas of wilderness, we should be guardians not gardeners.”

Read the entire article at wildernesswatch.org.

Sample Letter: Stop the Subdivision

Sample Letter: Stop the Subdivision

November 21, 2016  |  Ear to the Sand

For those interested in opposing the proposed subdivision on Cumberland Island, here is a sample letter. Comments must be received by December 7:

Dear Mr. Landon and the Camden County Planning and Development Team,

Please encourage the Camden County Planning and Development Board to reject the proposed special exemption variance requested for the Rose/Warren property on Cumberland Island.
The proposed 10-lot subdivision is completely inappropriate for the sandy, rutted Main Road and the property’s location, less than a quarter-mile from the Cumberland Island Visitor Center and main dock.
Construction of a subdivision so close to the headquarters of Cumberland Island National Seashore and its 50,000 annual visitors will be detrimental to visitation, tourism, viewsheds, watersheds, and the sensitive ecology of Cumberland Island.
Rare and endangered species are located n the island and could be affected by a 10-lot development and construction.
It would also be visible to all visitors to the national seashore and affect viewsheds and watersheds on the south end of the island.
Cumberland Island is a global biosphere reserve.  A 10-lot development in the heart of the visitor experience will detract from the beauty and serenity that visitors seek when planning trips to Cumberland.
Arriving on Cumberland Island National Seashore to find a 10-lot development right next to the visitor center will discourage visitors and damage both the island and the visitors’ experience.
Cumberland Island’s founding legislation mandated that the island gradually evolve into a wilder, less developed national seashore as retained rights expire. Allowing a 10-lot subdivision would be a violation of Congressional will and the public trust.
Thank you for considering these concerns.
Sincerely,
URGENT: Stop the Subdivision on Cumberland

URGENT: Stop the Subdivision on Cumberland

November 17, 2016  |  Ear to the Sand, Uncategorized

An island family is proposing to build a new 10-lot subdivision less than a quarter-mile from Sea Camp on Cumberland Island. The land is owned by heirs who did not sell their property to the National Park Service. As a result, they own the land outright as a private inholding within Cumberland Island National Seashore.

The developers have requested a special exemption variance from the county planning and development board. You can comment on the variance by contacting Camden County’s Director of Planning and Development at elandon@co.camden.ga.us

The county requires that all subdivisions be fronted by a paved road. The Main Road on Cumberland is unpaved. The developers are requesting a special exemption from this requirement so that their 10-lot subdivision can proceed.

This is the only opportunity for the public to comment on the proposed subdivision. Comments must be received by December 7.

An excerpt of the letter announcing the subdivision developer’s proposal and request for a special exemption variance appears below:

RE: Special Exception Variance #ZV2016-07

To Whom It May Concern:

Glenn Warren requests a Hardship Variance from the requirements of the Camden County Unified Development Code (UDC) Sec. 501(b)(3), to allow a 10 lot split with unpaved road frontage. The request is to allow subdivision of the property into 10 lots fronting on Main Road, an unpaved road, since there are no paved streets on Cumberland Island. The Camden County Tax Map shows the property as Tax Parcel 181 006 and located in the C-P, Conservation Preservation Zoning District with access via Main Road. Lumar, LLC is shown as the owner.

A public hearing on the special exemption variance is scheduled for December 7 at 6 p.m. in Kingsland, Ga. If you are unable to attend the meeting and would like to comment, or have any questions, please feel free to contact Eric Landon at (912)729-5603 / elandon@co.camden.ga.us

More Wilderness Mismanagement

More Wilderness Mismanagement

November 8, 2016  |  Ear to the Sand, Uncategorized

Hurricane Matthew pruned and removed weakened tree from the island forest, leaving the Main Road impassable by a vehicle. The Park Service imported fire crews from all over the country to help clear the debris and open the road. In 2004, Greyfield solicited a corrupted congressman to remove the Main Road, north end, and beach from Wilderness designation. Chainsaws could then legally be used in those areas. The Park Service also used chainsaws on hiking trails within the Wilderness. This is in direct violation of the Wilderness Act.

Use of motorized equipment in the Wilderness is a recurring example of mis-management of the island Wilderness by the National Park Service, since the Wilderness was established in 1982. WildCumberland has made numerous requests regarding island Wilderness management, but to no avail.   Please help WildCumberland effect proper Wilderness management by sending your comments and concerns to: Gary Ingram, Superintendent, Cumberland Island National Seashore (Gary_Ingram@nps.gov), with a copy to the NPS Southeast Regional Office (Darrell_Echols@nps.gov).

 

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The Hard Truth About Horses

The Hard Truth About Horses

August 10, 2016  |  Ear to the Sand

The Hard Truth about Horses

The beloved horses of Cumberland Island are starving and suffering. Using contraception to humanely reduce their numbers is the best long-term solution.

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A Sticky Situation for Feral Horses

A Sticky Situation for Feral Horses

July 1, 2016  |  Ear to the Sand

This photo from Brickhill Marsh on the north end of Cumberland shows a feral horse stuck in the marsh.

Horses on Cumberland Island often get stuck in the marsh mud and starve or drown. They wander out during low tide to graze on marsh grasses, and they often sink in mud and cannot escape.

For the health of the island and especially the horses, the National Park Service needs to address the feral horse issue immediately.

Another dead foal

Another dead foal

June 16, 2016  |  Ear to the Sand

This dead foal carcass was found recently near Stafford on Cumberland Island.  Many of the island’s feral horses are starving, disease-infested, and suffering. Contraception is the best solution for the long-term health of the horses and the island.

 

WILL THEY SURVIVE?

WILL THEY SURVIVE?

May 27, 2016  |  Ear to the Sand

These horses were observed at Stafford Field on Cumberland Island last week.

The beloved horses of Cumberland Island are starving and suffering. Using contraception to humanely reduce their numbers is the best long-term solution.

Horses are domestic animals deeply entwined with human history, and they have earned a prominent spot in human hearts. One aspect of this human-horse relationship is our tendency to project onto these beloved creatures our love for freedom, picturing them living an idyllic life “running free.” This image comes with an assumption that horses “set free” will adapt to their new conditions, thrive, and be happy. We assume they will have a better life. But few of us see the actual hardships in the life of a feral horse in unfamiliar terrain.

Modern horses are grassland animals. They’re not built to thrive on islands. As a result, their carcasses are piling up in greater numbers on Cumberland Island, a national seashore along the Georgia coast.

Visitors imagine that the animals are enjoying happier lives living free on a forested island, but most island visitors see only a glimpse of the life of island horses. They do not observe the struggles of equine life in this hostile island environment, nor the outcomes, since the National Park Service quickly removes dead or injured animals from sight. Turning loose the horses on Cumberland is similar to turning one’s pet dog loose in a forest and expecting it to fare well.

On Cumberland, feral mares are often impregnated at age one, long before they are fully mature. Their health quickly deteriorates, especially when food supplies are sparse, which they frequently are on barrier islands.

In addition, foal mortality is high, and environmental hazards are many. Flowing manes and long-haired tails are potentially deadly in vine-tangled forests, where the horses are often snared and held until death. The open, level expanses of salt marsh are inviting to equines, but the weight of a horse is distributed on four small points, which offer little support in soft mud. Once a horse sinks belly-deep in mud, escape is unlikely, but the tide is inevitable. Many have drowned, held fast by the mud.

And there are predators. Island horses are killed by alligators, as well as venomous snakes, and encephalitis-bearing mosquitoes. In reality, life is hard and survival is a challenge for the horses living on Cumberland Island.

Not only are the horses living a hard life, but many animals native to Cumberland suffer from the presence of feral livestock, as do the natural island ecosystems. Much of the island horse’s diet is composed of Spanish moss, which would otherwise hang to the ground, providing food and habitat for native animals. One look at the amount of horse manure on the island gives an idea of the enormity of their impact on the vegetation and water quality, and thus the ecosystems.

Preferring open areas to hazardous forest habitat, and always in search of food, horses frequent the beach and dunes to forage and escape biting flies. There they graze and trample grasses necessary to stabilize the dunes, such as sea oats. Sea oats help hold the sand dunes in place, with their deep network of roots and ability to continue growing if buried. Grazing compromises this natural protection of the shoreline and also violates state law.

It is time for us to thoughtfully address the presence of feral horses on Cumberland Island, taking into account their welfare and that of the island ecosystems. Local businesses see the horses as attracting tourist dollars. Others still have an emotional attachment to having horses on the island, without understanding the situation. Are we guilty of simply projecting our romantic notions onto suffering animals?

Recently, the National Park Service expressed an interest in non-lethally eliminating feral horses on the island. Using contraception, it is both possible and feasible through non-lethal methods, to allow the present horses to live out their lives on the island, without reproduction, thereby preventing future suffering and ecosystem degradation. In the long-term, using contraception to reduce the number of horses on Cumberland is what’s best for the horses and the island.

 

 

Spaceport launch path

Spaceport launch path

March 15, 2016  |  Ear to the Sand

What will happen if Spaceport Camden is approved? Steve Weinkle created this powerful visual to show the impact and dangers it would pose to Cumberland and the surrounding area.