On February 9, AIEK held its first 2016 open meeting. There were 20 community members in attendance to hear our 5 speakers on topics ranging from maintaining manatees on our endangered species list to the proposal for a new lignin plant at the Rayonier site.
First up, our board member Coleman Langshaw spoke about the importance of taking Ander Crenshaw’s survey or writing him to keep manatees on the endangered species list. Coleman looked into the wording of “endangered” versus “threatened” and gave the group a tutorial. Reclassification would be a step toward removing the manatee altogether from the protected list, which would cost it much of its legal protection. Threatened means the species can become endangered in the foreseeable future. Endangered means it is in imminent risk of extinction. A business argument to continue their protection would be a hit to tourism — the number of tourists drawn to the state to swim with them, view them in their natural habitat, and tour areas where these gentle giants gather. (Picture credit: visitcitrus.com)
John Baker, a board member of the local Sierra Club, was up next with a plea to all to join Have a Heart – Save Our Parks this Saturday. He talked about the current legislation on bills that would allow hunting, mining and timbering in our parks, along with the sell-off, under certain conditions, of state land bordering private property. In hopes of stopping this legislation in the Senate, Sierra Club will host a gathering at the entrance to Fort Clinch on Atlantic Boulevard this Saturday, February 13, at 1:00 PM. Posters and other information will be available to those who can take a few minutes to meet up with the group.
Margaret Kirkland, one of the founders of the Amelia Tree Conservancy, spoke about the group’s input to the City and County Commissions on tree ordinances. Their goal is to have volunteer specialists who can bring current knowledge on environmental planning to the area. They are also offering to help fund an arborist in the city along with a commission group to consult with the City on tree conservancy. Look for their upcoming fundraiser at St. Peter’s Church this April.
Instrumental in Amelia Island’s bike paths, Phil Scanlon spoke to the group about Adult Bikes for Barnabas, a great service that provides bikes for adults in our community who need transportation to jobs. The group has provided over 220 refurbished bikes in the past 3 years. Contact Phil at (904) 206-3334 for more information. Next Phil spoke about his work, with local resident Ann Thomas, on the revisions of the Ocean Highway Port Authority charter and master plan. He led a group of local citizens asking for 10 changes including removal of any plan to build an oil refinery, barging (transportation) of coal, building of fumigation plants, limiting truck traffic at the Port’s peak level, no storage of LNG, limitation on the size of cruise ships, no fertilizer transportation, no wetland damage, and fixing the calculations within the document of the projected profit/loss which essentially calculate out to a loss – not profit. Four of the items have not yet be rewritten to reflect the agreement with the group but Phil has a meeting with one of the Commissioners to review those things.
Faith Ross was the last speaker of the evening. Her presentation, Hard Questions, Hard Choices, gave the group much food for thought on the recent filing of a building permit by Rayonier for a joint venture with Borregaard called LignoTech. While lignin is a benign fiber found in woody plants, there are many questions about the process that will be used to extract it from the “syrup” by-product of Rayonier processes to whatever it will become at LignoTech. How will it affect our air quality? How much water will be depleted from our aquifer for the process? Will anything be injected back into our acquifer? All good questions that are awaiting answers. Faith noted that our Commissioners want to hear from us so write or call them. Also, think about attending Rayonier’s Open House this Friday, February 12, at 3 PM at the plant. View Ms. Ross’s presentation at Lignin_Presentation.
Thanks to all for such a great meeting. Look for announcements on AIEK’s upcoming events.