Sunset over a cypress dome swamp at Split Oak Forest in SE Orlando
I want to use this opportunity to provide awareness of an impending deal that will destroy a portion of this park and bisect it.
The Osceola Expressway Authority wants to pave a toll road extension through the middle of this park in anticipation of (i.e., not even built yet...) a large metropolis east of Orlando. Split Oak is home to a number of threatened and endangered species including a large number of recently relocated gopher tortoises. The land itself has been actively maintained by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for the last ~25 years who has been successfully restoring ecosystems in the park that were once used for turpentine and cattle operations. Some of these ecosystems, especially scrub areas, can take a long time to return to an ecologically functional state. The park also functions as a part of a natural corridor that connects to south Florida and facilitates the movement of many species through the state. With the growth rate of Florida's population and the incredible urban sprawl, corridors like these will be crucial in promoting healthy biodiversity and survival of Florida's flora and fauna.
Split Oak also functions as a mitigation bank. These are areas in which land is set aside for conservation when land is destroyed elsewhere for development. The Osceola Expressway Authority is offering to add some more land nearby to the mitigation bank to make up for the land they're taking out of the middle of the park. The very act of destroying land that was already set aside because land was destroyed elsewhere suggests that no land is really safe from development and that the promise of a bit more land set aside nearby is a truly empty promise. On top of that, the additional land would take years, if not decades to restore to natural conditions.
The disdain that entities like Osceola Expressway Authority exhibit for conservation and preservation of natural resources is truly despicable and demonstrates that ultimately the only thing that matters is money. We have a right and a duty to conserve the nature we have left.
Just received an email of the official birth plan for this pretty mama and I think it’s starting to hit me how close we’re getting to meeting this baby boy! // I’m so thankful they’re choosing to have me capture these sweet moments as they meet their baby for the very first time. // see you soon, little man. #levijmyers