The CFX board is having their virtual June meeting tomorrow morning at 9. They are proposing appointing Charles Lee to the Environmental Stewardship Committee. THIS IS NOT GOOD.
Sacrificing the Osceola portion of Split Oak Forest to appease the developers in return for other, inferior land has been his pet project for the past three years. It is the opposite of environmental stewardship.
WE NEED as many of you as possible to DO THE FOLLOWING by 5PM TODAY:
Friends of Split Oak strongly object to the appointment of Charles Lee because of his history of supporting compromise with developers rather than supporting policies that prevent environmental exploitation. He firmly advocates sacrificing a portion of meticulously-conserved preserve for 1500 acres of degraded, unsuitable or detached land, which is a numbers game to appease the developers of this project. For this reason he is deeply distrusted by many in the environmental community. The links below illustrate that this distrust dates back at least 31 years. Appointing him to the Environmental Stewardship Committee would in effect be “putting the fox in charge of the guarding the hen house.”
Our Split Oak Charter Amendment is likely going to pass another significant hurdle tonight @ 5:30pm 💚 Want to do a public comment in support? Please consider it! You must email firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com with a request to speak, they'll respond with an invite to the WebEx meeting. Your concise and well-articulated public comment could provide the impetus an undecided CRC member needs to pass our resolution. Please consider making a 15 second to three minute comment in support. I will be available for tech support. My number is 386.852.2539. You're also welcome to just watch the meeting on Orange TV using this link.
I support this Amendment because the voters have a right to decide what happens to their public land.
This Amendment is very well written and would allow Orange County to protect this Orange County public park currently under threat of development.
I visit Split Oak and the impact of construction anywhere within the park would reduce the currently very high conservation and recreational value the park has.
Split Oak Forest was supposed to be protected 'in perpetuity'. Those protections are still in place and do not have to be removed. State-level loopholes that were added to statute after Split Oak was purchased and restored are being used to justify an unnecessary road to service new suburban sprawl. Our public land should not be targeted in this way.
of Split Oak Forest, Inc. on Friday February 28, 2020 filed a notice of voluntary dismissal “without
prejudice" of their ongoing Sunshine Law lawsuit (Ninth Judicial
Circuit Court Case No. 2018-CA-00152) against Osceola County in order to utilize their resources to
oppose any changes to Split Oak Forest’s protections at the state level. “Without
prejudice” means the suit could be refiled in the future if necessary.
1998, an amendment to Florida’s Constitution to
protect conservation lands was approved by 72 percent of the voters and became enforceable. Article X, Section 18 of the Florida
Constitution prohibits the disposition of conservation lands unless there has
been a determination that the property is no longer needed for that purpose.
“There is a feasible alternate alignment of the Osceola Parkway
Extension that has been optioned by the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX)
that would completely avoid Split Oak Forest. However, this route is more expensive
and CFX has begun to pursue using Split Oak Forest, a public park, for the toll
highway,” says Valerie Anderson, President.
Split Oak Forest was purchased with state funding and is subject to the Florida
Constitution. In a 2015 report, the Florida Fish and Wildlife commission, the
Forest’s managing agency since its creation, stated that none of Split Oak
Forest should be disposed of. The land’s
high value has not changed and all of it is needed for the reasons for which it
was originally acquired, which include wetland and Gopher Tortoise mitigation. The
Wildlife and Environmental Area is also protected by a number of additional conservation
easements held by various governmental agencies. They have not been released
and remain in place protecting the property, as stated in the original
documents, in perpetuity.
Friends of Spit Oak Forest will continue to fight to preserve these lands that
were acquired for conservation and mitigation purposes and have been expertly managed
for endangered species and as a public park for twenty-six years.
on April 10th,
2019 from 1-5pm at Split Oak’s Main Entrance, 12175
Clapp Simms Duda Road, Orlando, FL
NARCOOSSEE- Learn about gopher tortoises and their habitat with hands-on activities: science, arts, native plants, nature walks on the Florida National Scenic Trail at Split Oak Forest. Meet Sheldon, an ambassador gopher tortoise! Events will be taking place all afternoon from 1-5. This event is free and open to the public.
Gopher tortoises were relocated to Split Oak Forest when their homes were destroyed elsewhere in Central Florida to make way for development. Money from the now-defunct gopher tortoise entombment program was also used to purchase Split Oak Forest originally. Split Oak Forest is the perfect place to celebrate these amazing, long-lived herbivores.”
Valerie Anderson, President, Friends of Split Oak Forest
Gopher Tortoise Day increases awareness of this fascinating creature and the need to protect its habitat. Gopher tortoises are listed Threatened by the State of Florida and are experiencing rapid habitat loss. Gopher tortoises are a keystone species of North America’s longleaf pine forest, providing refuge for over 350 other species in their burrow, including native bees. Gopher Tortoise Day, April 10th, was designated by the Gopher Tortoise Council as an annual celebration of gopher tortoises.
two major threats to gopher tortoises are habitat loss due to
development and road mortality, for example, getting hit by cars.
Gopher tortoises require open, dry, sandy upland habitats with
abundant low-growing vegetation such as pine flatwoods, scrub, and
coastal dunes. Split Oak contains all of those habitats except
coastal dunes. Gopher tortoise habitat requires regular and careful
management . Gopher tortoises have coexisted with native plants and
animals of Florida for centuries.
About Friends of Split Oak Forest: Friends of Split Oak was founded in 2018 in response to plans by the Osceola Expressway Authority to build the Osceola Parkway Extension right through Split Oak to serve Tavistock’s Sunbridge development. Friends of Split Oak Forest is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to the health and integrity of Split Oak Forest Wildlife and Environmental Area, which is a 1700-acre conservation area managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Thanks to all of the intrepid citizen scientists tireless documenting (and uploading) their observations, seven new species have been documented for Split Oak in the past two months: three plants, one moth, one mammal, a cicada, and a dragonfly! To see all of the species found in Split Oak by citizen scientists to date, check out the Project.
For 48 hours, from 7pm October 26 through 7pm October 28 we had 26 participants who found 243 species of plants, animals, and fungi in a total of 627 separate observations. Our participants found 60 species completely new to Split Oak Forest and 10 additional species that had been seen by FWC but were not on iNaturalist (please see the Management Plan for their species list). This includes four threatened species: two butterflies, one grass, and one bird species.
Of course, species might continue to trickle in, we have a number of species within the project that have still not been identified to species level. Want to help? Jump in here.
This is less than the 88 new species we found during the Spring BioBlitz, but still good for a park that has been open to the public for 24 years and has already had multiple biological surveys.
Laura Goodding and Species_Spotlight led the pack in discovering new-to-Split Oak species, together finding 27% of our new species.
Species_Spotlight, with his focus on the lakes, found seven new fish species, only two of which were previously known to FWC.
Right behind him is Diane Willis, Ph.D., a grass expert. She found seven new species, including a State-Threatened grass, Florida Jointtail Grass.
Danny Goodding got a spectacular photo of a flying squirrel! He also found five new insect species.
See the species list and breakdown below, for a full species list visit our project's species page:
Lawsuit claims that the
decision was made in violation of Florida’s Sunshine Law
KISSIMMEE- The first hearing for this lawsuit is
scheduled for January 2, 2019, 2:00 pm in the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court, Osceola
County Courthouse, Room 6A in Kissimmee, Florida.
In their most recent filings
with the court, Friends of Split Oak Forest, Speak Up Wekiva and Valerie
Anderson (Plaintiffs) allege that the Osceola County Board of County
Commissioners (Defendant) violated “Florida’s Sunshine Law” when they issued
official support for a major expressway route through Split Oak Forest at the
request of Tavistock Development Company last April.
Plaintiffs contend that
Osceola County officials took action on a proposition before the Board without
allowing the public a fair opportunity to participate in the decision-making
process, in violation of Florida Statutes Chapter 286.0114(2). Plaintiffs
assert that the Board Chairman, Fred Hawkins, Jr.,
intentionally took steps to prevent the public from knowing that the
proposition would be considered for approval at the April 16 meeting.
The Government-in-the-Sunshine Law was
enacted in 1967 and is designed to protect the public’s ability to access
governmental meetings and be heard before decisions are made by elected
officials. “It is important that local governments follow the law so that
citizens can effectively engage with their government,” said Valerie Anderson,
President of Friends of Split Oak Forest and one of the plaintiffs. The Friends
of Split Oak Forest and Speak Up Wekiva have come forward to fight for the
public’s right to be heard.
Background: Osceola County partnered with
Orange County to purchase Split Oak Forest Wildlife and Environmental Area in
1994 using public funding. Use of this type of funding required that the
Counties agree to protect the lands forever (“in perpetuity”) for mitigation
and conservation. The Deed Restrictions pursuant to the Grant Award Agreement,
recorded in April of 1994, state:
“The Project Site shall be
managed only for the conservation, protection and enhancement of natural and
historical resources and for passive, natural resource-based public outdoor
recreation which is compatible with the conservation, protection and
enhancement of the Project Site.”
The original Deed Restrictions
over this property are still in full force and effect. This property is also
protected by various Conservation Easements which have their own set of legal
conditions and limitations according to Florida Statutes.
During the past ten years, Osceola
County, through the Osceola County Expressway Authority, has consistently
favored and approved proposed Osceola Parkway Extension routes that would slash
through Split Oak Forest in violation of the explicit Deed Restrictions, the
clear intent of the original agreements and the public trust.
On April 16, 2018, the Osceola County
Board of County Commissioners voiced their support of an alignment of the
Osceola Parkway Extension through Split Oak Forest. The roadway project is
currently in the process of a Project Development & Engineering Study by
the Central Florida Expressway Authority.
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