Do You Have A Conservation Area In Your Backyard? Talk To Your OC-EPD Environmental Specialist
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For over a decade, I’ve been so busy with work and caring for my parents (father with Parkinson) that the conservation area in our back yard was left completely on its own, growing unhindered. Due to my father’s Parkinson condition, I’ve done much research into this condition and found that environmental factors such as long term exposure to household cleaning products, pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides are significant contributing factors to Parkinson and various neurodegenerative disorders. So, to reduce the amount of exposures to herbicides, we’ve opted to let our conservation area to grow wild.
As a result, the wonderful scents and variety of colors of birds, butterflies, insects in this area are simply marvelously exuberant!
But such exuberance have started to encroach upon our backyard, beyond the conservation border. When we first moved into our house, there was an 8′ wide path to the shoreline from border of our conservation area, now mostly covered and we no longer have access to the lake. So,
ten years after my father’s passing and one and half years after the passing of my mother, I’ve begun to apply for the permit(s) to try to thin out the part of our conservation area where a wall of vines, leaves, and branches completely blocked the view of the lake and to rid of the grape vines that are negatively impacting the health of some of the cypress trees along the shore. After the last hurricane, we’ve discovered that a dead cypress tree had fallen into the lake behind our conservation area and
I wondered if the fallen tree need to be removed (which was later proven unnecessary). I’ve learned much from this permit application process, some points shared below, for the benefit of some of our readers in Orange County with conservation area in their backyard:
- Any kind of vegetation removal or water activities involving conservation area require permits: most often from Orange County-EPD (Environmental Protection Division) as well as FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission), with some exceptions: at FWC’s website, with regard to aquatic plants or activities, there are some that are exempted from permitting from FWC (for example, activities involving privately owned lakes of less than 160 acres are exempted from permitting with FWC, listed under 68F-20.0035 Waters or Activities Exempt from Permitting (<–click):
- To become familiar with Florida state rules and regulations, please click HERE.
- Before starting any projects in the conservation area, be sure to call OC-EPD (Orange County-Environmental Protection Division) at 407-836-1400 and ask to speak to an Environmental Specialist to inquire about the necessity and environmental impact of your project(s) and peruse through Lakefront Homeowner’s Guide for information.
- Due to COVID-19, various Orange County’s Lakeshore & Wetland Impact Permits are now available via OC Fast Track.
- Normally there is site inspection regarding these projects, but due to COVID-19, it would be very helpful to submit photos and/or video regarding the site pertinent for the project when talking to the Environmental Specialist.
- In my case, it saved me a lot of headache and money to find out that it is not necessary for me to remove a dead cypress tree from our lakeshore, according to OC-EPD Environmental Specialist Edward Rysak (in italics, below):
“Typically we only allow removal of dead cypress trees or other native trees if it has the potential to cause damage to property, a navigational hazard, etc. because as you probably know, dead snags still provide excellent habitat for wildlife (for example – some woodpecker species rely on dead snags to make their nests because the wood is easier to drill through and many raptor species such as osprey use these to perch for hunting; many species of fish use these for spawning and hunting also not to mention turtles for sun basking). And submerged cypress trees will last for many years (sometimes 100 years or more) and not decompose, thusly providing a continued wildlife support for a long time.“
If the tree is not completely submerged, we typically ask that they ‘top’ the tree to a height of 15-20 feet or so to maintain wildlife habitat, instead of removing the whole tree. Once ecologically valuable old cypress trees are gone they can never be replaced.
As a matter of fact, I found out that tree removal on private properties not in conservation area also require permit. Policies differ from state to state, please click HERE. For tree removal on developed property of Orange County in Florida, please refer to THIS. For tree removal on undeveloped property of Orange County in Florida, please refer to THIS.
- OC-EPD is more concerned about the conservation/preservation of the lakefront rather than expecting residents to rid of all or majority of the invasive plants.
- To get a list of Orange County’s licensed contractors, surveyors, etc., please contact Orange County-EPD. Due to my reservation about herbicides, it took me a while to find a contractor that would do manual removal. But they are there.
- Finally, there seems to be much concern about potential weeds along the shoreline (such as pondweed, eelgrass, algae, or hydrilla). But upon further reading or research, I found out that hydrilla, though an invasive species in Florida that even out-competing native pondweed and eelgrass, is a superfood full of calcium, magnesium, iron, and vitamin B-12. Personally I eat algae and seaweed on a regular basis to obtain iodine. If we can help human to realize that hydrilla is a form of superfood, hydrilla will no longer need to be considered as an invasive plant but a source of nutrient vanishing quickly from our lakes and oceans. So instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars each year (as New York State did) to try to eradicate these hydrilla and algae, and ending up developing herbicide resistant hydrilla (such as fluridone-resistant hydrilla), polluting our lakes with more herbicides and increasing the chance of red tides in our ocean, we should harvest and simply EAT IT! As it turned out, pondweed, eelgrass, algae, hydrilla are all edible. As our soil content becomes more depleted of minerals and vitamins, we need to learn to obtain/extract nutrients or minerals and vitamins from our lakes and oceans. In addition to consuming these shoreline weeds, home owners may consider utilizing floating solar panels to prevent the growth of these shoreline weeds while cooling the water body and generating power to be used on lakeshore. Using floating solar panels may also reduce much of our red tide problems in Florida ocean by reducing harmful algal blooms.
*In the final analysis, talk to Orange County-Environmental Protection Division Environmental Specialist (via: 407-836-1400) before starting any of your waterfront projects.
*To find Orange County-EPD (Environmental Protection Division), go to https://www.ocfl.net/ and hover over RESIDENTS to find Environment
* Our OC-EPD will help you to protect your shoreline, to prevent erosion, and to improve our environmental conditions here in Florida.
Gathered, written, and posted by Windermere Sun-Susan Sun Nunamaker
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