Fall is upon us. Experienced Floridians can feel the subtle changes in evening temperatures and humidity levels. Living in the northern hemisphere, we see the darkness emerging, bringing with it unique gifts of hibernation and inward growth.

Yet in Florida, this is a time for outward growth and flowering as well. It is a time that invites many of us into our natural communities, as we delight in being outside. Tourism increases during fall and winter in Florida. Our pristine inland lakes, rivers, springs, wetlands, and marshes fill with the sights and sounds of flowers, insects, birds, and manatees, and our state parks, national forests, famous beaches, and other outdoor places overflow with humans enjoying the natural beauty surrounding them.  We are grateful that so many people find a way to enter into the beauty and richness of Florida’s natural systems.

One of the challenges of so many people wanting to experience Florida’s natural beauty is the impact of our ecological footprint. This is especially true of Florida’s extraordinary freshwater springs that Marjorie Stoneman Douglas dubbed “liquid bowls of light.” These extraordinary springs are under extreme duress due to mounting levels of nitrate pollution, excessive groundwater overpumping, and lack of sufficient rainfall.

The protection of the springs’ right to be healthy is CEJ’s priority work. This means sponsoring inspiring programs such as John Moran’s extraordinary photos of Florida springs, as well as writing detailed comment letters to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the St. Johns River Water Management District, urging the implementation of springshed recovery plans and reduced consumptive use permits. We are pleased to join the Friends of the Wekiva River and other organizations and to commit to protecting the integrity and flow of the springs and their springsheds.

As a part of our work we are also providing opportunities for students to visit some of the springs, springsheds, and spring-fed rivers, as nothing is more transformative than seeing the majesty of the springs themselves! In the words of one of our students, Heather Culp, who recently visited Rock Springs,

We viewed the cool bluish-green waters of one of Florida’s most beautiful bodies of water. The rock formations were stunningly beautiful and absolutely timeless. You could . . . see [their] different layers, marked by streaks that darkened as one’s eyes descended to the cavernous openings below. . . .  After moving mechanically from desk to desk, classroom to classroom every day . . . it was wonderful to get lost in nature’s beauty and wonder, to be a part of the land that contains an indescribable form of magic.

Please join us in our healthy springs initiative by participating in the various activities we are hosting. Also check out the work of the Florida Conservation Coalition and its members, or join the Friends of the Wekiva River, or the St. Johns Riverkeeper or other waterkeeper organizations. Of course, financially supporting the work of CEJ as we develop a rights of springs initiative in Florida is always appreciated.

Finally, spend time in your ecosystem and the springshed nearest you. There is nothing as healing as spending time in nature!

Photo by Jane Goddard

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