Broward Chapter's Progress and Future
by Richard Brownscombe
Note: We hope you come to the Annual Potluck Meeting (above) for the food and to join the conversation, but for those who can't the President's address is printed below. After acknowledging some of the people who have contributed a lot, he talks about what he thinks is important and then invites others to say what they think.
First, tonight we need to celebrate the fact that the Broward Chapter is healthier than it was. Let us look back to 2010 (because I was here then) and compare it with 2017.
- We, the Chapter, found a permanent home at Secret Woods. We thank Molly Taylor, Scott Bryan, Manuel Rodriguez, and other park staff for being so competent and generous. Our rent is free.
- Membership increased from 54 in 2010 to 70 now, a 23% increase. Our longest members are: Barbara and Ted Center 1981, Vanessa Reynolds 1988, Jimmy Hayes 1990, Ingrid Jimrusti 1990, Joni Millan 1990, Tom Hunter 1998, Kristine Stewart 1998, Mark Patterson 1999, Mariana and Eddy Yi 1999, Roderick and Debra Tirrell 1999, and Lu Weber 2000. Linda Eshleman, thank you for your work keeping track of and promoting membership.
- We, the Chapter, maintained a full and free-to-the-public program, meaning ten speakers a year and almost ten field trips. It isn’t easy to consistently secure excellent speakers and trip leaders. Thank you Eddy Yi, Program Chair. Michelle Fiore and the whole Board contributed to this effort. Thank you.
- We made a little improvement to the quality and diversity of plants at sales. Thank you Mariana Yi for helping select and haul plants. We significantly improved public-friendly landscaping information with the Native Landscaping brochure and the online list of 386 “Landscape & Enthusiast Plants Native To Broward”.
- We are doing more outreach. This year to Broward College, City of Wilton Manors, Pembroke Pines, Anne Kolb County Park, The Bush Club, the Citix Corporation, Water Matters Day, Broward Public Library, and a Florida legislative hearing. Thank you to myself and Cornelia McNamara in particular, but also Mariana and others who volunteered. It is hard to know how effective it is, against the effort and many hours. I get a better feel for the public interest. For example, many ask what native ground covers to use as lawn replacement. There is no good written guidance or demonstration garden for local ground covers. It remains uncovered ground and an opportunity.
- Our Chapter’s newsletter audience has grown from 200 in 2010 to 600 people now, up 300%. Michelle Fiore consistently adds the new members and sign-ups and self-sign-up is on the Coontie.org homepage. People can unsubscribe and do, but more people want our newsletter than drop it.
- Tonight we recognize the work of the Board, as we should, because it takes many hundreds of volunteer hours to run the Chapter. There is a lot of unglamorous sausage-making behind the Kielbasa we serve up. But the Board wants me to say that we are well aware of you, our members, your knowledge and work in the community, paid and unpaid. You and all of us collectively are the Chapter and manifest its environmental concerns. You are the Chapter extended into the community and your concerns inform what we do. In a few minutes I’ll give you a chance to say what you think.
- The Chapter has $5,021 in the bank. We spend less than we take in (from memberships, mostly, and plant sales). The Citrix Corporation (where Michelle works) again gave the Chapter $600 from the Earth Day Expo. The Chapter should have reserves for any future period of hardship, at least $2,000, but savings are not otherwise a value to our mission unless we invest it to help native plants and native plant communities. So this year we made a $1,000 conservation grant to Friends of Natural Areas in Broward. Thank you Kay Taylor for keeping track of our money and co-hosting our meetings. Our membership numbers and our money create our capacity to act and accomplish.
Our mission is to “conserve, preserve, or restore the native plants and plant communities in Broward”. We have always done that through public education, meetings and field trips. It’s hard to measure our effect, but I’m pretty sure our information and work for plants would be missed.
We have never been strong on direct action (at least what I know from 2010), for example, to rescue plants or care for natural areas. We did have a good number of volunteers for one invasive removal effort at the Secret Woods this year, much better than before. In the context of global warming and environmental degradation, now is a time for action. Our Florida Native Plant Society President, Catherine Bowman, said at the conference that we need to focus on saving habitat. I remember because I was thinking that, too.
We started something ambitious in Broward. Kris Stewart, our Chapter Conservation Chair, and myself helped found a workgroup of six, Friends of Natural Areas in Broward. The Broward Parks Foundation adopted the workgroup under their 501(c)(3) sponsorship. The purpose of the group is to fund invasive removal work. Because the group is not the County nor any one environmental organization, it has the potential to bring together everyone who cares about natural areas to fight the invasive plant menace. It is critical. We have about five years. Some parks and preserves are degrading rapidly. Go take a look, if you doubt it.
There was no conservation plan for natural areas in Broward. The group asked Linda Briggs and George Gann to write one and they have begun. But they need a researcher and writer to help because they are too busy with other project responsibilities to do all the detailed writing and research. It may take about 3-6 months of work to produce a plan for all natural areas, with priorities, methods, costs, and reference to existing data. If we have to hire someone, that will cost about $20,000. Then we need to convene a community workshop or charrette of organizations and individuals who care, including a few bright, powerful, and affluent people, to chart a way forward to implement the invasive removal plan.
Based on the cost per acre of County invasive renewal work now being done, the work ahead is about $1,000,000. The County budget is $3.7 billion. The seven County workers and their budget for fighting the invasion are far outmatched by the rate of invasive growth. We are losing last populations of rare plants. We are losing habitat. We need the many people and organizations in our County who care to be in one room to face the problem together as a community.
So there is a short summary of our progress as a Chapter and you know what I care about. All of us in this room care about nature. We love our wonderful native plants and wildlife and the sounds, smells, and sunrises. You are the community and should provide guidance. What is next for the Broward Chapter, not just for the Board, but for yourselves and us together? I'd like to hear from you.