Table of Contents
The St. Marys River Basin project is one of the projects under NEPA and is one of the best- protected projects in Okefenokee. The river is 125 miles long that forms the northeastern boundary between Georgia and Florida and it links two potential acknowledged ecological zones within the area. The river basin has been ranked the best conserved project amongst the river producing quality water in the United States. The river basin is approximately occupies 1,300 square mile river basin that empties its waters into the Cumberland Island National Seashore in the Atlantic Ocean. The river basin is located inside Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, which was established under presidential Order in 1937. The Wild Refuge is approximately 401,000 acres in size. The earlier encroachment into the river by human activities has resulted in many species in the area becoming extinct. The river has been known to produce quality water because it is well preserved river basin in the U.S (Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 2009).
The St. Marys River Basin project is owned by the federal government of the U.S. run and managed by Okefenokee Wilderness and the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. The two firms, among others are establishing sound conservation plan that will make sure that the river basin is utilized sustainable and that the continuation of the biodiversity and ecosystem is not destroyed for the purpose of the future generations. The river basin serves as a significant passageway for recreational, commercial, and naval vessels.
St. Marys Watershed has temperate climatic conditions with mild winter and very hot summers. The annual rainfall of the region is between 40-52 inches annually. The watershed has temperatures of approximately 69 degrees Fahrenheit.
The river basin created more over a thousand years ago situated in exclusive geologic diverse region resulted to an extraordinary distinctively poised biodiversity. It is assumed to have been once a larger section of the ocean, however, with time, the variation between the two developed and the river basin is at present situated more 100 feet above sea level. The floor-bed of the river basin is sandy and saucer-shaped, which is supposed to be a result of its close relationship with the ocean. The swamp has great differences in elevation which offers it a exceptional diversity in ecosystem biomes and poses at the same time a noteworthy test for stratifying the area in consistent tracts of land for the purpose of tourist movements (George & Batzer, 2007).
The main component of the swamp is primarily swamp forest. There are great number of small lakes and ponds that are approximated to be 50 islands that are illuminated with sand. The swamp is potential source for two key rivers, St. Mary River, which empties its waters into the Atlantic Ocean, and Suwannee River which empties its water into the Gulf of Mexico. There is a smaller number short stream that empties its waters into the swamp mainly from the North western side. Some of the regions here are completely under forest are occupied with marsh. This, thus, develops very distinctive and makes the swamp very significant tourist-feature in the United States.
Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, which is located in South-Eastern Georgia, was established in 1937, is a one of the environmental success story in the United States under National Environmental Act (NEPA). The refuge is situated in 401,000 acres of land where approximately 90% of which has promoted protection of the area as a National Wilderness Area.
NEPA, which was established in 1969, is a law in United States that deals with the environment, which established U.S. national environmental policy that promotes environment protection and enhancement through sound policies and enactments. Through NEPA regulations St. Marys Watershed has continued to provide quality water thus benefiting many communities. The policy was put in place to make sure that that the ecosystems remained sound despite the rising threats of poor exploitation and management. The Act was aimed at reducing indefensible exploitation. NEPA was established as a result of 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill to promote appreciation of environment, which is a key resource in the world. The appreciation was also aimed at addressing growing concerns regarding wildlife and ecological well-being. NEPA has been equated to the present day famous environmental statues of an “Environmental Magna Carta” (George & Batzer, 2007).
In April to July 2007, fire, partly started by lightening made a shocking loss to the swamp, which led to death of many organisms and damage property worth millions. After the fire, no sufficient actions were taken to make sure that that such an incidence is barred in the future. Putting up of lightning arrestors within the swamp will serve as the best least approach that the caretakers ought to put in place to curb future occurrence of lightening. The smoke that originated from fire was the main pollutant and was reported noticeable from hundreds of kilometers away (George & Batzer, 2007).
This affected both fauns and flora in the swamp as it reduced visibility and polluted air. In April 2011, a larger disaster, the Honey Prairie wildfire, burned the Okefenokee Swamp which had been left dry by an extensive famine that hit the region. The Prairie wildfire resulted to death of many animals and organisms within the swamp. Evidently the Federal Government is not undertaking sufficient steps to avert forest fires in the swamp. If the tendency is left to persist, the Okefenokee Swamp might be a thing of the past (Hall, 2008).
Description of Ecological Context
The St. Marys River Basin is a large tourist attraction center ,which attract both domestic and foreign tourists who come to sample a lot of members of fauna in the swamp that contain a great diversity of fascinating mammals, birds, and reptiles. The river basin has also emerged to be a home to some of the nearly all fascinating flora- insectivorous plants. The St. Marys River Basin, on the other hand, is adjacent to the wilderness, which is wetland that measures 155 square miles. The river basin has its sources at the ocean, has water volume up to some kilometers deep of waterlogged peat.
As a result of diverse ecosystems in the swamp, there are various organisms present in the river basin thus giving swamp a unique environment (George & Batzer, 2007). The pinelands present in the swamp are forefront reliant which have developed very extraordinary mosaic of flora composition in the swamp. The aquatic vegetation present in the swamp and in the fresh water march comprise of Nymphaea odorata, Utricularia sp., Orontium aquaticum, Nymphoides aquaticum Woodwardia virginica, Nymphoides aquaticum., Nymphaea odorata, Orontium aquaticum, Panicum hemitomon,Woodwardia virginica, Panicum hemitomon, and Nuphar luteum. P. elliotii and Pinus palustris, are the most dominant species of aquatic vegetation found in the islands.
The uplands forests which are close to the swamplands where the prevailing species include Liquidambar styraciflua, Pinus spp and Quercus spp. The forest vegetation comprise of sylvatica, Gordonia lasianthus, Taxodium distichum, Nyssa Fraxinus profunda, T. ascendens , Magnolia virginiana and Persea palustris (George & Batzer, 2007).
Separately, from flora composition, the river beds diverse composition of fauna comprises of costal vertebrates. There is great number of varied species of animals that entail over 66 reptiles, 36 fishes, 233 bird species, 48 mammal species, and 37 amphibians. The migrating birds in the swamp are mainly seen during winter and they include and Aythya collaris and A. crecca, Anas platyrhynchos. Resident birds comprise of Eudocimus albus, Grus canadensis, Ardea Herodias, Casmerodius albus, and Anhinga anhinga.Some of the mammals in the river are Odocoileus virginianus and Euarctos americanus. The river basin is well known for sustaining a great number Alligator mississippiensis in the United Sates (George & Batzer, 2007).
Description of Socioeconomic Context
The increasing population has resulted to pressure on these lands, which have resulted to recovery of swamps and other regions that were of great significance into farmlands that result to loss of the biodiversity. Swamps, for example, have had very many implications that cannot be gained from any form land. Such responsibilities played by the swamps, amongst others, include: mining, pollution control, source of key rivers, control of floods, ground water recharge, acting as gene banks, and biodiversity conversion (Palmer & Wright, 2006).
With the increasing economic demands in the world ,that is constantly mounting pressure on many nations, the conserved organisms in various ecosystems particularly in the swamps have resulted to increased for various governments, organizations, and that protect them to attempt and develop an approach to generate substantial revenue from this organisms present in the swamps. The most dominant method to tap these opportunity is through tourism. The unique species of the organisms found in these swamps serves to attract many people, which will bring income in return as a result of tourists visiting these sites to watch the rare species. This will also improve the lives of the people living around the swamp since they will benefit from employment opportunities presented by the swamps, which serve as tourist’s sites (Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 2009).
These, in turn, have a very sustainable strategy that has enabled government to generate income through eco-tourism that is used to conserve these regions that need environmental protection. Conversely, in the event of conserving these areas, it emerges to be devastated as they seemingly become attractive sites. The infrastructure development in these areas has negatively impacted on the biodiversity and the natural ecosystem in the swamps. The infrastructure interferes with natural setting of the ecosystem thus disturbing the existence of various organisms in the ecosystem (Palmer & Wright, 2006).
In addition, the process of developing infrastructure in these areas would influence organisms to change their behaviors and the tourists or other groups visiting the river cannot get real ecosystem setting because of the interference. The entire process has posed great challenges to lives in the river, therefore, the involvement by other stakeholders who have keen interest in the conservation and preservation of biodiversity than revenue that is produced is needed to salvage the challenge before it gets out of hands.
Nevertheless, the environmental pollution is so severe that it can not be retrieved with the funds gained from the mining activities, as a result, a lasting damage that can only heal in nature would be created, which include deep depressions that leaves the environment ugly and prone to collapse. All these gains can be accrued from swamps are lost for generations and might never be re-obtained. Some of organisms are killed during the mining process because the intrusion might even become extinct, an incident that can not be restored at any cost. One of the significant rivers that the America government, through utilization of NEPA policies and resources, is to defend and maintain from encroachment from human activities is the St. Marys River Basin (Hall, 2008).
The river basin is also used for fishing, conservation of nature, hunting and general recreation. In addition, a lot of conservation education campaigns and strategies are undertaken in the area which has assisted the public to be aware of matters related natural of any swamp. This has greatly increased and promoted strategies that are geared towards conservation efforts in other sides of United States. In the event, substantial public knowledge concerning conservation has increased considerably.
Description of Evaluation Criteria
Assessment is an important process in implementing and promoting strategies that are aimed at enhancing an ecosystem (George & Batzer, 2007). The evaluation process is an eye-opener that will assist the management makes sound and sustainable strategies towards implementation of the project. An assessment was undertaken by the Armadillo Environmental Consultants. Armadillo Environmental Consultants is a company, which deals with management of polluted water, land, and waste management resources, environmental management and sustenance, energy conservation, environmental impact evaluation, and climate change assessment. The following is the report on the assessment of natural resource management practices and protocols of South-Eastern Georgia (George & Batzer, 2007).
The St. Marys River Basin is harbored by a conservancy various agencies, which consists of the Okefenokee wilderness the Okefenokee Swamp, and the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. The conservancy is situated in a wetland and is basically owned by the U.S. government (George & Batzer, 2007). The government, consequently, has a moral and legal responsibility to guard the Okefenokee Swamp from unfavorable effects that such riparian and wetlands regions that serve as a substantial NPS abatement purpose and uphold this role while preserving the other preexisting roles of these wetlands as generated and computed by indices such as surface and ground water hydrology, composition and vegetative cover, species composition and substrate geochemistry.
With current rate, the wilderness will serve its role and last the present generation. Though, with shifting weather patterns, climate change, and malfunction aspect to replace the old trees. It is, thus, essential that every year a good number of environmental friendly and long-term plants be planted in the wilderness thus preserving the environment (Cohen, 2011). The pest and fire control undertaken in the wilderness are reasonable and have made sure that the wilderness remains vigorous and remarkable environmental aspect in the entire world. Continuous fire management policies and strategies are crucial for the very continued existence of the wilderness. The security apparatus charged with the role of guarding the wilderness are also satisfactory as no issues to do with crime have ever been reported in the wilderness, which makes these, to be one of the secure places for tourists from all over the world. This value continues to draw many tourists and visitors into the area, therefore, promoting the social standing of the wilderness (Hall, 2008).
The reality that the wilderness is managed by National Park service also becomes a potential weakness. With no game to observe in the wilderness and not permissible infrastructural growth, very little finances are allocated for the development and expansion of both wilderness and the facilities that promote environmental protection. This is a fault because the wilderness has to remain eye-catching to attract more tourists hence more revenue to promote environmental projects and policies. New plants must frequently be planted in the wilderness to replace the dead ones thus ensuring continuous protection of the environment. Cleaning and maintaining the wilderness from the garbage and litter dumped and thrown all over by the hikers will as well require financial boost up (George & Batzer, 2007).
Description of Alternative Management Scenarios
Timber Management Project
A Timber Management Plan for St. Marys River Basin was started in 1951. In 1960, a plan was finished for conservation and management of the river basin that provides quality water to the population. During this era, Fish and Wildlife Service aims focused upon entity group species or species, managing their numbers or trying to generate habitation to profit those species. With stress on species, the significance of the individual communities that fit jointly to create up an ecosystem was not wholly acknowledged. Within the southeastern coastal plain, source managers did not comprehend the significance of longleaf pine communities, their fire dependence, or their connection with the wildlife species that are modified to and reliant upon them. Therefore, forest management frequently intended replacing an old stand with some new, strong, well-stocked stand; subsequent to the stand was planted; it was controlled to produce circumstances for the featured wildlife species. The pressure from increasing populace and slow restoration of natural resources have resulted to various organisms in different ecosystem to compete for the fewer resources found in these particular ecosystems. St. Marys River Basin in Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, which is located in South-Eastern Georgia, was established in 1937, is a one of the environmental success story in the United States under National Environmental Act (NEPA). The refuge is situated in 401,000 acres of land where approximately 90% of which has promoted protection of the area as a National Wilderness Area. The component of the swamp is majorly a swamp forest with biodiversity, which has been protected by the management (George & Batzer, 2007).
Today, many governments and environmental bodies are struggling hard to sustain and maintain the recommended 10% global forest cover, which serve as carbons sinks hence minimizing the effects of global warming currently posing threat to the natural resources ,particularly, forests. The increasing forest cover in the world, though, integrated with ever-increasing interference with the natural ecosystems, the rate of buildup of carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere is constantly rising resulting to total climate change. There is need to develop to develop more policies that will curb environmental challenges that threatens the life on many organisms in the ecosystems. There is need for more policies and strategies that will make sure that the available few resources are sustainably and effectively used presently to guarantee the coming generations a sustainable environment that will support their lives adequately (Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 2009).
As a result of the rising need for the protection and preserving of natural environments particularly ecosystems, the United States authorities and other worldwide environmental forums have established and sound environmental policies that must make sure that the limited resource use is sustainable. There have numerous campaigns in the United States that aim at ensuring that the ecosystems are protected for the benefit of the future generations and other organisms in a given ecosystem. Amongst the American policies and strategies is the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) which was established and became operational in 1969 (Palmer & Wright, 2006).
The report will study a successful environment management project that has been successful in the United States. The St. Marys River Basin , which is situated in South-Eastern Georgia, was established in 1937 has emerged to be one of the key projects that has shown how effective environmental policies in establishing environment sustaining projects in a particular ecosystem (George & Batzer, 2007).
Flood Plain Management
Floodplain management in Florida is administered by NEPA and by storm water regulations under the SJRWMD. The management district needs that there is no let loss of storage space in the 10-year floodplain. This fundamentally needs that there are no structures constructed in the floodplain or if there are facilities constructed in the floodplain they should be raised on pilings. The100-year floodplain structure is needed to be above the height of the 100-year flood. This is universally attained via the utilization of clean fill heaps on which homes are constructed. Nevertheless, this technology concedes the role of the floodplain, as it limits the quantity of water storage on the land and pushes water on to other areas. The authorities through the help of NEPA authorities have ensured that these management plans are observed to the later for the sake of environment.
Training and Funding
The federal government has heavily funded St. Marys River Basin project in Okefenokee area. The government has invested heavily in this project because of the benefits that the project has brought to the government. The project has adequate facilities and personnel to ensure all the operations in the ecosystems runs as expected and both the long-term and short-term objectives are met in a cost-effective manner. The government has also funded research and development to ensure that there is sound policies that will enable the project to benefit the country. Research undertaken out of the river are environmental and geological studies of the river basin, research on endangered species and the impacts of the bordering land utilization to the swamp.
The management has also trained its employees and adjacent communities on importance of conservation and wildlife production in the area and other parts of the United States. The management of the conservation project offer expands program offerings, seminars, workshops, activities, and exhibits used to educate and improve wildlife viewing ethics and skills (George & Batzer, 2007). This will significantly improve the conservation strategies and how wildlife is handled by the local community.
The management of St. Marys River Basin in Okefenokee has expanded environmental education and training to a versatile curriculum-based plan for use on and off the sanctuary to increase public responsiveness and appreciative of the refuge’s natural ecosystem, the human impacts on the river ecology, the wilderness attitude and concepts, and to instigate action among national, international, and local education categories and individuals on behalf of the Fish and Wildlife Service, the sanctuary, and the ecology. This will instill skills that will ensure the conservation efforts within the area are boosted. The management has also trained the local community on issues of risk management. Hence, both the employees and other stakeholders have the necessary knowledge and skills to deal and respond effectively to disasters (Cohen, 2011). The management has also developed affiliation with the city of Folkston in the organization and coordination of programs provided by the Okefenokee Education and Research Center and utilizing sanctuary infrastructure for environmental training and education to support the rationale/objectives of minimizing river pollution and the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Land has become one of the most affected resources by the ever-rising population in the world. Because it is a limited resource in the world, different people and various nations have slowly started to gradually encroached and cleared protected land for purpose of settling on these lands. Such land was perceived as significant natural resources and undertook a very vital responsibility in the regulation and protection of the environment. The initiative and approach assisted in maintaining the natural cycle stable, which resulted in preservation and promotion of the existing ecosystems. Nations, government agencies, organizations, individuals have become aware that forests as ecosystem play a key role in sustaining life and for both economic and social functions in the world. This has compelled these groups to enact and promote sound environmental policies that will result to sustainable environment that will promote life (George & Batzer, 2007).
The St. Marys watershed has a high prospective for producing ecosystem services comprising proviso of habitat for a vast variety of wildlife such as the black bear and sea turtles. In the watershed, there are infrequent, endangered, and threatened species that require or will soon require protection. Two species are predominantly representative in this area black bear and turtles. There are approximated six endangered turtles in inlet, and nearby ocean waters. These turtle utilize the coastal beaches at Cumberland Sound and the bay beaches as breeding grounds (Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 2009). The Florida Black Bear utilizes the huge forested areas and adjacent rivers as it habitation. The St. Marys watershed preserves a significant segment of the greenbelt offering this habitat. The watershed management authorities have laid down strategies that will see the management sound and modern management strategies to deals with aspects of pollution that has threatened to disturb the ecosystem. Through NEPA regulations they have been significant strategies that have the watershed provide clean and quality water in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
Forest management practices meant to protect and preserve forest resources need to be promoted in order to provide sustainable environment. The government being the owners of the Okefenokee Swamp, need to enact policies and strategies that will promote practices that promote forest preservation and conservation practice (Cohen, 2011). The government has to set aside more funds that will be used to promote environmental practice, particularly forest resources (Hall, 2008). There is need for more resources that will be used to promote the security issues of St. Marys Watershed. St. Marys River Basin need to put up of lightning arrestors within the swamp will serve as the best least approach that the caretakers ought to put in place to curb future occurrence of lightening. This will serve in promoting policies and practices that are aimed at protecting the environment.
The forest management and forest departments should develop risk management policies strategies that will avert disasters, which include pests, diseases, and fires. These disasters destroy potential forests and conservation projects that are geared towards environment protection. Therefore, it will be significant for the management to create response strategies that will be employed to avert such risks destroying huge forests. The risk management strategies are vital for responding to fires, which has already in different forests (Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 2009).
The management team should develop reasonable evaluation methods that will be employed in ascertain implementation and progress that are involved in environmental practices and protocols (Cohen, 2011). The evaluation benchmarks will enable the management and other stakeholders make sound decisions that are geared to environmental conversation measures and strategies.
Forest resources are fundamental in supporting human life and organisms in their natural setting. Effective environmental practices, serves as the best tools, which can be used to enhance both social and economic aspects of life. Many governments, individuals, and organizations have realized the significance of natural resources, particularly forest as essential aspect for economic growth. However, environment conservation has been impacted by many challenges, which include: encroachment of human activities such as hunting and poaching, farming, mining, and destruction from fries and lightening. These challenges have led to decrease in land under forest. Rapid increase in human population has been another key challenge to efforts directed towards environmental conservation. Inadequate compensation from the benefits accrued from forests as an ecosystem has resulted to forest degradation and deforestation, in most instances, with severe social and environmental impacts. Equally, revenue from forests, when suitably designed, results to regeneration and preservation of forest resources. The ever-rising climate change and human population changes, several organisms in the ecosystem face the threat because many of these organisms depend wholly on forests for their survival. This can, thus, indicate that the majority of the organisms and environmental parameters that exit currently may become destroyed and potential generations could never see them during their lifetime (Hall, 2008).
NEPA act, which established in 1969, has the main role of protecting environment against any form of exploitation or misuse. NEPA, which deals with the environment issues, was established as U.S. is national environmental policy that promotes environment protection and enhancement through sound policies and enactments. There are successful projects in the United States and one of this is St. Marys River Basin, which was established in 1937 and is owned by the federal state. The project has emerged to be one of the key projects that has shown how efficient and effective environmental policies in, which enhance environment promoting and sustaining projects in a particular ecosystem. The swamp as an environmental project is one of the important swamps that the America government, through utilization of NEPA policies and resources, is to secure and maintain from encroachment from human activities is the St. Marys River Basin (Hall, 2008).
The evaluation practice in forest management is a significant process in implementing and promoting strategies that focus at promoting conservation efforts of a given ecosystem. The assessment process is an eye-opener that will help the management to make sound and sustainable environmental strategies towards implementation of the project.