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EDITORIAL: Fight against ‘green’ dumping on refuge property

By Staff | Feb 25, 2011

Last week, when it was revealed that not only are some local landscaping companies being accused of illegally dumping vegetative waste within the confines of the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, but also some island residents may be dropping off their unwanted “green” debris there as well, it made us stop and wonder.

Why, on a sanctuary island where nearly everyone who has either resided (or even visited) here has strongly advocated for protecting and preserving this special piece of paradise, would anyone want to ruin it?

On a visit to the newly refurbished Calusa Shell Mound Trail, a meandering and heavily canopied boardwalk trail that loops through a historic site, where thousands of years earlier the original inhabitants of the island made their homes, Supervisory Ranger Toni Westland explained that she and her colleagues have discovered evidence of vegetative waste being illegally discarded on refuge property.

Along the one-third mile trail, Westland has seen “green” waste — included potted household plants and yard trimmings — left alongside the boardwalk. She could not fathom why anyone, especially those who proclaim their affinity for Sanibel and preserving nature for current and future generations to enjoy, would do that.

We were wondering the same thing.

Is the problem education? Do people understand that dumping their backyard trimmings — even though it is considered “green” by all accounts — is not only morally wrong, but could potentially damage the surrounding flora and fauna of the refuge?

Are they simply being “cheap,” not wanting to pay a service provider a fee to have their plant and other natural litter removed properly?

Do they not understand that if they are dumping any invasive exotic plant species — including Brazilian pepper, air potato, melaleuca, earleaf acacia, java plum, exotic inkberry, lead tree and bowstring hemp — inside the refuge, it could devastate the native plants that are now thriving within this beautiful preserve?

Or are some folks just being lazy about properly disposing of their yard waste?

The root — no pun intended — of this problem could be none of the above, or all of the above. We tend to think that it’s the latter.

If the dumping of vegetative garbage is allowed to continue unhindered, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the federal government (who oversees all refuge operations) could react with imposing higher fees to access Wildlife Drive, implement inspections of all vehicles passing through “Ding” Darling or — worst of all — eliminate vehicular traffic altogether. Any of these would certainly leave all of us with a lesser wildlife experience.

We implore our readers to spread the word: If you are dumping your yard clippings or unwanted plants within the refuge, or anywhere on Sanibel, please cease doing so immediately. And if you spot anyone engaging in this activity, report it at once to refuge authorities (472-1100), the City of Sanibel (472-3700) or the Sanibel Police Department (472-3111). Do not confront anyone who may be doing this; report the license plate number, make and color of the vehicle and a description of the violator(s), especially if it is a commercial vehicle. Let the authorities deal with them and, hopefully, bring justice to the matter.

— Reporter editorial