FNRLI Session VI
Protecting Water Quality
Camp Weed
June 24-26, 2004

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Environmental Values – Ethical Issues

We started NRLI Session 6 at a beautiful North Florida retreat housed at an Episcopal camp – Camp Weed (http://www.campweed.org/) where we were to stay for the next two days.  The facilities are modern, but in keeping with the tradition of a retreat atmosphere, no telephones or televisions, five hundred acres and a beautiful lake set the atmosphere for  "The Meeting Place."

The conference center facility is nestled in a lovely relaxed rural setting that only encouraged the excellent camaraderie of our NRLI group.

The Project Team members for this session, in addition to Roy, Burl and Bruce included our resident philosopher, Jeff Burkhardt and Tom Taylor from the Dispute Resolution Center (DRC) in Tallahassee.  Dr. James Cato and Dr. David Mulkey joined us as guests for most of the session.  Dr. Cato is the Director of Florida Sea Grant.  Dr. Mulkey is in the UF Department of Food and Resource Economics.

Professor Burkhardt got us off to a great start with a discussion of “Resource” Ethics.  Historic and cultural positioning of animals within the moral landscape of society has changed over time and from place to place.  This discussion was perfect for the context of our meeting and the coming visits to animal-based farms in the region.  Professor Burkhardt always delivers thought provoking topics that promote lively discussion.  The Animal rights, welfare and Agriculture discussion provided the context for the rest of our three-day session.

The Judicial System and Environmental Issues

Dr. Carriker covered the U.S. judicial system at the District, Circuit and Supreme Court levels.  The role of “common law” and the implementation of public policy as it relates to environmental issues were discussed.

 A thorough examination of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) followed with an emphasis on Section 9, which defines “harm”, and “takings” as applied in the “Sweet Home” case. 

Communication Exercise

As a follow-up to the Jensen session “Lost on the Moon“ exercise, FNRLI’s Burl Long provided us with the opportunity to test our group survival skills.  In Jensen we participated as individuals where survival items were ranked and prioritized. 

(reference courtesy of Session 5 Fellows – www.lebanon.k12.mo.us/lhs/departments/math/mwhitacre/nasat.html)

At Camp Weed we divided into groups where half of the Fellows were to stay with the capsule and the others were to search for the Mother Ship.  Debate, compromise and bargaining were the order of the exercise to determine which materials would be used by which group and to what end for survival.  As some fellows don’t need oxygen, they focused on protective gear and wardrobe. 

Framing the Issue

Although occasionally the Thursday evening sessions can be tough on Fellows who have traveled far, from the moment this presentation began, we were totally energized and focused on Jerry Scarborough, Executive Director of the Suwannee River Water Management District. His rousing description of the District, the people, projects and politics of the area was fascinating. Jerry’s vast and homegrown experience in region lent a special flavor to our introduction to resource issues and conflicts in the Suwannee Valley. With a small but diverse population, his focus is on (1) Priority (Protecting the River), (2) Partnerships (between the public and private sectors, and (3) Passion which is illustrated by his dedication to the Suwannee River Partnership and speaks directly to its success in working with the agricultural community for environmental enhancement of the River and its amazing system of springs.   

The evening concluded with reflection and refreshments on our private lake.

DAY 2:

Day 2 began as most day 2s do, a hearty breakfast to fuel and energize our bodies for an eventful field trip.  Fellows loaded into the vans at PRECISELY 8:00 am and headed for the rurals of Suwannee County, the very soul of the Suwannee River drainage basin, or as some call it, “God’s Country”. Our field-trip host, Glenn Horvath, SRWMD, joined us and led us to three memorable take-a-looks.

 Our first stop was the Shenandoah Dairy, the Henderson’s family-run business.  We were met by Ed Henderson, Carolee’s brother, who gave us a quick introduction as to what we were about to experience.  For many of us, a first detailed visit to a working dairy.  We learned that Shenandoah Dairy has several thousand cows, divided into separate herds.  The individual herds are fed, watered, medicated, milked, etc. according to a precisely crafted schedule that has evolved from science, experience and practicality.

The tour began with a look at the cows in the milking parlor, cows that led themselves into the series of milking stalls and led themselves back out and to the herd’s pasture or in the case of one herd, a covered barn.  The cows are milked three times a day with the help of sophisticated machinery and several farm hands.  The parlor is equipped with a holding tank where the product is eventually pumped into trucks carrying the shiny stainless steel tanks we are accustomed to see on the highways, you know, the ones that advertise “Got Milk”.





We next toured a covered barn where a herd is housed.

We next toured a covered barn where a herd is housed.  Sand makes up the majority of the ground cover.  The stalls are adjacent to a concrete aisle and periodically, water is gushed down the aisle that carries away the waste products.  The solution finds its way to our next stop, an environmentally friendly lined pond that minimizes the nitrates entering the aquifer.  One of the central pieces of the CARES program is the initiative to install these ponds on the area’s farms/ranches.




Touchton Farm produces chickens for the grocery market.

Stop #2 was at the Touchton Farm where we were met by Lynn Touchton.  The farm produces chickens for the grocery market.  Once again, the challenge is to minimize the waste-related nitrates from entering our waters.  Chicken farms have two main waste products, manure and dead chickens.  Historically, waste products have been disposed in a number of ways including on site burying, incineration, spreading on agricultural crops and even by dumping dead birds in abandoned well shafts.  The problem is quite apparent and CARES is assisting farms build structures to minimize the problem.

The focus of this site visit was the “waste barns”. These covered shelters have open sides and concrete floors.  Waste products, including dead birds, are brought to the shelters and composted into a usable fertilizer.  Area farmers and homeowners buy this compost from the Touchton’s for use on their properties.  A negative consequence of the chicken farming industry has been converted into a win-win for the community.

The fellows entered one of the chicken houses where thousands of birds were observed doing what chickens do, eating and *&^#%@!.  We learned that the birds will remain in the “coup” for only 5 to 7 weeks at which time they will be loaded up and delivered to a processing plant. 

Our third stop on the session’s field trip was a quick visit to a SRWMD property.  A short-scenic walk on a boardwalk led us to a spring, a beautiful resource surrounded by a variety of flora.  A variety of wildlife was observed and provided much entertainment.  The frogs at the water’s edge especially intrigued Church.

We arrived to a hearty lunch at Camp Weed right on schedule.  Huge thanks and appreciation to all involved with the field trip, especially Glenn. The time spent on vans were minimal, the sites interesting and the schedule adhered to.  Great planning!!!! 

After the stomach-bulging lunch, Tom Taylor led Carolyn, Carolee, Carl and Marella in a spirited mediation role-play exercise.  Wes, hope you were taking notes, Marella offered several examples of how to lawyer.

A short break was allowed followed by a stakeholder panel discussion moderated, quite expertly, by Bob Heeke.  The panel consisted of Vince Siebold-DEP, Sven Lindskold-Save our Suwannee, Frankie Hall-Florida Farm Bureau, Chuck Edwards-Poultry Growers Association and local farmer and Darrell Smith, Suwannee River Partnership.  The discussion focused on the Suwannee River Partnership that was formed to educate and enlist the public on wise management practices that affect the waters of the basin.  

The discussion centered around the early wins of the Partnership and how a large percentage of chicken and dairy farms have become involved in establishing approved better management practices on their businesses.  Some of these practices include the structures and techniques that we observed during our field trip.  One stakeholder, Save our Suwannee, is not on board with the Partnership.  Although each panelist was genuinely interested in protecting the watershed, Mr. Lindskold explained that his group wanted to see more monitoring and more “regulation” as part of the Partnership practices.  The Partnership is emphasizing influencing philosophies versus regulation to achieve its goal.  The rift has been complicated by a recent lawsuit involving Save our Suwannee.

 The discussion was followed by dinner and a short ride to White Springs where we loaded into canoes for a two-hour canoe ride on the Suwannee River.  Wow, the Suwannee is really special, becoming more and more beautiful as the effects of time work on the river and on our appreciation of this treasure.  Beauty was not to be out-done by fun.  The fellows decided to paddle upstream to a shoal from the launching site.  What followed were accidental(?) collisions, splashing and of course, capsizing.  Those that found their way into the tannic waters included Marella, Jon, Roland, Ann Moore, Carl and Church.  Tom Taylor joined the “wet bunch” by swinging into the historic river on ropes hanging from majestic live oaks along the footprint that snakes through “God’s Country”.

Back at Camp Weed it was time for relaxation and fellowship.   


Deborah Burr, Bob Heeke and Carolee Howe led a hilarious feedback panel acting as cows on a dairy farm. The group's creativity never stops.

Day 3 began with yet another hardy breakfast, followed by an intriguing debriefment of the previous 2 days of activities which was led by FNRLI fellow, Carolyn Saft. Following the debriefing exercise, Dr. Tom Taylor led a discussion regarding the fellows practicum projects. Dr. Taylor informed the group of the expectations for the presentation of the practicum project at the October graduation session. Next the FNRLI fellows were given an opportunity to gather in small groups to discuss the practicum projects and to bounce ideas off of each other. Following the group discussions, the cows really came home! And came home with some feedback on the Camp Weed session!

Following the feedback panel, the majority of the group spent lunch together, while some FNRLI fellows departed early to get on the road toward home.

Camp Weed was another successful FNRLI session.





Special thanks to Bob Heeke, Carolee Howe and the FNRLI staff for making it a success.

Written and edited by:
Roland Garcia
Kim Love
Emily Mott

School of Natural Resources and Environment