Environment Day Dispatch

Perry Borman
November 27, 2012



By Perry Borman

After a nice breakfast, Monte Lambert and Jack Lansing helped to kick off Environment Day behind the backdrop of Grassy Waters Nature Center. A number of us in Leadership 2013 (the best, most awesome and adventurous class ever) have never been to Grassy Waters. It is amazing that we can live in a community for so long and not even know what is around us.

I had a lot of anxiety about what to wear for Environment Day…since I don’t come from a family of hikers or campers. When someone says, “Let’s go camping,” I immediately start looking for the closest Hyatt.


Everglades Overview

Ann Paton, Marshall Foundation

Susan Sylvester, South Florida Water Management District

Chris Carl, SGP Yacht Services

 “Tragedy of the Commons and Law of Unintended Consequences”


The statement above by Susan Sylvester had everyone buzzing since most of us (ok…maybe it was just me) had no idea what she meant. As it turns out….Tragedy of the Commons:  the basic idea is that if a resource is held in common for use by all, then ultimately that resource will be destroyed. "Freedom in a common brings ruin to all." To avoid the ultimate destruction, we must change our human values and ideas of morality.

The law of unintended consequences is the outgrowth of many theories, but was probably best defined by sociologist Robert K. Merton who described five different ways that actions, particularly those taken on a large scale as by governments, may have unexpected consequences. These “reactions,” may be positive, negative or merely neutral, but they veer off from the intent of the initial action.

Who knew that the primary reservoir and the source of water for West Palm Beach was Grassy Waters Preserve? We heard about the channelization of the water supply over time. A central theme was balance: How to balance flood control vs. water supply vs. water quality vs. social and economic issues. An example of the law of unintended consequences includes people letting their pythons go into the wild and now pythons serve as such an invasive species…truly endangering the ecosystem.


“We don’t allow the Everglades to exist…the Everglades allows us to exist”

Both Susan and Chris Carl made me think how important it is to be passionate about your work. Since 2010, Chris has led an annual 70 mile canoe expedition, through the Everglades.   The expedition, including a team of scientists, naturalists, volunteers and others enabled the team to study what they saw and record it (via cellphones, laptops). The 6ft. tall cattails are a native species but are slowing the flow of water and killing other vegetation due to excess nutrients.


Busch Wildlife Sanctuary

David Hitzig, CEO, Busch Wildlife

Cheryl Wise, Educational Director

This place is cool! How come I’ve lived in South Florida for almost 20 years and have never been here? 

David kicked the session off with a history of how the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary started (from an animal rehabilitation facility in Miami to his backyard in Jupiter Farms to meeting up with Peter Busch from the Annheuser-Busch family). Busch Wildlife pays only $10/year to the Loxahatchee River District for the land. We should all be so lucky to pay that kind of rent. Busch Wildlife Sanctuary provides rehabilitation to thousands of animals every year.

We met Bernie the Bufo (or Cane) Toad. Poison sits behind Bernie’s eyes so be careful not to bite a cane toad. We also met a Possum, which is part of the Marsupial family. The Possum has an 8-10 day gestation period but as David described it’s 125 straight days of nursing.   Possums only live maybe 2-4 years and are native to North America. 


After the possum, we were introduced to an alligator, a striped skunk , a Kingsnake and a Great Horned Owl. Major learning points:

  • If an alligator is chasing you…run faster. Don’t run in a zig-zag since they will just catch up to wherever you are. They move in the water by wiggling their tail.
  • Skunks are mainly nocturnal. They also give off warning signs before they may spritz you with their spray. A ferret is from the same family as a skunk.
  • A favorite food of a Kingsnake is other snakes.They don’t sweat or perspire and they like an air-conditioned environment.
  • The Great-Horned owl only weighs 2.5 lbs. They eat small animals and their favorite food is the skunk. They don’t have a good sense of smell which is probably why the skunk doesn’t taste bad. For obvious reasons, the owl and the skunk were not left alone with each other during the demonstration.


Canoe Trip and Restoration Walk

Patrick Painter, Environmental Resource Manager, City of West Palm Beach

Sam Dorfman, Nature Center Program Coordinator, City of West Palm Beach

“West Palm Beach is 52 square miles.   24 of that is marsh.”

“You can mimic ecosystems, you can’t duplicate systems.”

Listening to Patrick Painter is like listening to a narrator of a National Geographic Special. We heard about Everglades snail kite…perhaps only 600 left on the planet. The current marsh restoration leads to a higher yield of fresh drinking water. Cypress trees are wetland tolerant and the marsh sequesters carbon dioxide (it’s referred to as carbon sinks). The focus on marsh restoration is a long term view…how can we manage the supply of water to get to 2050?

The canoe trip was awesome and we learned much from our guide Sam Dorfman. The water is pristine as we all guided our canoes through the water. Sadly, I left my notebook at the dock so couldn’t write anything down. I was so exhausted by the end of the canoe trip that I forgot pretty much everything Sam said. It’s another excuse to go back to Grassy Waters Preserve.

Environment Day was exceptional!