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NFC: Eulogy to a ditch

Eulogy to a DitchEulogy to a Ditch
Robert Rice
robertrice at juno_com
It is a small insignificant ditch 100 or so yards long and at its widest
maybe a 
foot or so. It empties it's insignificance into the Santa Rosa sound.
It's head 
is a small stockpot sized boiling spring long since stuck in a pipe. Not
type of thing you would have noticed unless you were a fish, a bird or
other wild thing but I did. It runs in and out of maze of concrete pipes
along its stretch. By the Pak n Fax a pipe, By the Regions Bank a pipe,
the highway another pipe until now its biggest open stretch is 15 or so
feet. It 
has been pretty effectively tamed. It causes no real concern for most
They drive over it or by it every day on highway 98 on their way to work,
or other important things. All the while this tiny ditch in rain or
drought or flood has kept trickling on. I doesn't flood it doesn't dry
out it 
just carries on. A fact the birds, fish and other wild things surely
It surprised me a lot the first time I sampled it. It had at its head end
it had 
a eclectic mix of fish including, everglades pygmy sunfish, a colorful
strain of 
Hetereandria Formosa and Gambusia. A surprising diversity for a detached
spring. How they got there is anyone's guess. Maybe this little ditch was
attached to someplace else. Not anymore though it stands alone as the
last of 
its type in my home town. At the sound end were a Seminole killies. Adena

xenica, mullet, pinfish and an odd visitor from the sound. Pretty neat
ditch for 
the aquarist or school teacher to dabble into. I don't know if there were
other dabblers out there as far as I know though me and my daughter Erin
it's lone visitors.
I changed my tense because you see it is gone now. The last time we
visited it 
something significant happened. While stopping in at the Pak n Fax
parking lot 
next to the roasted peanut lady to do some collecting a large truck came.
dropped off 36 inch plastic blue pipe and bulldozers and the like.
somewhere decided it was progress to completely cover this insignificant
ditch. It would look so much neater to have asphalt all the way from
parking lot 
to the highway. Not that it looked bad now, but someone thought asphalt
look better. Having seen asphalt I tend to disagree but my opinion was
ask. So the Heterandria with the cute redspot were sacrificed to the 
rechanneling and piping of the ditch. The evergladi had disappeared
years earlier after the installation of pipes for some new business.
isolation and rechannelling took care of those small egglayers. Then only
live bearers were left. Now they also are gone. I ask why, it was
explained as 
flood control. I wondered aloud at 30 yards from the sound how much flood

control could it be? It did not matter ultimately. It all basically came
down to 
control. People in control are not satisfied with the way things are and
want to fix it. Not that most of us ever thought it was broke. In this
case it 
didn't matter much. The non broken ditch was removed much the way a
removes an offending mole.
So I sat alone one afternoon in the Pak and Fax parking watching them
scoop out 
a new channel. In no time the ditch became a muddy mess loaded into the
backs of 
trucks and hauled off to the landfill or where ever old ditches go. I
progress has no heart or much good science. I don't think the people who
this are bad people, I don't think they even considered that little ditch
all. It was an object to be moved, shaped and terminated at their
leisure. It 
never was to them anything alive. It was just in the way. To the wild
that lived there it mattered greatly to me it mattered less and to those
charge it mattered not at all.
A few of the Heterandria with the red spots exists still today in
colonies around the country but they are pretty much gone. I keep a
colony up in 
my garage. Sooner or later I will move and have to give up my colony.
That local 
strain will interbreed with other domestic Heterandria and add their
genes to 
the greater pool. That strain, that ditch, that place is gone now. The
fish, the 
birds, the wild things miss it much more than I do. That was their home,
source and perhaps their life. It's all gone now though. Its not easy for
a wild 
thing to get a clean drink of water on the Gulf of Mexico and now in my
neck of 
the woods it just got a bit harder. I know today the price of "progress",
costs a small insignificant ditch next to a highway, now covered in
plastic blue 
pipe and 6 inches of asphalt.
I strongly encourage aquarist to get involved in local conservation
Please take the time to share with your friends/children about local
Take an afternoon, a jar an aquarium net and a Peterson's Field Guide to 
Freshwater Fishes and see what you see. It's the best way to learn about
wonderful native fauna! Consider getting involved in conservation of,
rearing or studying your local species. You might be the first one to 
successfully breed and rear a common local species or even discover a new
I am involved with the Native Fish Conservancy (NFC) a not for profit
friendly conservation organization. I recommend you check into the
resources NFC, NANFA and your local state natural resources department
they have 
many cool books about the wild things in your state at very reasonable
cost. If 
you would like to reach me try email robertrice at juno_com or by SASE at 
2213 Prytania Circle, Navarre, FL 32566