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2 June 2000

Dear Colleague,

The growth within Florida is occurring at an alarming rate, without much
forethought or planning for delineating habitat corridors or maintaining
environments for seasonal migratory organisms.  Unfortunately, this
uncontrolled growth causes many species within the state and nationwide
to quietly disappear. Without prior documentation of their existence  and
habitat, these species disappear without notice.  

Through organizations like the Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club, the
Audubon Society,  the Florida Natural Areas Inventory, and others,
individuals interested in particular flora and fauna have been able to
document occurrences (of species) in various counties throughout the
state.  Universities are also to be applauded for harboring local and
regional accounts and conducting investigations into various
environmental habitats.  Unfortunately, there are still many rural parts
of the State that go unstudied.

There are more than 350 springs in Florida - more than any other state or
country, most of which are located in the central to northern reaches of
the state.  Springs are not uniquely Floridian, but they are as much a
defining feature of the Sunshine State as are orange groves and
sugar-sand beaches. 

Florida springs are recreational hot spots which share deep roots in
local culture.  Some provide winter habitat for endangered manatees, and
all are linked to groundwater which most Floridians rely on for drinking

These springs which have their heritage woven into the fabric of Florida
are beginning to show signs of illness due to urban sprawl.  Nitrate
concentrations, below 0.05 mg/L before 1970, are now detected at
concentrations approaching 1.5 mg/L; they can be traced to fertilizer,
animal manure, and septic tanks.  Stormwater runoff, a relatively new all
encompassing term which is applied to any hydrophillic or hydrophobic
chemical compound that can make its way into area waters, is the newest
threat as parking lots, manicured environments, and people are drawn to

A cornerstone in assessing water-resource vulnerability and long-term
sustainability of those water resources includes documentation of flora
and fauna associated with these watersheds over time.  By developing and
recording a baseline which includes the species encountered, water
quality, and general overall environmental health, it may become possible
to document changes and to generate boundaries for fragile areas which
may not be able to support human impact through development.
Unfortunately, State and Federal agencies often lack the personnel and
financial resources needed to perform such assessments, or these issues
are only addressed when the clock begins to tick in a permit-related

North-Central Florida has many unnamed springs that develop into creeks
which flow to rivers that meander towards our coastlines.  Each of these
springs and the creeks they feed are unique in that a basin's physical
characteristics give rise to unique biological systems.  These unique
systems develop an ecological integrity which gives rise to long-term
diversity, stability, and sustainability of a river basin's natural and
biological communities.  As manmade and natural changes occur, these
environmental systems have an assimilative capacity which allows the
natural system to recover.  Whether or not the environmental systems
recovery can successfully assimilate wastes, both biologically and/or
chemically, through its soils and/or other native characteristics remains
to be seen.  The function of these environmental systems (springs and
creeks) can be extremely valuable as flood control, water storage, and in
filtering pollutants.  Many of the benefits of these natural systems are
overlooked or poorly understood until it is too late.

 Recently, it has become clear that many stewards of the environment in
State and Federal agencies would value historical "snapshots" of these
fragile, yet beautiful environmental areas.  Furthermore, if access to
reliable evaluations were available, they would be used as a resource in
the decision- making process.

Holmes Creek begins as a small stream just above the Alabama boarder and
continues some thirty-six miles to join the Choctawhatchee River before
it enters Choctawhatchee Bay in Walton County.  Several of the larger
springs which contribute to Holmes Creek have been modified from their
original state to accommodate seasonal divers and recreational
activities.  The impacts of these changes are unknown, but a recent
survey of a 12-mile stretch of Holmes Creek (April 2000) revealed several
unusual snail species (one of which may be unnamed).

You are hereby cordially invited to participate in an ecological and
hydrogeological survey of a small and remote portion of Holmes Creek, in
Washington County.  The intent of this survey is to document the natural
environmental state of this area and to publish those findings for public
use.  Publication of this survey in a timely manner is the goal, and you
will be a co-author along with the other participants.  That would be the
good news.  The bad news is that I am unable to pay you for your time,
but would hope that a day out on the river (including lunch and dinner)
with colleagues would suffice.  

You are being invited to participate in this survey because of your
expertise.  There are certain expectations which will be vital and
expected from each participant.  These expectations include: developing a
list of expected species for this type of natural community setting,
providing sample bottles or collection bags for sub-sampling, and
providing a short narrative which describes in detail the observations
made during the visit.  Please keep in mind that the compilation of
observations from this visit will be worked into one document.

Currently, our experts are comprised of representatives from the fields
of hydrogeology, archeology, entomology, ichthyology, herpetology, as
well as wetland plants, birds, springs experts, and representatives from
the Northwest Florida Water Management District, and the US Fish and

A local grass-roots organization has offered to assist this group with
boating accommodations.  Currently, an ideal day would include getting to
a central location in Vernon, FL, by 8:30 AM on Saturday, 10 or 17 June
2000.  A number of motorized boats and canoes will be available (with
captains familiar with the area). 

Thank you for your time, and I hope you will join us on the river.  

Please email me at balbrecht at ensafe_com  with your RSVP.