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2nd article for TFH.....

With My Monthly Clumn in TFH I want to let you guys in first so you can
spread the news around to interested parties if you see an article that
really sounds just to interesting......So here is article 2 a very
conservation minded piece. Enjoy........

                      Eulogy 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  the type of thing you would have noticed  unless
you  were a fish, a bird or some other wild thing but I did.
It  runs in and out of maze of concrete pipes all along  its
stretch.  By  the Pak n Fax a pipe, By the  Regions  Bank  a
pipe,  under 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  folks
.  They  drive over it or by it every day on highway  98  on
their way to work, play , or other important things. All the
while  this tiny ditch in rain or shine , 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 appreciate

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
coastal spring. How they got there is anyone's guess . Maybe
this little ditch was once 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 any other dabblers
out  there  as far as I know though me and my daughter  Erin
were 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.  It
dropped off 36 inch plastic blue pipe and bulldozers and the
like.   Someone,  somewhere  decided  it  was  progress   to
completely cover this insignificant little 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 would look better. Having  seen  asphalt  I
tend  to  disagree  but my opinion was  never  ask.  So  the
Heterandria  with  the cute redspot were sacrificed  to  the
rechanneling  and  piping of the ditch.  The  evergladi  had
disappeared several years earlier after the installation  of
pipes  for  some  new  business.  Turbidity,  isolation  and
rechannelling took care of those small egglayers. Then  only
the  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 they 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
surgeon 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
decided progress has no heart or much good science. I  don't
think the people who did this are bad people , I don't think
they  even  considered that little ditch at 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 things that lived there it mattered greatly
to  me  it  mattered less and to those in charge it mattered
not at all.

A  few  of  the Heterandria with the red spots exists  still
today  in isolated 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
,  water  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" , it costs a small insignificant ditch next to  a
highway,  now covered in plastic blue pipe and 6  inches  of

I  strongly  encourage  aquarist to get  involved  in  local
conservation issues. Please take the time to share with your
friends/children about local species. 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  our wonderful native fauna ! Consider  getting
involved  in  conservation of, aquarium 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 one!

I  am involved with the Native Fish Conservancy (NFC) a  not
for  profit  aquarist friendly conservation organization.  I
recommend  you  check  into  the  following  resources   NFC
(NFC at actwin_com)  , NANFA and aquarium organization  for  NA
native  fish  enthusiasts (WWW.NANFA.ORG)   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 Florida 32566.

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