Florida Springs Council leaders discuss recent victories and challenges protecting freshwater springs

Florida springs threatened

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Fresh off a significant court victory in its battle to preserve Florida’s freshwater springs, leaders of the Florida Springs Council appeared on WMNF WaveMakers Tuesday (6/6/2023) to discuss how the public can get involved.

Florida has the highest concentration of freshwater springs in the world but they are under stress from pollution, over-pumping and neglect, said Ryan Smart, executive director of the nonprofit Florida Springs Council. One of the greatest sources of pollution is nitrogen and phosphorus caused by fertilizer runoff from urban lawns, said Michael McGrath, works for the Florida Sierra Club and is a board member for the Springs Council.

Michael McGrath, Florida Sierra Club

Michael McGrath, Florida Sierra Club

One of the most urgent issues in which the public can get involved is to tell Gov. Ron Desantis to veto legislation passed recently that would prohibit local governments from regulating the use of fertilizers on lawns for a year until a study is completed, McGrath said. He urged WMNF listeners to call or email the governor’s office to ask him to veto the bill.

The Springs Council, formed nearly a decade ago, is a coalition of groups focuses on protecting and restoring Florida’s springs. Groups like Ichetucknee Alliance, Friends of the Wekiva River, and Rainbow River Conservation joined larger conservation groups like Sierra Club and Save the Manatee Club to combine their efforts, skills, and expertise to protect Florida’s Springs.

The council recently won a major, four-year court battle that will force the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation to enforce laws already on the books to protect springs. It also successfully fought a development that threatened the Rainbow River, helping to spark public opposition that blocked the development and turned the land into a conservation area.

McGrath said it can sometimes feel like he’s Sisyphus, condemned to roll a rock up to the top of a mountain, only to have the rock roll back down to the bottom every time he reaches the top. But he and Smart agreed that they keep at it because the cause is just and, as Sharp said, “we’re winning!”

The council is on a tour of Florida breweries to spread its message to love our springs, and will be stopped at 3 Daughters Brewing in St. Petersburg on June 23 and Crooked Thumb Brewing in Safety Harbor on June 24.

Listen to the full interview.