The following is a press release from the Young Leaders of Wild Florida. The photos were taken on Jan. 1, 2020; those at the boat ramp is the Hwy 27 bridge; those on the water between Poe and Rum Island springs. The trip was made possible, in part, by Rum 138 (headquarters of OSFR) and Alachua Conservation Trust (whose executive director, Tom Kay, is an OSFR advisor.)
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum
While most young adults look forward to the holiday season as a break from rigorous coursework, heavy stress, and responsibility, a group of teenagers and members of the Young Leaders for Wild Florida are preparing to embark on an ambitious expedition. Over the course of four days, starting on New Years Eve through January 3rd, 2020, Emma Turner, Makena Lang, Christian Landeata, and Ivan Landeata—a quartet of spirited youth from Alachua County—will be hiking, canoeing, and camping 30 miles of the Santa Fe River. The ultimate goal of their adventure is to raise awareness for the health of the beloved Santa Fe ecosystem.
The group of four plan to document their expedition, inspired by efforts like those of the Florida Wildlife Corridor’s production of The Last Green Thread, a short film detailing the disappearance of Florida’s untamed wilderness. They hope to bring attention to the Santa Fe Bill of Rights (SAFEBOR), a rights-of-nature petition spearheaded by the tremendous effort of a dedicated environmentalist community in and around Alachua County. If SAFEBOR were to be amended into the Alachua County charter, the Santa Fe River would be granted legal rights (much in the same way that corporations are granted equal rights to citizens)—such as the right to remaining unpolluted, or the right to unencumbered flow. If these rights were to be violated in any way, SAFEBOR grants Alachua County citizens with legal standing to defend the precious river in court. Progressive legislation like the Santa Fe Bill of Rights is absolutely necessary in the effort of protecting Florida’s completely unique ecology and hydrology. The Young Leaders for Wild Florida, a youth-led environmentalist initiative of Alachua County teens, rally behind measures of protection for shared ecosystems, and believe that their expedition will highlight the critical importance of community adoption of shared wilderness.
The empowerment of youth movements like the Young Leaders for Wild Florida would not be possible without the support of an existing community of environmentalists in and around Alachua County. Their expedition will be made possible with the help of local professionals such as the Alachua Conservation Trust or businesses such as Rum 138 in Fort White, FL, who represent a much larger population of Floridians whose livelihoods are dependent on the health of springs and river ecosystems. The core to a strong environmentalist movement is an interconnected network of people who share in the love of the natural world.
On a more personal tangent, we—the Young Leaders for Wild Florida—want people in our lives to develop a personal connection with the natural spaces that surround and uplift us. We believe in the importance of protecting untouched wilderness. We believe in a right to clean, unpolluted waterways. We believe in the conservation of non-human life. In rural communities. In activism. In preservation. We are incredibly excited to embark on our expedition this holiday season, and ecstatic that we might be able to give back to a supportive community in a truly meaningful way: by bringing attention to a wonderful and altruistic cause.