We have written several times lately about the Young Leaders For Wild Florida, directed by Oscar Psychas, from Alachua County. The following are transcriptions of their speeches delivered to the commissioners at Alachua County on June 25, 2019.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Howdy! My name is Emma Turner, and I’m an 18 year old resident of Gainesville. Before I begin in earnest, I would like to extend several thank-yous. Firstly to Ken Cornell, who stood with the YLWF at the Bradford County Commission last Thursday as we spoke out against the HPS II phosphate mine. By extension, I’d like to express my gratitude to the Bradford commissioners for allowing us an exception to their punctuality rule. Finally, I’d like to thank Alachua County for taking initiative in securing an environmentally safe future and promoting a culture of conservation and preservation of North Central Florida’s clean water and natural beauty. The HPS II phosphate mine proposed to straddle the New River shared by Union and Bradford counties endangers so many of the most vulnerable, and enriches so few of the most privileged. It represents a serious risk to the future of all North Central Florida, and is most keenly and critically felt by those of us reliant on the Santa Fe River. Florida’s waterways provide recreation for our citizens, health to our populations, and characterize the landscape that is so beloved by the communities of Alachua, Union, Bradford, and surrounding counties. I have lived here in Gainesville for just three months, but already the reputation of ecology and environmentalism in Florida is both foreign and coveted. I am blessed to live in a county whose elected officials are so acutely invested in protecting the natural world of wild Florida. In Texas, where I spent the last 14 years of my life, environmentalism often takes a backseat to industry. I have seen firsthand how poorly managed urban development can disfigure a landscape and community into an industrial wasteland. I praise Alachua County for its efforts in opposition of the HPS II phosphate mine, and I ask that you continue to stand with your population’s youth and echo our message. The importance of clean water is not up for debate.
Liz “Rocket” Walker:
Thank you commissioners for taking a stand against phosphate mining. About the same time last year, I, along with a few others here today, spoke to the Gilchrist County Commission about standing against the proposed phosphate mine in Bradford and Union counties. Now they were concerned that it wasn’t any of their business to take a stance on this mine. I believe that what’s bad for our neighbors is bad for us. In a way, it’s not just an issue of Bradford and Union Counties. It’s an issue that concerns every person who enjoys the Santa Fe River, travels to come see a manatee, and drinks out of the Florida aquifer. It’s like if you see your neighbor left their garage open in the middle of the night. A good neighbor would warn the other before they get robbed. Commissioners, thank you for being a good neighbor to the surrounding counties. This phosphate mine will rob the community of our most valuable possessions: our water and our health.
Good afternoon, county commissioners. First of all, thank you guys for allowing us the chance to speak here. My name is Christian Landaeta, I’m a resident from here and I live in 8722 NW 35th Lane. I come here along with our group to speak out against the HPS II phosphate mine, and we thank you for your continued support. As Elizabeth said, for actually doing your part and listening to us concerned citizens about how this mine in Bradford and Union county not only affects them, but affects all of us. As an Alachua county citizen, I don’t want any of us to suffer any negative effects from this mine and, as a Floridian, I don’t want any of us to lose our beautiful springs and water. Thank you all so much for your support and, continue on.
Hi everyone my name is Makena Lang. I‘m 17 years old and as a resident of Alachua County, who relies on our aquifer for safe drinking water, I’m very concerned about the HPS II phosphate mines that could be built in Bradford County.
First of all, of course I’d like to thank y’all for everything that you’re doing to fight this. It’s so important to encourage Bradford County to consider the health of the river and of the aquifer, which is why I and the rest of the Young Leaders are here today.
We, as young people, are worried because the choices of Bradford County to construct these mines will directly impact us and our futures. We deserve to enjoy clean drinking water and the beautiful land that we live on, just as our parents and grandparents did.
We are at risk of allowing HPS II to destroy our way of life downstream through their exploitation of valuable shared waterways. Phosphate is a business that is temporary, and so will be Florida’s natural beauty, temporary, if we do not think critically and act now.
When will the people of North Florida and Bradford County realize that this is damage we will not be able to take back?
This is why we strongly urge you to continue to encourage Bradford County to reconsider these mines that will damage the ecosystem we so depend on. Continue to be the voice for us and for the environment.
Thank you and have a wonderful day y’all.
Good evening, I’m Ivan Landaeta and I’m 17. I’m here to speak about the proposed HPS II Phosphate mine.
As it currently stands, the proposed mine will straddle the New River, which is a tributary to the Santa Fe River. In doing so, it will displace a wetland for its construction. This could possibly cause a great reduction in water quality due to the destruction of a natural cleaner of water and the waste from the mine which would be dumped into the river. This will harm the already-ill lung of Florida which is the Santa Fe and affect many economies centered around water such as the springs via eutrophication and the beaches through algal blooms.
This mine also has a great potential to become a hazardous zone due to the risks involved with phosphate mining and the unreliable company which HPS II with its past irresponsible action such as engaging in dredge-and-fill activities in wetlands without a permit.
I believe this mine will have more negative than positive consequences on the economy, which completely beats the purpose of why the mine is being constructed in the first place. Many people will move away from Bradford county due to the phosphate mine’s by products which includes radon. This will cause the circulation of money within the county to stagnate. There is also no guarantee that members of the community would gain the jobs that the mine would create.
These are the reasons I am thankful to the commissioners here at Alachua county for protecting Florida’s reputation as the sunshine state and its natural beauty. As the next generation in line, we hope that future generations will be able to enjoy the environment even more that us today.
Thank you for your time.