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Tampa Tribune: Coming together for the bay — our Tampa Bay

Monday, February 24, 2014

Today’s world is full of hustle and bustle, instant downloads and constant online access. Although it creates an atmosphere of hyper-connectivity and efficiency, and it’s fascinating to see what we’ll think of next as we advance further and further into a digitally dominated culture, it can be easy to lose sight of the one thing we all have in common, our Earth.

Florida’s environment, particularly our water, is rapidly losing our attention, and, ironically, the advancements needed to protect resources have been slow to come. As we continue to see headlines about water pollution and algae bloom outbreaks throughout the state, we must take action around our own Tampa Bay to avoid a similar fate.

We can’t simply wait for someone else to clean it for us.

It can be as simple as paying attention to our surroundings and finding ways to support organizations that are doing great work for the environment, but it might even mean rolling up our sleeves, getting in the dirt and fixing the problems ourselves.

Since 1993, Tampa Bay Watch has performed thousands of restoration projects and spearheaded protection activities with thousands of volunteers to help Tampa Bay recover from environmental degradation. We realized we needed to recapture the attention of the next generation by showing them the value and importance of the great outdoors, starting with the unique ecosystem in our own backyards.

Tampa Bay Watch initiated a coastal wetland nursery program called Bay Grasses in Classes to help energize our students to advance Tampa Bay restoration efforts. The program works to restore damaged areas of the bay and educate our bay area youths.

Through hands-on habitat restoration activities, students grow salt marshes at their schools and transplant what they’ve grown to restoration sites. Students learn the value of maintaining a healthy ecosystem and gain a sense of stewardship and awareness about their sensitive and fragile community.

Programs such as Bay Grasses in Classes are essential for providing students and the public with opportunities to take an active role in restoring and learning about the environment, but they aren’t possible without collaboration.

Stakeholders, such as Scotts Miracle-Gro, have teamed up to aid positive change in the environment. We recently received a grant from Scotts that will allow us to re-establish 80,000 salt marsh plants throughout Tampa Bay. This generous restoration investment is a shining example of the teamwork we need.

Tampa Bay Watch, along with our thousands of volunteers and students, is proving that there is room for everyone to play a part in this effort.

We’ve made steps in the right direction, but imagine how much more can be done if you stand up and join the charge to protect our environment.

Peter A. Clark is founder and president of Tampa Bay Watch, a nonprofit organization working to preserve the delicate ecological balance that exists in Tampa Bay.

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