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TC Palm: Mark Slavens: Save the Indian River Lagoon with science, not emotion

Friday, October 04, 2013

The Indian River Lagoon needs help. Alarming changes in the ecosystem are threatening North America’s most diverse estuary, a key piece of Florida’s economic and environmental puzzle. With a variety of factors affecting the lagoon’s health, charting a path forward that will create a positive change in the ecosystem is essential, but also complex.

As local governments up and down Florida’s east coast grapple with the right policy and regulatory decisions for their communities, our local leaders must keep scientific evidence at the forefront of their decisions. The steps we take today to save the lagoon will affect its health for years to come — we can’t afford to be wrong.

At Scotts Miracle-Gro, we have our hands in the dirt each and every day working to create products that will best serve homeowners and our environment. Science shows us that the health of our green spaces and the health of the water that surrounds them are intimately linked. Just as the water that flows through the Indian River Lagoon plays an essential role in our natural ecosystem, so does the green ground cover in our parks and lawns.

Healthy turf grass not only works to purify the air, but it also absorbs rainfall, filters out nutrients to reduce runoff and holds soil together to prevent erosion. In today’s urban settings, 50 percent of surfaces are concrete and unable to absorb rainfall and filter nutrients — which makes the green spaces we have that much more important.

Protecting the water in the Indian River Lagoon means that we must protect and nurture the green spaces working to reduce the nutrients that reach the water. Providing nutrients to keep our lawns healthy is part of that process.

Recent research conducted at the University of Florida Institute on Food and Agriculture and commissioned by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has proven that Florida’s most popular turf, St. Augustine grass, best absorbs nutrients in the summer. By responsibly feeding our lawns in the summer, we are doing our best to create healthy green spaces with strong roots that will benefit our water quality.

Provisions that limit or completely remove our ability to responsibly feed our lawns during the summer, the time when they best absorb nutrients, weaken the health of the reciprocal relationship between the Indian River Lagoon and the green spaces working to protect it. Can we afford to be focused on practices — like summertime fertilizer use bans and 50 percent slow release nitrogen requirements — that haven’t been proven by science to be effective at producing the solution we need?

There isn’t one magic solution that will single-handedly solve the issues facing the lagoon, and as we begin to employ policies and support practices that are aimed at helping we must ensure that they are scientifically proven to produce results. The worst thing we can do is adopt practices that are not effective and could actually harm part of our ecosystem’s natural process designed to protect our water.

There are a variety of viewpoints on what should be done to save the Indian River Lagoon, but we all have the same goal. Scotts Miracle-Gro is committed to being an educational resource for consumers living in communities along the Indian River Lagoon, and all Floridians, on how to responsibly care for their lawns.

Working together, armed with scientific data, we can ensure that the steps we take today benefit the Indian River Lagoon for years to come.

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