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Date of Issue: December 13, 2007

Sandscript

Manatee action stalled, and ya gotta love than cane juice

On.

Threatened to be off.

On again.

Indefinitely.

The poor manatee has had a rough time in the past few years, both in the water and in the bureaucracy of the state of Florida.

Sea cow census numbers have either been increasing or decreasing, depending on whether you listen to boating enthusiasts or environmentalists.

The results of those numbers have resulted in a push for a change in the endangered-species status for manatees from “endangered” to “threatened” by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The change was heralded as a good thing by boaters, bad by environmentalists.

Last week, the commission decided - again - to stall any change.

FWC board members sent the whole matter back to its staff for further review.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, part of the impetus for the delay was some 26,000 e-mails the FWC received about the matter.

One FWC commissioner stated it pretty well when he said that the whole classification category-listing system should be changed to one: “creatures that we are concerned about.”

Gov. Charlie Crist played into the FWC stall, stating earlier last week that he thought the matter should receive further study. FWC board members apparently agreed.

A report is scheduled in February 2008 on the timeline for the next report.

 

‘Arborcide’ in Nevada?

This is news that is too weird.

Some guy outside of Las Vegas was arrested and has been convicted of cutting down some 500 trees because, apparently, the trees blocked his view.

According to police and the Los Angeles Times, the guy would skulk out in the middle of the night, armed with a saw, and cut down trees that blocked his sight view of some mountains and the Vegas strip. Damage to the trees was estimated at more than $250,000.

It was called “arborcide” by a Nevada prosecutor, who successfully put the 60-year-old guy in jail. A jury agreed, and he’s sitting there without possibility of bail while appeal proceedings progress.

His wife described him as a caring man who was unduly prosecuted due to his being out of the state for many of the alleged acts.

 

Got rum?

There is always some interest in rum for Floridians. It’s made from sugar cane - which we’ve got a lot of - and is becoming more and more popular as an adult beverage.

Had a mojito of late? You’ve missed a treat.

The Caribbean Islands have latched onto this tasty treat and are marketing some stuff that’s definitely top-shelf quality.

Martinique - the island, not the Island condo - is producing some excellent rums to meet the demand, which has apparently grown by something like 32 percent in the past year. There are 1,500 rums out there, by the way.

And it’s mostly top-shelf stuff. Thank goodness.

Buddies used to come back from sailing trips to Cuba with the local brand, which I’ll refrain from naming.

Yep, it was alcohol.

Yep, it was dirt cheap down there.

Yep, it gave you a buzz.

Yep, it would keep your kerosene heater glowing in winter.

Nope, it didn’t taste all that good.

I was at a rum tasting a few years ago where a “premium” rum was offered.

Yep, it was alcohol.

Nope, it wasn’t dirt cheap.

Nope, it didn’t taste that great.

Yep, it gave you a buzz.

Perhaps rum drinkers should avoid the premium stuff, and the rot-gut stuff, and stick to the mid-range brands.

But isn’t that always the case?

 

Squeeze that cane

Speaking of sugar cane, there was a delightful experience had by all Saturday in Lithia, Fla., of all places.

Joe Chiles kindly invited us to his friends Pat and Hank Vernum’s ranch in the northeastern part of Manatee County for their annual cane squeezing party.

Here’s how it works. You cut down the sugar cane, feed the stalks into this Rube Goldberg-looking contraption, which mashes it all and the juice flows out.

Collect the juice - gallons and gallons - and then put it in a specially designed vat over an oak fire, and cook for two or three hours.

The cane juice has to be constantly watched and the “scum” dipped from the pot for the entire cooking time. I saw at least two people at a time doing the scum-dipping.

The result of all this effort, and it did appear to be an effort, was some of the most wonderful syrup I’ve ever tasted.

Cane syrup is a bit richer and much darker than maple, with a flavor all its own. It’s something this Island-raised kid has never had nor tried, but will devour from now on thanks to Joe and the Vernums.

 

Sandscript factoid

You may have heard this before, but there are some questions about manatee census numbers.

The resulting number of manatees, counted in January every year, vary widely. We’re talking huge discrepancies, like from 1,100 one year to 3,600 the next, then to 2,500 the following year.

It’s a counting and viewing matter. Most of the counts are done from airplanes. If there is a glare of sunlight from the water, a spotter could miss a few pods and the census could drop.

If a counter is something of a novice, logs and other floating debris in the water could be called a manatee, and the census could rise.

But whatever the number that will come out next month, figure there is something like 3,600 or so sea cows off Florida’s coasts right now.

And figure that boaters keep running over them with reckless abandon in increasing numbers.

Jeez, slow down, wouldya?

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