MARCO ISLAND, Fla. — A group of young cattlemen and cattlewomen, alongside UF/IFAS animal sciences faculty and staff, worked to remove invasive plants from the Snail Trail at the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve as part of the Florida Cattlemen, Cattlewomen and Junior Cattlemen’s Association annual meeting.
The association held its annual convention recently on Marco Island in part to celebrate 500 years of cattle in Florida.
One of the animal sciences staff members, Allyson Trimble, an undergraduate program advisor for the department, helped coordinate the Rookery Bay Snail Trail cleanup.
Benita Whalen also played a major role in coordinating the event in the name of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association.
Donna Young serves as volunteer coordinator for the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Before the Cattlemen arrived, she emphasized the importance of staying hydrated and protected from pests and exotic plants. She also warned about the heat and hard work associated with exotic plant control.
“We are used to long hours outside caring for our animals and controlling exotics on our ranches every day. Our ranches provide habitat for a significant amount of threatened and endangered species, including wetlands and uplands. We love the land and that includes helping the State manage the Rookery Bay Reserve. We are hoping to learn more about the Reserve but also show that we care about the environment and are all in this together” said Trimble, who’s also the Junior Florida Cattlemen’s Association volunteer coordinator.
The team cleared the trail for approximately four hours on June 17 and was rewarded with a visit by South Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board member and Big Cypress Board Chair Charlette Roman and Florida Cattlemen’s Association’s President Gene Lollis.
Gene Lollis thanked his organization’s youth and told them how proud he was of them for transferring their home ranch values to improving the environment on public lands.
“We really need to work together on the issues facing our great State and agree that people moving into and living in Florida have changed our natural resources,” said Lollis. “Only great planning and cooperation will maintain the benefits that our ranches provide while improving and protecting the quality of our natural resources as Florida continues to grow.”
–Brad Buck, UF/IFAS