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Date of Issue: March 08, 2007

Save Anna Maria adopts pines resolution

sam pines
SAM to fight for pines
Mike Miller, of Perfect Island Indigenous Landscaping, center, meets with members of Save Anna Maria Inc. at the Island Branch Library on March 3. In spite of Miller's plea to the contrary, SAM members voted at the meeting to oppose "unconditional removal" of Australian pines on Anna Maria Island. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

Save Anna Maria Inc. members decided March 3 that the grassroots group's mission includes protecting Anna Maria's Australian pines.

SAM on March 2 adopted two motions regarding the removal of the trees on Anna Maria. The first motion, offered by Billie Martini, committed SAM to opposing the "unconditional removal of Australian pines from Anna Maria Island." A second motion, also offered by Martini, said SAM would work with Stop Taking Our Pines to realize that mission.

Before the vote at the Island Branch Library, SAM members met with Mike Miller, of Perfect Island Indigenous Landscaping, to discuss the fate of the trees.

The outcry over the removal of Australian pines for a multi-use trail along the beach in Bradenton Beach prompted the concerns.

Federal and state agencies, citing scientific research, classify the Australian pines as a non-native, invasive species that should be removed from the state. The government-sanctioned effort to remove Australian pines has been endorsed by a number of environmental groups, including the Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy.

Miller too has encouraged Islanders to leave behind the fight to save the pines and instead focus on expanding the native habitat on Anna Maria.

But organizations such as the Island-based STOP exist to preserve the trees.

STOP founder Marsha Lindsey sought SAM's support at a meeting last month.

Miller, however, urged SAM's support for a grassroots campaign to plant native trees to replace the pines because the native system, the system that existed before the arrival of Columbus, achieved environmental balance.

"It is this system," Miller said, "that makes every place look different."

SAM members asked Miller a variety of questions, while emphasizing that the Island needs shade, protection from the wind and from water erosion.

Miller said native plants can achieve anything Australian pines can without causing invasive damage, requiring costly maintenance and altering the Island landscape.

"I want to see the Island look like the Island again," he said, adding that the Australian pines "make the Island look like Australia."

At times, the roundtable discussion turned emotional.

Martini and SAM president Sheila Hurst said the pines have been used to prevent beach erosion. Miller replied, "If you go to Beer Can Island [on north Longboat Key] you see that argument is dead on sight."

Miller encouraged SAM to help plant native trees, such as cabbage palms and gumbo-limbos.

"Those trees," Martini said, "are not going to save the Island."

"My dear," Miller replied, "Those trees were here long before those Australian pines."

The discussion circled around for about an hour, when SAM held a brief meeting and took up Martini's motions.

SAM member Diane Canniff opposed both motions, saying they seemed rooted in emotion rather than on science.

"I say SAM as an organization should not be basing policy on emotion," Canniff said.

Martini countered that if the organization is committed to saving Anna Maria, it should be committed to stopping the unconditional removal of the pines.