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Date of Issue: May 10, 2007

STOP plans protest at Anna Maria commission meeting

Members of the Stop Taking Our Pines organization plan to attend the May 10 Anna Maria City Commission in force to ask that the city halt removal of Australian pines from city property.

The Island organization has submitted more than 30 letters of protest to the city regarding the removal of Australian pines and STOP leaders have indicated they will have quite a few members at the May 10 meeting.

STOP co-founder John Molyneux said he didn’t know how many members would attend, but each would speak individually.

"We believe we have a convincing argument to get the commission not to fund the removal of Australian pines from city property," he said.

In fact, noted Molyneux, the argument to save the pines is "bolstered by everyone’s concern with global warming," as the pines do a pretty good job of absorbing carbond dioxide from the atmosphere. "We shouldn’t be cutting trees down, we should be planting them."

For the past two years, his grass-roots organization has been having people sign a petition to present to Island governments to protest the removal of the Australian pines. To date, Molyneux said, there are more than 800 signatures on the petition in support of STOP.

"Our organization is growing," he concluded.

But STOP has more than just Island governments to contend with on the pine trees.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has declared that Australian pines are a non-native species and should be removed from public property.

"They’re an exotic nuisance," said Steve West of the DEP field office in Sarasota. "We recommend their removal whenever possible as long as that removal doesn’t affect the dune or beach vegetation.

Agreed, said Pam Vazquez of the DEP’s Tampa office, adding that Florida law makes it illegal to plant an Australian pine.

"The DEP policy is to recommend removal of Australian pines. We have instances when pines have toppled over and fell on turtle and crocodiles nests. They’re an invasive plant."

Anna Maria environmental education and enhancement committee chairman Tim Eiseler, who holds a degree in forestry, is reported to be one of the speakers on Australian pines at the May 10 meeting