The Solution To Climate Change?

The Sister Keys are a living laboratory where current and future generations can experience the regenerative power of nature. In my column I review a movie “Kiss The Ground” that highlights the potential of agriculture to capture excess carbon from the atmosphere. Places like the Sister Keys could use this same model by planting native trees and encouraging the proliferation of mangroves. “The Solution To Climate Change”

Kiss The Ground

Last night my friend Captain Rodney Smith and I attended the screening of a new and powerful film, produced by and adapted from the book”Kiss The Ground” by Josh and Rebecca Tickell. The movie tells the story of a critical and fast growing movement to (re) educate people on the importance of soil health and the potential of soil to capture carbon and remove it from the atmosphere. I was struck by the connection between projects like Kiss the Ground and the Sister Keys and and how they can contribute to a drawdown of the excess carbon that our waters have absorbed. Healthy mangroves capture more carbon than an equal area of rain forest and the Sister Keys “created” wetlands have acres of new mangroves where none existed a decade ago. These mangroves are now over ten feet tall.

I envision the Sister Keys as a powerful natural “demonstration” area where potential projects might include planting native trees and restoring shellfish all of which capture carbon. You’re participation in making this possible is critical, thank you. For more information on the movie and movement visit

Three Weeks Later

Yesterday December 15, 2019 I visited the Sister Keys north end with Benny and Becky Parrish. The effects of the last Sarasota Bay Watch- Longboatboat Key- Sister Keys Clean Up were apparent. Here are a couple of shots of the results of volunteers hard work. Before and after shots tell the story best.

Before the cleanup invasive Balsam Apple vines cover native
Three weeks later the vines give way to the natives.

What a difference a Week Makes

One week after the Sister Keys Invasive cleanup the work volunteers completed is remarkable. On a quick visit to the north island I photographed the work volunteers did in controlling the spread of the invasive bitter melon vine. I think you’ll agree there is a visually stunning change. Check out the before and after images.

The Sister Keys Invasive Cleanup 2019

Members of Sarasota Bay Watch teamed up with The Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant, Longboat Key Turtle Watch, Suncoast Waterkeepers, St Stephan’s Episcopal, Whitney’s and the Town of Longboat Key to do an invasive cleanup on the Sister Keys Saturday November 23rd from 8:00 – 12:00. Thirty volunteers worked to help Longboat Key keep the keys in their “natural” state.

The Sister Keys Conservancy was created in 1989 in response to the listing of the property for sale. With the impetus of the Conservancy the Seventy Four (74) acre islands were saved from imminent development in 1992 when the Town Commission vote unanimously to purchase the islands. They were then designated as a nature preserve in perpetuity.

In 2007 a million plus mitigation project removed all invasive species, planted native vegetation and created a two-acre wetland. Sarasota Bay Watch has a yearly cleanup in April and the Invasive cleanup in November. For more information on the history of the Sister Keys visit Find Sarasota Bay Watch at

Managing the Sister Keys

There’s probably no place on Florida’s west coast as special as the Sister Keys . The largest undeveloped group of Islands between Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor are particularly unique because all invasive plants were removed in 2007 and native species planted to replace them.

But they depend on volunteers, the Town of Longboat Key and citizen scientist to keep them that way. In the spring of 2019 a crew from LBK Public Works removed 80% of the invasive plants that were regrowing. On November 23rd 2019 Board Members from Sarasota Bay Watch organized an Invasive Cleanup as part of an agreement with the Town.

This cleanup is important as an adjunct to the Town of Longboat Key’s obligation to maintain the Sister Keys but it will take an ongoing commitment to keep the islands in their “natural” state.

This invasive vine is covering native vegetation.

The Sister Keys Conservancy Song

Here’s a piece from the Observer reporting on the debut of the Sister Keys song at Mote Marine. The music and the words were created by Scott Brewer. Mike Stahr produced the movie and Harry’s Continental Kitchen provided food and wine.

The Restorative Power of Nature

These images demonstrate what nature can accomplish with a little assistance.

Just after mitigation 2007
Sister Keys May 2, 2019
The mangroves recruited naturally beginning the first year and are now close to eight foot tall.

Sister Keys Clean Up 2019

Sarasota Bay Watch (SBW) will be conducting their Annual Sister Keys Clean up on Saturday, May 4, 2019. The event is a collaboration with the Town of Longboat Key and the Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant. Volunteers organized by SBW Events Coordinator Ronda Ryan will work for four hours on the island and around the mangrove fringes collecting trash and recyclable items.

The Longboat Key Marine division will be patrolling the intracoastal waterway to slow boaters. Volunteers without a boat will be ferried to the island by volunteers with boats and by SBW Board members. Reef Innovations Inc. will once again help the effort with a barge where volunteers can off load their trash. SBW members will pick up bags deposited along the mangrove shoreline by volunteers.

Once back at the Town Boat Ramp volunteers  will load the debris into a truck provided by the Town of Longboat Key. Public Works employees recently did an invasive cleanup and cleared and marked trails for those participating in the cleanup. Volunteers in the past have found a wide range of debris including bed frames, boat cushions, umbrellas, life vests, a boat hull, a tackle box, crab pots, fishing poles and buoys. Most of the debris enters the mangroves on high tides and is trapped there. All plastics and cans will be collected in separate green bags provided by SBW and recycled!

At 11:30 all volunteers will return to the Mar Vista Bayfront where they will be treated to a complimentary lunch.