We sent a list of questions to the general email link on the county’s Shell Key page regarding the maintenance of the Shell Key Management Plan in the wake of the disbanding of the County’s Environmental Lands Division. We were glad to receive a response from Pam Leisure who survived the closing of the county ELD – and is still performing her duties for Shell Key under the newly formed Parks and Conservation Resources department. The following exerpt is Ms. Leisure’s kindly answwers to our questions …
Q: Will the ELD Staff involved with Shell Key Preserve continue their work under the Parks department?
A: Both Steve Harper and I will now be working for the new Parks and Conservation Resources (PCR). I will still be responsible for all natural resources management of Shell Key Preserve.
Q: Will we still be able to contact the (former) ELD staff including Will Davis, Pam Leasure, Bruce Rinker and Steven Harper? If not, who will be responsible for public outreach for the county regarding Shell Key?
A: Again, Steve and I are the only remaining from ELD.
Q: How will disbanding the ELD effect the maintenance of the preserve with regard to exotic plant eradication and replanting of native species.
A: I am responsible for making sure we continue to remove exotic vegetation and replanting of native species projects. Exotic vegetation maintenance will be done with my new co-workers in PCR. The replanting will be completed through contracts and CIP funding.
Q: How will the budget cuts affect Law Enforcement and patrolling of the Island? Will the LIMA Unit Continue their patrols of the island?
A: The budget cuts for LIMA took place in April 2010. Two LIMA officers merged with the PC Marine Unit. There are now seven officers to patrol Pinellas County waters. We still have coverage for Shell Key Preserve, especially on weekends.
Q: How will budget cuts affect Public Outreach, Education and the Management of Public Access to the island?
A: These are issues we are still working on and will be limited due to limited resources.
Q: How can we (shellkey.org) work with the county to coordinate our volunteer efforts for education and island cleanups?
A: PCR will be hiring two staff to work county wide to increase our volunteer efforts. These positions should be filled shortly. This is another transition we are still working on.
J: Thanks very much for your time.
P: I appreciate your questions and your help in the past.
We will continue to report on the status of Shell Key oversight and advocate for effective public use management.