The Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board writes – “The last dairy farm in Hillsborough County has milked its final cow, the pastures sold to developers who will build 1,000 new homes. The remnants of the last commercial citrus grove in Pinellas County, where the Sunshine State’s famed industry began in the 19th century, were sold last year to make room for 136 homes... [I]n a state facing such development pressure, much more needs to be done to avoid paving over paradise. Florida’s state leaders fail to understand the urgency of protecting wild Florida while they still can. The budget approved by the Legislature set aside absolutely nothing for the land acquisition program called Florida Forever. It once got $300 million a year. And the state is failing to spend enough money from Amendment 1… to keep land wild in perpetuity… [T]he rollover money (for the Rural and family Lands Protection Program) and the paltry amount allocated for next fiscal year means the fund will likely go dry before 2018, leaving no money at all for more easement purchases. Meanwhile, 1,000 people a day are moving to the state. Nature advocates have proposed a Florida Wildlife Corridor to ensure that Florida’s wildlife, including its signature Florida panther and black bear, literally have room to roam in an ever more crowded Florida… The Legislature and the governor need to awaken to the urgency of saving land while they can. Once a house is built, it is there forever…” Read Preserve wild Florida before it’s too late
Steve Bousquet reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “[Friends of Florida State Parks] asked Scott to ‘veto this bad budget’ passed two weeks ago, accusing lawmakers of turning their backs on land conservation and park protection. In a release, the [advocacy group] called the 2017 session ‘a huge disappointment for our environment and specifically our state parks. Not only did the Legislature zero out dollars for any land acquisitions in Florida Forever, but it also completely rebuffed efforts by Gov. Scott and the Department of Environmental Protection to fully fund the land management requests of DEP.’… ‘Our award-winning state parks are one of Florida’s main economic drivers,’ said Paula Russo, president of the Friends of Florida State Parks. ‘More people visit state parks annually than visit the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World…. Zeroing out Florida Forever is a slap in the face to Florida voters. We strongly urge Governor Scott to veto the entire budget, call the Legislature back and have them address these glaring deficiencies.’” Read Supporters of state parks tell Rick Scott: ‘Veto this bad budget’
Drew Martin writes for my Palm Beach Post – “Southeast Florida continues to destroy many of its remaining open areas for development… We continue to focus on growth rather than quality of life… In order to have clean ground water we need to have open areas where water can… percolate into our aquifer. Open areas also provide a place for storm water to accumulate, which helps prevent flooding. Development plans are failing to protect the open areas… The more we remove open space and natural areas the more we… increase aquifer contamination… New scientific models show [coral] reefs off Palm Beach County and northern Broward County are particularly valuable to reducing storm surge damage. How many billions in dollars of property value are put at risk by building on open space?.. [T]he loss of native trees and shrubs increases the heat of the day. Migratory birds need these open areas to rest between flights.” Read Preserving our South Florida soils, uplands, wetlands
Craig Pittman reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “Efforts by state officials to set a minimum flow for its iconic springs have stirred up a wave of public opposition. Opponents contend the state is willing to destroy its springs in order to justify continuing to provide water for new development. The new minimum flow set for Silver Springs is already the subject of a legal challenge, and a similar suit is under consideration for the flow level set for Rainbow Springs… [T]he Southwest Florida Water Management District is scheduled to consider setting a minimum flow level for Crystal River and the 70 springs that make up Kings Bay – and a crowd of opponents is expected to be in attendance… For Crystal River residents, changes to Kings Bay could hurt their economy. The area draws tourists from around the world to see its manatees, which are attracted to the bay by its springs. A century ago Florida’s gin-clear springs drew presidents, millionaires and tourists galore who sought to cure their ailments by bathing in the healing cascades. Now the springs tell the story of a hidden sickness, as they’re plagued by pollution, toxic algae blooms, a loss of flow and an increase in saltiness. Floridians use 158 gallons of water a day per person, about 50 more than the national average. Meanwhile agriculture draws more water out of the ground for irrigation than any state east of the Mississippi.” Read Ailing Florida springs could be tapped further to fuel development
Fred Hiers reports for the Ocala Star Banner – “Hopes that regulators would change their minds about how to best protect the Rainbow River were dim on Monday after 50 or so environmentalists met with a member of the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s governing board. In March, the board decided that the Rainbow River’s flow could safely be cut another 5 percent without doing significant harm to the… state-protected water body or the ecosystem that depends on it… (Swiftmud board member) Rice said at the close of the meeting that he still had faith in district staff’s computer modeling, which shows that the Rainbow’s flow could be safely reduced… Opponents say that most of the Rainbow’s 20 percent decline in flow over the past few decades is a result of over pumping of the aquifer. The Swiftmud staff and board say the reduction is a result of a significant decline in rainfall… In March, Swiftmud staff presented rainfall and flow data showing that between 1992 and 2014 pumping actually declined. Despite those reductions in pumping, flow also continued to decline… Swiftmud staff’s original recommendation to allow flow to be reduced 5 percent was peer reviewed. Originally, the peer review made note of the river’s increased nutrient concentrations, and how flow keeps those nutrients washing down the river and unavailable to unwanted vegetation (algae). ‘The District should consider capping withdrawals at current levels, or with a minimal allowable increase, until the nutrient issues are effectively addressed,’ the peer review said. But during the March meeting, peer review board Chairman Dann Yobbi had changed his mind.” Read Environmentalists doubt Swiftmud listening on Rainbow
Tyler Treadway reports for the TC Palm – “People living in areas with significant blue-green algae blooms, including the Treasure Coast, are more likely to die from nonalcoholic liver disease than those who don’t… In fact, the death rate from liver disease not related to alcohol was nearly twice as high in [Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, and Okeechobee counties] as the national rate during the 12 years of the OSU study… Lee, who currently is studying how plants absorb toxins, also recommended not using algae-rich water for irrigation. That’s also a concern of Widder’s (founder and lead scientist at the Ocean Research & Conservation Association in Fort Pierce), especially as former citrus groves on the Treasure Coast are replanted with row crops. Rice and leafy green vegetables are known to take in microcystin, Widder said… ‘Here in Florida, we irrigate our crops with canal water, and that canal water can contain blue-green algae with microcystin,’ Widder said…” Read Ohio State University study links toxic algae blooms, fatal liver disease
Hannah Conner writes for the Tampa Bay Times – “[T]hough the United Nations last year went so far as to call the unprecedented acceleration of antibiotic resistance the world’s most urgent global threat, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently considering a request from a pesticide company to permanently approve the medically important antibiotic oxytetracylcine for use as a pesticide in citrus production… The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than 2 million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant organisms each year, leading to an estimated 23,000 deaths… Exposure to antibiotics also poses serious health risks for wildlife, and antibiotics accumulating in the environment can cause changes in the chemical composition and pH of waters and soils, altering the long-evolved balance of ecosystems that helps keep species healthy.” Read EPA shouldn’t approve human antibiotics for citrus greening
Ledyard King reports for USA Today – “President Donald Trump’s budget is a double-whammy for states: Not only would it cut grants to their environmental programs by nearly $500 million next year, states still would have to meet federal monitoring and compliance targets or face severe sanctions from Washington including the potential loss of highway aid… The documents show that while funding in 2018 for the EPA as a whole would drop from $8.2 billion to $5.7 billion, or 31% under Trump’s plan, state and tribal assistance grans would be slashed from $1.08 billion to $597 million, or 45%. Those grants pay for states to carry out a number of federal directives such as toxic substance compliance, pesticides enforcement and brownfield inspections. Some of those categories have been zeroed out entirely, including beach protection, radon monitoring and lead testing, the documents show… The Trump administration would also eliminate at least 10 EPA regional programs… One of those, the South Florida Geographic Initiative, tracks the health of the Everglades and has been monitoring the threat of phosphorous, mercury and other damaging nutrients seeping into the Everglades.” Read Trump budget plan would squeeze states over environmental programs
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