Chad Gillis and Ben Crasch report for News Press – “Land owners continue to push development into panther habitat, the two main agencies charged with protecting [panthers] have shown no enthusiasm for moving them north of the Caloosahatchee River and a record number are being killed by vehicles. And there’s a growing call among some…to be able to hunt them…A group of nine land owners, including [an FWC] commissioner, is pushing for a permit to build on massive swaths of land adjacent to the Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge and Big Cypress National Preserve, where the heart of the breeding population lives…The move to develop in panther territory comes after the [FWC] released a draft policy paper last year that caused a furor…Panther biologists were not consulted beforehand… ‘[Priddy] is the leading proponent of changing this panther rule, and she would gain financially from being able to develop her remaining property and selling it,’ said…Chuck O’Neal…Typically environmentalists have stood together, opposing development plans and road expansion projects aimed at opening up all of South Florida for urbanization. But recently a divide has emerged over the development Priddy and the other landowners are involved in…Groups like the Florida Wildlife Federation and Audubon Florida support the development plan…But other groups (like the Conservancy of Southwest Florida) say the development will chop off too much panther habitat and put more cars near panther dens…PEER says the [development]…and [others] like it will lead to the extinction of panthers.” Read Endangered Florida panther faces new pressures, critical crossroad
Jeffrey Schweers reports for the Tallahassee Democrat – “Lorinne Myatt…organized a demonstration at the Capitol…to…draw attention to Sabal Trail…[It] drew 400 people…Many were surprised to learn that the project had been winding its way through the regulatory process for three years…Events are planned for Dec. 29 in St. Petersburg, Jacksonville, and Orlando. A mass civil disobedience is planned for Jan. 17 at Suwannee River State Park, near the spot [where] the pipeline will pass under the river…[Opponents have] started letter-writing campaigns to their state elected officials and members of Congress, organized benefit concerts, and traveled to the…construction sites…The…pipeline is…tunneling under the Withlacoochee, Suwannee and Santa Fe rivers and plowing through dozens of spring sheds… ‘We are meeting people every day who don’t know about this and live next door to it,’ Malqitz-Jipson (a Sierra Club organizer) said. And local governments seem to have been ignored or shut out of the regulatory process.” Read Sabal Trail pipeline cut through heart of springs country
James Call reports for the Tallahassee Democrat – “The Acquisition and Restoration Council decided…to delay a vote on a plan giving 43 acres to the Department of Transportation to widen Crawfordville Highway…ARC members delayed any action until their next meeting in March. The move allows FDOT time to investigate alternative stormwater pond designs to reduce nitrogen discharges. It is unclear whether the agency will do so.” Read Road widening project stalled
Kevin Spear reports for the Orlando Sentinel – “The director of the Florida Park Service has been reassigned to manage a park…Donald Forgione…was the first director to have risen from the position of park ranger. Forgione was charged by Scott’s administration with boosting park revenues, while also having to respond to vocal opponents of exploiting park resources. ‘This worries us,’ said Paula Russo, president of the Friends of Florida State Parks. ‘Donald has been an exemplary director.’…[FDEP] director, Jon Steverson, has pushed parks to wean themselves from taxpayer subsidies…Options discussed so far [include] leasing acreage for cattle grazing, selling timber and opening wildlife preserves to hunters. The service also has relied increasingly on hiring private companies for land managing traditionally done by park rangers.” Read Florida parks director removed, sparking worries
Isadora Rangel reports for the TC Palm – “Florida coastal communities could ban plastic shopping bags to preserve the environment and reduce litter under a proposed state law. Municipalities with fewer than 100,000 residents could create a pilot program to regulate disposable bags…[O]nly communities that border the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, lagoons and other water bodies could participate…This is the third time Rep. David Richardson has filed the bill since the Legislature in 2008 prohibited local governments from enacting ordinances to regulate disposable plastic bags…The House bill (HB93) and its Senate companion (SB 162) would prohibit municipalities from imposing fees or taxes on bag use, and would require governments to collect data on the pilot program to generate a report for the Department of Environmental Protection.” Read State bill to ban plastic bags introduced 3rd time by Rep. David Richardson
The Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board writes – “Florida panthers and manatees have bene killed in record numbers in 2016…These grim milestones are a reminder that wildlife managers must follow sensible measures to protect these vulnerable species and Floridians must be cautious not to add to the death toll even as the numbers of panthers and manatees are on the rise…Speeding through shallow manatee habitats poses mortal danger to [manatees], which have been on the U.S. endangered species list since the list’s inception in 1967. That endangered status...is in doubt even as boat-related fatalities climb…Manatees weren’t put on the endangered list because of their numbers. They were given the special protection because of threats to their habitat from pollution and development, as well as boat collisions- all threats that remain today…[R]apid development in southwest Florida is encroaching on panther habitat and resulting in deadly interactions…The best hope for saving the Florida panther…is protection of the Florida Wildlife Corridor...Both [conservation] easements and the livestock (compensation) program are reasonable policies that can help save Florida’s state animal.” Read Continuing protections for manatees, panthers
The News Service of Florida reports – “A regulatory case about Gulf Power’s proposal to raise base electric rates could get more crowded. The League of Women Voters of Florida and the Sierra Club have filed petitions to formally intervene in the case, which is expected to play out in the coming months at the Florida Public Service Commission.” Read League, Sierra Club want roles in Gulf Power rate increase case
Jasmine C. Lee and Adam Pearce report for The New York Times – “Mr. Trump’s decisions will be important but not the sole factor in how close the United States gets to reaching the emissions goal.” Read How Trump Can Influence Climate Change
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
December 29 – Participate in statewide protests against the Sabal Trail Pipeline. For more information, click here or contact organizer Colleen Gariton at (352) 339- 1748.
January 3, 12:00 pm – Join the Florida Springs Institute for Springs Academy Tuesdays at the North Florida Springs Environmental Center (99 NW 1st Avenue) in High Springs. January’s lecture is on Springs Biology. For more information, click here.
January 11, 12:45 – Attend the Villages Environmental Discussions Group meeting at the Belvedere Library Community Room. John Wilchyski will talk about the Butterfly Works farm and Maia McGuire, from the University of Florida, will discuss micro-plastics. Maia will bring microscopes so the audience can see what is in their drinking water. For more information, and to RSVP, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
January 13 – Attend the 26th Annual Southwest Florida Water Resources Conference in Fort Myers. For more information and to register, click here.
January 28, 9:30 AM - Attend the 1st Nature's Spirit Conference hosted by the Pagan Environmental Alliance and the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Palm Beaches to discuss how science, belief in nature, and activism can tap into greater community involvement. For more information, click here.
January 29, 10:00 AM – Attend Southwest Florida Veg Fest in Fort Myers. For more information, click here.
February 7, 12:00 pm – Join the Florida Springs Institute for Springs Academy Tuesdays at the North Florida Springs Environmental Center (99 NW 1st Avenue) in High Springs. February’s lecture is on Springs Stresses: Groundwater Pumping, Fertilizers, Wastewater Disposal, & Recreation. For more information, click here.
February 9-11 – Attend the Public Interest Environmental Conference: Land Conservation: The Worth of the Earth at the University of Florida. For more information, click here.
February 15, 12:00 pm – Participate in 1000 Friends of Florida’s FREE webinar: Implementing Water 2070: Water Conservation Planning for Florida Communities. Dr. Pierce Jones, Director of the University of Florida’s Program for Resource Efficient Communities, will discuss water conservation planning for Florida’s communities based on a series of studies he’s conducted on behalf of the Toho Water Authority, Envision Alachua (Plum Creek), and other local governments, developers, and water authorities. For more information and to register, click here.
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