Wes Williamson writes for the Miami Herald – “Many people don’t realize the extent to which cattle ranching is important to Florida’s economy and the critical role ranching plays in protecting the state… Our rural lands are giving way to development as 1,000 people a day move to Florida. As development increases, ranches are under increasing economic pressure to be divided and sold. Cattle ranches protect Florida’s last frontier from development and are crucial to protecting wildlife and water, natural landscape and wetlands. Much of the land on our ranch has been left in its natural state; we are proud to protect native wildlife, and we manage the land so wildlife can flourish. Wetlands on cattle ranches supply valuable habitat while acting as natural water storage that help clean and supply drinking water to millions of people in South Florida. Ranchers have worked with the World Wildlife Fund, Audubon and others to ensure that our ranching practices are environmentally sustainable… Conservation easements are essential for Florida cattle ranching to continue… We call on Gov. Rick Scott and state legislators to fund the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program and Florida Forever during the upcoming legislative session… Without maintaining Florida’s cattle ranches, the land will be turned into what my father calls “The Final Crop.” Once land goes into housing, it never comes back, and we all are poorer.” Read Cattle ranches keep development from wiping out Florida’s beautiful ‘wild places’
John Hall and John Hushon write for the Tallahassee Democrat – “As veterans of the oil and gas industry and the beneficiaries of the superb environmental conditions of South Florida, we support a ban (on hydraulic fracking and other similar techniques)… South Florida has encountered numerous droughts and “water emergencies” in the last few years, and our population continues to grow. We can’t risk inadequate water supplies or contamination from the chemicals. The subsoil conditions in Florida strongly suggest migration of toxicity to aquifers is a substantial risk even if there are no accidents or spills – and national data suggests more than 10 percent of all fracking procedures result in spills. National data also suggests that well water drawn from within one mile of a fracking well contains above acceptable toxicity. We simply cannot risk this. Tourism and development of home sites to attract new residents are two of our largest businesses. Pollution of the Everglades or even a temporary concern about water contamination could do great harm to our economy for a long time.” Read Fracking not worth the risk in Florida
Tyler Treadway reports for the TC Palm – “Florida Senate President Joe Negron wants state engineers to think outside… the “footprint” they’re considering for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee… At a public meeting…, district officials revealed… three options they’ve developed for the project… When combined with other projects already in the works, the project would ‘basically get rid of all small and moderate discharge events,’ said Walter Wilcox, the district’s chief modeling engineer. And in particularly heavy discharge years,… the flow would be reduced by about 45 percent, Wilcox said. All three options would be built on land already owned by the state… The law calling for the project, Negron wrote, ‘also emphasizes termination of leases, land swaps and land acquisition if additional land is necessary to hold back enough water from the estuaries and clean it before it’s sent south to Everglades National Park… But Matt Morrison, the district’s head of federal policy and coordination, told them, ‘I’m not going to assume there’s all this land available when we don’t actually have that land. I can’t make that assumption… If someone comes forward (with an offer to sell or swap land), we’ll evaluate that as an option.’ Ray Palmer, the district’s real estate manager, said… his department has been ‘very aggressive’ in seeking land from private landowners, but ‘we’ve not gotten a lot of yeses.’ The reservoir law does not allow the state to take land for the project by eminent domain.” Read Negron to SFWMD: Lake Okeechobee reservoir should spread off state land if necessary
James Call reports for the Tallahassee Democrat – “A veteran of North Florida environmental battles is the new executive director of the Apalachicola Riverkeeper. The clean-water group’s board of directors announced… Georgia Ackerman will succeed Dan Tonsmeire as the Apalachicola’s leading spokesperson and advocate, after the New Year… Diane Hines is joining the group as the deputy director. Hines was the Florida Wildlife Federation vice president of administration and managed fundraising efforts for the group.” Read Georgia Ackerman named new Apalachicola Riverkeeper
Jim Turner reports for the News Service of Florida – “A proposed constitutional amendment that would redefine legal standing for Floridians when environmental problems occur was put on hold… as opposition mounts from powerful business groups. With critics arguing the measure is too vague and would create legal gridlock, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch… requested more time to work on her proposal (P 23), as it appeared on the verge of being voted down by the commission’s Judiciary Committee… ‘If it had died today, it would be gone. So I’m trying to keep it alive, I’m trying to work on it. But at the end of the day I will not just lean over and say we’ll take out all the tough stuff and just put in flower language again.’ The committee agreed, before postponing the measure until January, to amend it to more narrowly define that people seeking to challenge environmental rules must be Florida residents. The change, backed by Thurlow-Lippisch, still wasn’t enough for opponents…” Read Environmental proposal delayed amid business outcry
The News Service of Florida reports – “Gov. Rick Scott and the state Cabinet agreed to spend $1.08 million… for land that will help link to an ambitious bicycle and pedestrian trail planned to stretch across Central Florida, connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.” Read Cabinet improves link in cross-Florida bike trail
Ashley White reports for the Tallahassee Democrat – “A Sopchoppy man was arrested and told a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigator that he had illegally killed five black bears in the last two years… Killing black bears is illegal in Florida. While there was a black bear hunting season with a permit in 2015, there wasn’t this year or in 2016.” Read Man arrested in connection with illegally killing black bears
Matt Soergel reports for The Florida Times Union – “Littlepage has spent 39 years at the Times-Union, more than 28 of them as an opinion columnist… Littlepage is retiring… When he became a columnist in 1989, he began writing about [the St. Johns River], pushing to clean it up, to preserve it, to stop dredging for the port, to take down the Rodman Dam where the Ocklawaha River meets the St. Johns. In conversation, he can still go on about it… ‘Putnam County is one of the poorest counties in Florida. Having that reservoir isn’t doing them any good. There’s plenty of places to catch bass in Florida, but there would only be one Ocklawaha, if it was restored.’” Read Times-Union’s Ron Littlepage wades into retirement after 28 years as columnist
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