Carlton Ward Jr. writes for the Tampa Bay Times – “In 2014, 75 percent of Florida voters asked for one-third of real estate transaction taxes to be invested in land conservation. Based on the 2017 state budget, that would be nearly $800 million for land conservation annually. But last year lawmakers budgeted just $10 million. Meanwhile, another 100,000 acres were lost to development. At stake is the future of Florida ranching, the restoration of the Everglades and the survival of the Florida Wildlife Corridor… They all depend on one thing – making an immediate and substantial public investment in land conservation. We spend $10 billion annually on our state transportation budget. I believe $500 million, or 5 percent of our roads budget, should be our baseline for land conservation… Senate Bill 370, with a proposed $100 million for Florida Forever, is a step in the right direction… But even if all of these funds were invested in cost-efficient conservation easements at $2,000 per acre, for example, only 50,000 acres would be protected, compared to the trend of 100,000 lost to development. We need to accelerate the rate of conservation by four times what is proposed to reverse that ratio of loss and achieve a sustainable balance.” Read A picturesque calendar of ranches shows why the state needs to preserve wild Florida
Roger Williams reports for the Fort Myers Florida Weekly – “In effect, Lee’s commissioners purchased a massive front door, a broad western gate opening into the Big Cypress Swamp and the Everglades by way of such contiguous lands as the… Hidden Cypress Preserve… and the… Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed on the east… All those lands lying across both counties are now part of a single preserve geography blind to the multiple bureaucratic and political owners in charge of their fate… Management – how the land ultimately will be used both for and by the public – is the key question now, agreed Larry Kiker, (Lee County)… commissioner. ‘The most important thing about the purchase is connectivity, because we can now restore natural water flow and all aspects of natural water quality that exist on that property. It will also enhance all the other properties around there.’… Calusa Riverkeeper John Cassani [said,] ‘… The greatest value of it, as I see it, is as an outstanding source for passive public recreation and as wildlife habitat.’ That’s not yet a given. ‘What worries me in light of the flooding this past year: The board may try to turn it more into a flood control reservoir or storm-water treatment area,’ Mr. Cassani said. ‘So all those things have value; but I think the public expects it to be a passive recreation and wildlife habitat.’… Everybody agrees: The public will need to have well-advertised, ample opportunities to weigh in on how the land should be used.” Read Lauded county land purchase opens door to important conservation
Chad Gillis reports for the Naples Daily News – “A report released recently by Florida Audubon… says eaglets here are doing well based on sheer numbers but that they’re losing natural nesting habitat… [P]rogram director Shawnlei Breeding [said,] ‘More and more are nesting in developed areas, and some eagles are nesting quite close to each other.’ Bald eagles are territorial and typically don’t nest near other eagles. In Florida, they prefer pine trees, most of which are on dry ground. Dry ground is mostly where we build in Florida, so much of their habitat has become our habitat.” Read Report: Eagle population souring in Florida
Jim Waymer reports for Florida Today – “Thirteen manatees died in… collisions with boats in Brevard County this year, the most to perish that way in the county since 2010. Statewide, 101 manatees died from boat strikes, 20 percent of this year’s 513 manatee deaths. That was a typical percentage of the overall deaths but also the second highest boat-strike manage death toll on record… But boats tend to kill only about 1 percent of the manatee population, which some estimates put in the range of 8,000 or more manatees, statewide, boating advocates say. So slowing down their boats with go-slow zones shouldn’t be the focus of manatee protections, some boaters assert. State biologists counter that they recover an unknown percentage of the overall manatee carcasses in any given year. Also unknown, they say, is how many of the manatees they find too rotted to tell what killed them had died form boat strikes… Atkins (president of Citizens for Florida’s Waterways) sees loss of density of seagrass beds as a much greater threat to manatees than boats.” Read Manatees endure another deadly year
Chuck Wickenhofer reports for Free Press – “Environmental groups invested in Everglades restoration have raised major concerns over four options the South Florida Water Management District is considering for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee… With [a] Jan. 9 deadline to present a workable option as well as the cost of the chosen plan to the Florida Legislature rapidly approaching, SFWMD is under a time crunch to choose a design that will both come in under $1.6 billion – the amount designated to be shared 50-50 between the district and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – and whose footprint will be modest enough to fit into land the state currently owns. That’s because Senate Bill 10… did not include an eminent domain clause that would allow the state to absorb privately owned lands – much of which are owned by sugar interests… Celeste De Palma, policy associate for Audubon Florida, says the district should be doing more to encourage land swaps and alter current leases, though some leases in the Everglades Agricultural Area expire in 2019 anyway, freeing up more land for the planned reservoir. She also says that her group and others need to know a lot more before evaluating any of the reservoir options currently on the table, including cost… SFWMD is currently negotiating with property owners in the EAA to purchase about 500 acres, though Morrison said that ‘a number’ of property owners have put their lack of interest in selling in writing.” Read Critics push back on reservoir plan process
John Chambliss reports for The Ledger – “Polk County… commissioners voted 5-0 to purchase 30 acres east of Lake Wales that will eventually be the site of a water plant and transmission line capable of providing 30 million gallons a day, which is about two-thirds of the projected water deficit in 20 years. In the coming years, plans are to tap the Lower Floridan aquifer at wells to the east of Walk in the Water road…” Read County to purchase land for future water plans
Steve Bousquet reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “(Senator) Jack Latvala resigned Wednesday, a day after a retired judge concluded that he likely violated state corruption laws by trading legislative favors for physical contact and for sexually harassing and groping multiple women.” Read Jack Latvala resigns from the Florida Senate
Timothy Cama reports for The Hill – “Congress voted… to open Alaska’s remote Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and natural gas drilling, ending more than four decades of heated debate on the matter. The House voted 224-201, mostly along party lines, to pass the Republicans’ tax overhaul bill, which has the ANWR drilling provision attached to it. It followed the Senate’s 51-48 vote along party lines… To opponents, ANWR drilling poses a significant threat to the ecosystem, flora and fauna of one of the wildest places on earth, host to caribou, sandpiper, polar bears and more… Any lease sale or drilling would likely be years away, assuming there is enough industry interest in the area for drilling. Permits and other actions would require extensive environmental review, which opponents could sue to stop from moving forward and likely will.” Read Congress votes to open Alaska refuge to oil drilling
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
January 9, 12:00 pm – Attend Springs Academy Tuesday, a lunchtime lecture series on Florida’s springs, in High Springs. January’s lecture is on Springs Biology with special guest Dr. Stephen Walsh of the USGS Wetland and Aquatic Research Center. For more information, click here or call (386) 454 – 2427.
January 20, 9:00 am – Participate in the annual Newnan’s Lake Cleanup in Gainesville. Volunteers will meet at Earl P. Powers Park (5910 SE Hawthorne Rd) on the southwest edge of the lake. Current Problems will provide cleanup supplies such as bags, grabbers, gloves, nets, and scales. There will be snacks and drinks for volunteers. For more information, contact Megan Black at email@example.com.
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