Abbey Taylor reports for Southeast Ag Net – “Florida cattle farmers and the Florida Conservation Group are advocating for more funding of the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program and the Florida Forever program…These programs are vital to the health and preservation of Florida’s landscape, as well as the protection of Florida’s water quality and supply to urban areas…Florida’s cattle industry…is a $3 billion industry…Cattle ranchlands protect Florida’s native wildlife and plants. The land also serves as a great natural water storage system…However, Florida cattle production continues to dwindle due to the increasing population forcing more commercial and residential development. As ranchlands disappear, so do the natural resources thriving on the land…Ideally, Florida Conservation Group would like $100 million allocated to RFLPP. Before the recession, Florida Forever received $300 million a year. Last year, it received $15 million. Florida Conservation Group is hoping legislators will restore $100 million this year to Florida Forever. The conservation group and cattle farmers believe that $200 million is a small price to pay in exchange for preserving Florida’s natural resources…” Read Funding Needed to Preserve and Protect Florida Ag
The TC Palm Editorial Board writes – “Under House Bill 17, sponsored by Palm Bay Republican Randy Fine, leaders elected locally would be stripped of their longstanding and fundamental authority to regulate businesses operating within their boundaries, unless granted the right to do so in specific cases by legislators. Existing local regulations would expire in mid-2020…Passage of this bill would roll back the clock in Florida 50 years, before the state constitution was amended in 1968 to establish home rule for local governments…With few exceptions, local leaders are in the best position to set local policy. They live and work in the communities where those policies apply. They interact face-to-face and day-to-day with the people and businesses that are affected…Before home rule was enshrined in the…Constitution, it was not unusual for the Legislature to consider thousands of bills a year dealing with local issues…Fine’s bill is a carpet bombing. A top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to regulation is especially ill-suited for Florida, one of the nation’s most geographically and culturally diverse states. Why operate under the assumption that a policy that’s a good fit for rural North Florida should apply in downtown Miami?” Read Don’t roll back local control
Christopher Guinn reports for The Ledger – “Lakeland leaders are in Tallahassee…with the goal of bending ears and changing hearts against bills they say attack municipalities’ ability to govern…Three bills in particular have put city leaders on alert: - HB 13, introduced by…Rep. Jake Raburn, would eventually dissolve Community Redevelopment Agencies, tax-funded entities intended to reverse blight in specific areas of the city with the area’s own economic gains… - CS/HB 17, Local Regulation Pre-emption, would deny local governments the ability to adopt or impose ‘new regulations on a business, profession or occupation unless the regulation is expressly authorized by general law,’ according the House of Representatives staff analysis.” Read Lakeland officials are fighting bills they say attack their ability to govern
Bruce Ritchie reports for Politico Florida – “A top U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official in Florida…declared the federal agency’s support for an Everglades restoration schedule that calls for planning an Everglades reservoir later than Senate President Joe Negron is proposing. The statement by Col. Jason Kirk, commander of the agency’s Jacksonville district, appears to back off earlier statements by agency officials that they are willing to move up work if a “non-federal partner” such as the state agreed to take on a study for the project.” Read Corps reaffirms Everglades restoration schedule, countering Negron’s reservoir proposal
Fried Hiers reports for the Ocala Star Banner – “The St. Johns River Water Management District will hold a public meeting (4:40 to 6:30 pm) Thursday (at the Marion County Commission Auditorium in Ocala) to explain why it thinks the flow of Silver Springs can still be safely reduced… ‘…The harm to the river is (already) highly visible,’ [Robert Knight, director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute and president of the Silver Springs Alliance] said. ‘The state needs to be cutting down on groundwater consumption,’ not allowing more that will reduce the flow of Silver Springs even more. Water agency officials say that after years of careful computer modeling, the proposed 2.5 percent reduction in flow will not do any harm and was calculated conservatively using the river’s low flow levels as its starting point in determining the MFL…[Silver Spring’s] flow has declined about 32 percent since the 1930s…[W]ater agency officials say that of that 32 percent, about 15.5 percent is due to increased downstream vegetation…Knight said that makes no sense…[I]f the vegetation was somehow slowing the spring flow, the lost water would still have to show up somewhere else, either in the groundwater or at another spring, and neither is happening…The water agency estimates…only 3.5% of the spring’s flow reduction is due to groundwater pumping. Knight…says pumping accounts for about 19 percent of the 32 percent flow decline.” Read Water agency Oks reduced flow for Silver Springs
Lance Dixon reports for the Miami Herald – “Coral Gables…gave initial approval to an ordinance banning [plastic bags]. The measure will require a second vote to become law, which will likely come at the March 28 meeting. The action sets the city up to be the first municipality in Florida to ban plastic bag use…The ordinance will prohibit plastic bag use by retailers…and at city special events. The ordinance does provide for exceptions including: plastic bags that the shopper provides, plastic bags without handles, bags used to hold prescription medicines at a pharmacy or veterinarian’s office, dry cleaning bags, pet waste bags, yard waste or trash bags and newspaper bags…Palm Beach County, Jacksonville Beach and other cities have sponsored resolutions in support of plastic bag bans and officials including state Rep. David Richardson…have sponsored legislation calling for a ban in select areas of the state.” Read Coral Gables votes to ban plastic bags – a first in Florida
Carl Hiaasen writes for the Miami Herald – “The federal role in Everglades restoration was expanded by U.S. District Judge Alan Gold…who had become increasingly exasperated by all the stall tactics of Florida officials and the weakening of pollution limits for farm runoff waters. In a 2011 order, Gold…concluded that the state and the south Florida Water Management District, ‘have not been true stewards of protecting the Everglades in recent years.’ He was dead right. Pruitt’s takeover of the EPA is happy news for Big Sugar and other industrial agricultural interests that have been trying for decades to shake free of federal scrutiny. They eagerly await the day when anemic state agencies – not the EPA – are the ones in charge of regulating levels of phosphorus, mercury and other chemicals in the farm runoff that flows into public waterways…Last year’s gift-wrapped water bill placed the state’s farming and ranching companies on a laughable honor system, allowing them to self-monitor their cleanup efforts with only occasional state inspections. Of course, if the honor system worked…there would have been no need for an EPA all those years ago. Recently, seeking to shed all federal oversight, Florida officials distributed maps intended to show that water quality throughout the Everglades has improved to the threshold of almost clean…The good news puzzled the Miccosukee Tribe, which says phosphorus levels in some reservation waters are 7 to 10 times higher than legal limits. The nutrient-loaded runoff comes from canals transporting farm effluent south to tribal wetlands bisected by Alligator Alley. A spokesman admitted the district has quit monitoring pollution in those canals…How convenient. The state is now safe to shrug off those alarming phosphorus readings from the Miccosukees and promote its own selective, upbeat water data.” Read Like phosphorus in your water? You’re in luck!
Jenny Staletovich reports for the Miami Herald – “32 Florida scientists sent a letter to the president voicing worry over reports that the Department of Commerce, which oversees the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has proposed cutting 17 percent from its budget, with the nation’s network of satellites taking the biggest hit…A spokesman for Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said his office had not been provided any details. But in a statement, Nelson said, ‘We’re not going to allow that to happen. NOAA’s mission is too important… ‘With reductions in research, hurricane forecasts will never improve, and without satellite data those same forecasts won’t even exist,’ NOAA’s former chief scientist, Richard Spinrad, said…The network (of satellites) has also helped track pollution, including the BP Deepwater Horizon Spill, as well as the spread of red tide and dangerous algae outbreaks…Satellites often take years to develop, build and launch. The satellites now in orbit are based on 1990s technology…Derailing that work now could put the U.S. decades behind the technology of other countries.” Read Florida scientists fear hurricane forecasts, climate research will suffer under Trump
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Event
March 20, 7:00 PM and 9:00 PM – Attend the Tallahassee premiere of Catching the Sun, an inspirational documentary about the global shift to solar and renewable energy. For more information and to purchase tickets ($5), click here
March 22, 10:00 AM – Participate in Reclaiming Florida’s Future for All at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee. Floridians will make their voices heard by speaking directly with their elected officials on key energy and water issues facing Florida. Public transportation from several cities across the state will be offered, as will advocacy training on March 21st. For more information and to RSVP, click here.
April 1, 10:30 am – Attend Solar: Unlimited Energy for the Sunshine State, a free educational program on solar power, at the Coastal Region Library (8619 W. Crystal St.) in Crystal River. For more information, please contact Nancy Kost at (352) 628 – 0698 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
April 18, 5:00 pm – Attend the Suncoast Climate Change Symposium at USFSM’s Selby Auditorium (8350 N. Tamiami Trail) in Sarasota. The symposium will host presentations on climate change and its consequences for Florida, featuring Dr. Harold Wanless of the University of Miami, noted geologist and sea-level rise expert. The sustainability manager for the City of Sarasota will also discuss Sarasota’s “Climate Adaptation Plan.” Tickets are $15 for the general public, and free for students. To purchase tickets, click here.
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