Mike Vasilinda reports for News 4 Jax – “In 2014, about 4.2 million voters said they wanted dedicated funding for land and water conservation when they approved Amendment 1. But… for the third session in a row, organizers behind Amendment 1 are disappointed. ‘Florida Forever funding is at zero in the House right now, and it’s at $15.2 million in the Senate,’ said Aliki Moncrief, of the Florida Conservation Voters. ‘(And) $15.2 million is what it got last year and the year before, and it’s obviously a lot less than the hundreds of millions of dollars it used to get in the past.’… Plans for everglades restoration are taking a big part of the land money… [T]he question environmentalists are asking lawmakers is, ‘What part of Land Acquisition Trust Fund don’t you understand.’” Read Voters snubbed? Questions arise over Land Acquisition Trust Fund
Isadora Rangel reports for the TC Palm – “Environmentalists were frustrated at the end of each legislative session since voters approved Amendment 1, which set aside dollars for land and water conservation. They failed to persuade lawmakers to increase cash going into land purchases through the Florida Forever program. This year, land conservation is faring even worse. Lawmakers have proposed defunding a program that pays ranchers not to develop their lands, therefore freeing the state from having to manage those properties… The chambers are expected to pass their respective budgets [this] week before going into negotiations, when they could increase funding for [Florida Forever and Rural and Family Lands]. The Senate contends it’s already doing enough for the environment in 2017. Land conservation is taking a back seat to a reservoir to curb Lake Okeechobee discharges… The Senate proposed shifting $113 million in… operating expenses within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission back to the state’s general fund, which paid for these expenses before the amendment, said Sen. Rob Bradley, who is chairman of the Senate committee that appropriates environmental dollars. The Senate’s move means big progress for the environment, said Florida Conservation Voters Executive Director Aliki Moncrief. Yet she still sees problems…” Read Legislature wants to cut land conservation despite Amendment 1
Lisa Rinaman writes for The Florida Times Union – “Along with our team of experts, [the St. Johns Riverkeeper has] worked with the Army Corps of Engineers, JaxPort, the Chamber of Commerce, elected officials and community leaders in an effort to make certain the (dredging) project is fully vetted and sufficient mitigation is in place to safeguard our river. Unfortunately, the Corps’ evaluation remains incomplete, resulting in projected impacts to the river and its tributaries that have been significantly underestimated and a mitigation plan that fails to offset the damage. In addition, JaxPort continues to exaggerate the economic benefits of the project while downplaying the risks to our river and taxpayers. As a result, we are left with no choice but to file a legal challenge of this ill-conceived project… [W]e… know that deepening the channel by 19 percent will cause saltwater to move upstream. This saltwater intrusion will damage or destroy hundreds of acres of wetlands, submerged grasses and trees in parts of the river and its tributaries… Critical habitat for fisheries and pollution filters for our river will be lost in the process… Larger ships will create larger wakes, increasing the likelihood of shoreline erosion. Regrettably, the mitigation plan would do nothing to offset these impacts. Instead, the Corps mostly calls for monitoring – with no guarantee of corrective action once the damage is done.” Read Riverkeeper sued to force an adequate analysis of river deepening project
Ron Cunningham writes for The Gainesville Sun – “It’s war. And it’s being waged on multiple fronts... Here in Florida the fight of the moment is over… urban redevelopment and taxes and business regs… And in Gainesville, it’s about who will run the city-owned utility… The war wagers are the Republicans who control political power in the White House, Congress and most state capitals. Their allies are shadowy groups like Americans For Prosperity (aka the Koch brothers). And the enemy? Cities. Those teeming, overcrowded havens for immigrants, democrats, people of color, millennials, academics, free thinkers, transit riders and other undesirables… In this current session of the Florida Legislature at least eight bills would restrict the ability of cities and counties to exercise home-rule powers. One would require legislative approval for local business regulations. Another would prohibit cities from raising taxes unless they first spend down their cash reserves. One would limit the ability of cities to have community redevelopment agencies… [C]ities need to fight back… This would be a great time for local governments to band together behind a Florida constitutional amendment initiative to strengthen the home rule authority of cities and counties.” Read Cities must fight back in war on home rule
Isadora Rangel reports for the TC Palm – “U.S. Rep. Brian Mast said… he’s working on a bill to expedite a proposed reservoir to curb Lake Okeechobee discharges. He also acknowledged he’ll have a hard time drumming up support on Capitol Hill… Mast joined Captains for Clean Water, a group of recreational anglers and charter fishing guides who visited the state capital Tuesday, to lobby for a bill to build the reservoir… The Army corps of Engineers has told Mast if land for the reservoir was available today, it would take eight to 10 years to build it because of the necessary planning and permitting process… Mast’s bill, which he hasn’t filed, would require the Corps to begin planning the reservoir as soon as the state is ready instead of in 2021, as it’s currently scheduled. The proposal is in line with Negron’s plan to force the South Florida Water Management District, the Corps’ state partner in the project, to move the planning date from 2021 to no later than October 2018. Mast’s office also is working on four to five other bills related to Lake Okeechobee, including one to dredge sediment out of the lake to allow it to hold more water. Another bill would require the federal government to help clean water that is polluted by the Corps’ discharges into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.” Read U.S. Rep. Brian Mast to file bill to expedite Lake Okeechobee reservoir
Chad Gillis reports for the News Press – “A U.S. senator is fending off threats that could open up the eastern Gulf of Mexico to offshore drilling. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando, told some local leaders… that he’s hoping to extend protections that now prohibit drilling offshore of Southwest Florida from 2022 to 2027… ‘The clincher… is that this area… is the largest testing and training area for the United States military in the world,’ [Sen. Nelson] said. ‘I would hope… we’d have all the support of the generals, and the admirals and the secretary of defense.’… ‘Our estuaries are so delicate…, and they’re the drivers of our economy,’ said Jennifer Hecker with the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program. ‘And we can’t afford to put anymore stress on them right now. We’re really working hard to restore them and we’re investing millions and millions of dollars to plant sea grasses and rebuild oyster bars. We can’t risk anything that could undermine the progress we’ve been able to make.’” Read Sen. Nelson fighting offshore drilling
CBS Miami reports – “[A] year and a half old female (Florida panther) [has] been hit by a vehicle… Eight of the ten Florida panthers who died this year were hit by vehicles. This was the fourth dead panther found in Hendry County.” Read Florida Panther Struck, Killed by Vehicle in Hendry Co.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission shares – “Florida’s four-month bat maternity season starts April 16 and lasts through Aug. 14. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is reminding the public that they cannot do exclusions to remove bats from buildings during this time when bats are giving birth and raising their young… [H]omeowners and building managers who need to exclude bats roosting in houses or other structures can do so as long as it is not done during maternity season.” Read Be bat aware: Maternity season starts April 16
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Upcoming Environmental Events
April 12, 12:45 pm – Attend The Villages Environmental Discussions Group meeting at the Belvedere Library community room in The Villages. Presenters include Lloyd Singleton, UF/IFAS Sumter County Extension Agent; Matt Keene, award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and St Johns Riverkeeper 2015 Advocate of the Year; and Jamie Letendre, FDEP Environmental Specialist of St. Martins Marsh & Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserves. Matt Keened will speak about the Rodman Dam. For more information and to RSVP, email email@example.com.
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. To watch a promotional video, click here.
April 18, 5:30 pm - Attend a free "Solar Co-op Information Meeting" for the Sarasota County Solar Co-op at the North Sarasota Library (2801 Newtown Blvd) in Sarasota. To register, click here.
April 21, 9:30 am – Attend a celebration of Sierra Club Founder John Muir’s Birthday in Brooksville. There will be a guided trail walk and a picnic luncheon featuring Jerry Cowling as John Muir. For more information and to RSVP, click here.
April 22, 7:30 am – Attend Clermont Earth Day & Lake Clean-Up 2017 at the Lake Hiawatha Preserve (450 N. 12 St./SR 561) (West of the roundabout) in Clermont. To register for the Lake Clean Up, click here. Several prizes will be given to volunteers for most weight, youngest participant, oldest participant, oddest object found, etc. Pre-registrants will be given T-shirts. After the clean up, there will be environmental education, an earth kids zone, DJ music and entertainment, food vendors, prizes, and more! For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (352) 394 – 3500.
April 25, 5:30 pm - Attend a free "Solar Co-op Information Meeting" for the East Broward County Solar Co-op and the West Broward County Solar Co-op at the Northwest Regional Library (3151 N. University Drive) in Coral Springs. To register, click here.
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