Dima Vitanova reports for WUSF – “Florida Forever, the state’s main program for acquiring lands for conservation and recreation,… has seen its funds – once as high as $300 million – thaw to less than $20 million in the last three years. Gearing toward the May 5 deadline to pass a budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, the Florida House is earmarking no funds for Florida Forever, while the Senate is offering $10 million… ‘That is devastating to us to see what the House and the Senate are doing,’ McCarthy (president of the North Florida Land Trust) said… ‘Even though Florida is a growing state and a very wealthy state,’ [Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida] said, ‘legislators have an ideological belief that taxes should be cut, government spendings should be cut. And a lot of legislators do not care about the environment at all.’… The Florida Conservation Coalition, an association of environmental organizations, advocates for a quarter of the money in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to be spent on conservation. An amendment by Sen. Linda Stewart… honored this demand… [H]owever, Stewart withdrew it… ‘I think it can be a bigger and greater bill for next year,’ she said on the floor after (Sen.) Bradley urged her to retract the amendment as not to ‘jeopardize’ the passage of his legislation… ” Read Florida Legislature Slashes Funds for Land Acquisition, Conservation
Scott Powers reports for Florida Politics – “Saying that conservationists’ efforts apparently are dead this year to get funding routed for preservation as Amendment 1 voters expected, Democratic state Sen. Linda Stewart said she’s organizing support now for next year… ‘I’ve had assurances from Sen. Bradley, and we’ve worked together on Senate Bill 10 throughout the year. I have confidence when he says he’s going to work with me on this for next year,’ Stewart said… Stewart is seeking to set aside 25 percent of the Land Acquisition Trust Fund annually for land acquisition in the Florida Forever program. The program is Florida’s blueprint for conservation of our unique natural resources and is the state’s premier conservation and recreation lands acquisition program. In 2014, about 4.2 million voters demonstrated the pulse of the public for dedicated funding for land and water conservation when they approved Amendment 1. ‘Let’s get back to what the voters have asked us to do,’ said the Orlando Democrat… ‘I hope that it will be greater and bigger because at one point we had $300 [million allocated annually to] Florida Forever,’ Stewart said. ‘This amendment didn’t get us that close and his assurances that we’re going to work together means we’re going to work toward a much bigger and better and greater Florida Forever funding source.’” Read Linda Stewart gathering support for Amendment 1 funding next year
Mary Ellen Klas reports for the Miami Herald – “Florida’s experiment in direct democracy is being tested this year in the state Legislature. Five amendments to the state Constitution relating to the environment, solar power, education, redistricting and medical marijuana are getting a rewrite as lawmakers – mostly in the House – attempt to revise what voters approved with their own ideas of how the amendments should work… The amendment to allow tax breaks for businesses that install solar panels… is now a vehicle in the House to add consumer protection on solar financing and impose new barriers to all rooftop solar installation. The House’s draft budget uses the Land and Water Conservation Amendment of 2014 to fund administrative costs and projects unrelated to land – such as $22.4 million in subsidies to farmers who clean polluted water on their land.” Read Five amendments getting rewrites: Are legislators thwarting the will of the voters?
Mary Ellen Klas reports for the Miami Herald – “HB 1351 by Rep. Ray Rodrigues… contains sections that include verbatim language supplied by Florida Power & Light. The bill is intended to implement Amendment 4, the proposal approved by 73 percent of the voters on the August primary ballot, which prohibits tax assessors from increasing the taxable value of a home or business because of a solar installation… On Jan. 18, Rodrigues accepted a $15,000 contribution to his political committee from Florida Power & Light, and $2,000 from Tampa Electric…. [O]n Jan. 23, he sent an email asking a lawyer in the House bill drafting office (Yvonne Gsteiger) to analyze FPL’s proposal… Gsteiger responded that the FPL draft ‘establishes extensive requirements before a solar electric equipment [SEE] can be installed. This could be a huge barrier to selling SEEs.’… On March 21, when his bill came up for its first hearing… Rodrigues filed an amendment that included FPL’s language verbatim in eight different sections… [D]ocuments were obtained through a public records request by the Energy and Policy Institute, a non-profit that works to counter what it deems ‘misinformation’ from fossil fuel and utility interests. David Pomerantz, executive director of the group, said he was not surprised to see FPL taking a role in shaping the bill. ‘Despite the clear message from voters last year that they want more solar, FPL just won’t quit,’ he said. ‘They’re still trying to throw up barriers to Floridians going solar in any way they can, and they’re happy to buy the support of legislators like Rep. Rodrigues who will carry their water for them.’ Rodrigues said he received language from not only FPL but also from Solar City… as well as state and federal solar industry associations.” Read FPL drafted portions of bill that puts tough requirements on rooftop solar companies
Mary Ellen Klas reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “(Governor) Scott said that he wants the state to lend the federal government $200 million to help accelerate the repairs to the dike (around Lake Okeechobee) by three years. The federal government has committed to repairing the dike by 2025… (Sen.) Bradley said that leaves many unanswered questions, such as where the money will come from and how the state will get paid back… Governor Rick Scott said, ‘… I support storage south of the lake in the A2 Reservoir which utilizes state-owned land and does not take people’s private land… It’s very important to me that while we fund items in this bill, dollars are not taken away from our existing restoration plan, including projects like C43 and C44. Also, it is important to me that whatever is passed does not impact any person’s job. We have dedicated record funding toward Everglades restoration and I am confident we have the funds available to get these projects done without taking on more debt… Protecting our environment isn’t a partisan issue. We have to aggressively fight to protect it… I want to make sure we leave our future generations a pristine environment.’” Read Scott agrees to Negron’s reservoir plan, with conditions
Kate MacFall writes for my Palm Beach Post – “The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) may revisit the issue of a Florida statewide hunt on black bears, and it is time for citizens to let them know we want our bears protected – not shot for a trophy. The issue could come up for discussion fairly soon, possibly at the FWC’s meeting in Tallahassee on Wednesday and Thursday… Florida’s bears are slow to reproduce, and females spend up to 18 months raising their cubs. If a mother is killed by a trophy hunter, her cubs could die from starvation, dehydration, predation or exposure… A 2015 statewide Remington Research poll found that nearly two-thirds of Floridians oppose bear hunting. The poll showed that Floridians overwhelmingly favor educational outreach (84 percent) and bear-proof garbage cans (81 percent). Eighty-seven percent agreed that neighborhoods near areas where bears roam have a responsibility to avoid attracting bears by securing their garbage and other foods.” Read Another Florida black bear hunt makes no sense
Elizabeth Djinis reports for the Herald-Tribune – “[L]ast month... the [US Fish and Wildlife Service] moved to reclassify the West Indian manatee- which includes two subspecies, the Florida manatee and the largely Caribbean-dwelling Antillean manatee- from “endangered” to “threatened.”…U.S. Fish and Wildlife staff [claim] that the “threatened” status still acknowledges [threats to manatees] while also factoring in the marine mammal’s conservation success story. A 2017… survey… found more than 6,000 Florida manatees in total, a significant increase from the fewer than 1,500 reported in the state in 1991… [C]onservationists worry that the changes in status will prompt state and local governments to reduce protections, such as restricted speed boating zones and the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, which makes it illegal to disturb manatees. Underwood (spokesman for the FWC’s North Florida Ecological Services office) stressed that the reclassification is not meant to be a signal to lawmakers to relax any protections. In fact, the lowered threatened status has resulted from the positive impact of those very rules, he said… Despite threats of potential lawsuits and (Rep.) Buchanan’s letter, representatives from U.S. Fish and Wildlife say it is unlikely they will reconsider… [T]here is one topic that may warrant reconsideration in the future, according to concerned scientists and U.S. Fish and Wildlife staff alike: the Antillean manatee.” Read Scientists divided on impact of downgrading manatees
Andrew Restuccia reports for Politico – “President Donald Trump’s abrupt turnaround on U.S. climate policy is fueling tension with several of America’s closest allies… The dispute blew up at this week’s meeting of G-7 energy ministers, at which Trump administration officials pushed to include stronger pro-coal, pro-nuclear language in a proposed joint statement on energy policy… [T]he g-7 energy ministers – including representatives from Canada, Great Britain and several European Union countries – wound up scuttling the statement altogether… G-7 officials, led by the Europeans, refused to agree to stronger language touting fossil fuels without assurances from the United States that it would stay in the Paris climate change agreement, according to officials briefed on the discussions… The leaders of the other G-7 nations have all called for a shift away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy.” Read Trump’s climate demands roil U.S. allies
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
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 Poster Making Party for the March for Science at Fire Betty’s Arcade Bar in Tallahassee. Materials will be provided. For more information, 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 22, 11:00 am – Participate in Tallahassee’s March for Science. Participants will gather at 11:00 am at Anita Favors Thompson Plaza (124 West Van Buren St.) and begin marching to the Capitol at noon. For more information, click here.
April 22, 12:00 pm – Attend the Green Earth vs Phosphate Pot-Luck & Discussion at the Sustainable Living Center (10665 SW 89th Ave.) in Hampton. A phosphate mine is proposed for Bradford and Union counties! For more information, call (352) 283- 5536.
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.
April 29, 10:00 am – Participate in the People’s Climate March in Pensacola. The march will start at Long Hollow Park (1001 N. Guillemard St.). For more information click here or email email@example.com.
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We hope you enjoy this service and find it valuable. Our goal is to provide you with the latest environmental news from around the state. Our hope is that you will use this information to more effectively and frequently contact your elected representatives, and add your voice to the growing chorus of Floridians concerned about the condition of our environment and the recent direction of environmental policies.
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About the FCC: The Florida Conservation Coalition (FCC) is composed of over 70 conservation organizations and over two thousand individuals devoted to protecting and conserving Florida’s land, fish and wildlife, and water resources.
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