Zac Anderson reports for the Herald-Tribune – “Strickland has spent his entire life ranching… A few years ago [he] teamed with a wealthy investor and began buying agricultural land across the state…[H]e… hoped to preserve a part of Florida he’d watched disappear before his eyes. It’s a sentiment that many Floridians share, as evidenced by the fact that 75 percent of voters approved [Amendment 1] in 2014… Protecting properties… from being developed was one of the prime reasons for the amendment in the minds of those who pushed for it. But… that’s not how things have worked out. The Florida House is moving forward with a budget… that sets aside no money for… Florida Forever, or a separate program that ranchers such as Strickland have used to put conservation easements on their properties. The Florida Senate is proposing to fund Florida Forever at a tiny fraction of what the state once spent, and also has no money for [Rural and Family Lands]. The paltry… proposals for land conservation are a continuation of a trend in recent years. State leaders have steadfastly refused to give Florida Forever – a program that once spent $300 million annually to buy conservation property – anywhere near the level of funding it once enjoyed, leading critics to declare that lawmakers are brazenly defying the will of voters…Strickland and fellow rancher David “Lefty” Durando… have been aggressively lobbying state lawmakers to get serious about land conservation…Strickland…was president of the Florida Cattleman’s Association and chairman of the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, a political action committee that helps elected officials who support the beef industry… [C]onservation advocates face a range of obstacles this year, including…a focus in the Senate on specific conservation projects rather than statewide programs such as Florida Forever and Rural and Family Lands.” Read Trying to save Florida’s landscape
Bob Graham writes for the Tampa Bay Times – “Florida Forever is unassailable because it uses a proven process overseen by scientists and conservation and forestry experts to make land acquisition decisions. In 2013, when the Legislature directed the Department of Environmental Protection to sell unneeded conservation lands, the agency ended the program after nine months without selling a single acre due to the thorough evaluation process the lands underwent prior to purchase…The Florida Conservation Coalition is calling for a minimum of 25 percent of all Amendment 1 funds to be dedicated to land conservation through Florida Forever and Florida Communities Trust and for increased funding for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. Tell your state representative and senator to do the will of “we the people” by fully funding Florida Forever.” Read Tell legislators to honor Amendment 1 and Florida Forever
Briana Erickson reports for WUFT – “Over the course of 24 days, [Oscar Psychas would] walk from his house on Newnan’s Lake to the steps of the state capitol in Tallahassee. As the legislative session began…, Oscar wanted to make sure lawmakers did what the public asked. To save Florida’s environment. While the springs are choked with neon-green algae, rivers are polluted and lands are lost to development, Oscar would push legislators to increase funding for conservation…In the forest, Oscar felt like a bear. Or a Florida panther. He drank from their streams. He walked in their steps. He saw their land cut by new roads. Not only did Oscar think about the bears, but also the people he had met along the way…Two Canadians who drove 24 hours straight from Quebec – just to canoe down the Suwannee…And Trevor, a teenager on a farm in Lake Butler… ‘I just love to hunt and fish,’ he told Oscar. ‘And I want to see that my kids and their kids can have this land, too.’… ‘I’ve seen more than ever that, as Floridians, we are united by our love for our state’s wild places,’ [Oscar] said (in Florida’s Capitol). ‘Protecting these places is about protecting our livelihoods, protecting our clean water and protecting our way of life.’” Read Gainesville Teen Hikes Nearly 300 Miles. To Save Florida.
Jenny Staletovich reports for the Miami Herald – “Stalled plans to build a Walmart shopping center on the planet’s largest remaining tract of privately-owned pine rockland are getting a surprise assist from the University of Miami… [T]he…proposal…carves what was once a 90-acre forest across 138 acres into pieces that do less to protect the plants and animals found no place else on the planet… South Florida Wildlands Association Executive Director Matthew Schwartz said, ‘This project shouldn’t have been happening. We should have had enough consciousness to stop this.’ The big picture…is the need to preserve as many remaining large pieces to give disappearing plants and animals the best chance to survive… Critics also worry that allowing the shopping center could revive another big development: Miami Wilds, a theme park the county wanted to build next door… UM was aware of environmentalists’ desire to protect the land, and the presence of rare forest and threatened species, when the school sold it. In the mid-1990s, when the county requested that it be added to a list of endangered lands for purchase, UM objected…” Read With land deal on the line, UM tries to clear path for Walmart in rare forest
Kevin Spear reports for the Orlando Sentinel - “Environmentalists and spring advocates have rallied to the ailing treasure (Silver Springs) as emblematic of state-sanctioned abuse of Florida springs. Their battle to prevent billionaire Frank Stronach from getting a pasture-irrigation permit will come to a head [today] at a judicial hearing over his years-long quest to pump from the aquifer that also sustains Silver Springs…Also, on Tuesday, a state agency will consider a proposed regulation – which Stronach’s permit hinges on – that attributes weakening Silver Springs flows not on the state’s growing thirst for aquifer water but on submerged plants plugging the spring system…In 2014, the St. Johns River Water Management District moved to deny Stronach’s request to pump millions of gallons a day for irrigation. Afterward, senior employees involved in that decision were forced out of their jobs without explanation. The agency already has been downsized by Gov. Rick Scott and lawmakers to be friendlier to business, water utilities and agriculture. The 2014 decision was based on a determination then that Silver Springs was threatened already by existing aquifer pumping permits, said Jim Gross, director of the…Florida Defenders of the Environment…Meanwhile, Register (the district’s director of water-supply planning) said, based on projections that aquifer pumping by cities, farms and industry is on track to harm Silver Springs in less than a decade, his agency will work with local governments to replenish the springs by relocating wells, reusing wastewater and capturing rain runoff. The cost will be in the tens of millions of dollars.” Read Rancher’s water demand alarms springs advocates
Isadora Rangel reports for the TC Palm – “A bill to build a reservoir to curb Lake Okeechobee discharges cleared the Senate budget committee…, its final stop before a full Senate vote… Florida Senate President Negron scaled back the bill… to garner support from fellow Republicans before sending it to the House… With the House version of the bill stalled, Speaker Richard Corcoran has said he’s waiting to see what the Senate will pass before deciding whether to back Negron… Instead of buying 60,000 acres from farmers, the bill now would use 14,000 acres the state owns and leases to Florida Crystals until 2019, and complement that with smaller private land purchases, swaps with private owners and other existing state lands leased to farmers. The bill makes it clear farmers have to agree to break the leases and… eminent domain isn’t an option…The Legislature would allocate $64 million this year and after the second year would have the ability to borrow up to $1.2 billion…A shallow reservoir is planned on the 14,000-acre parcel known as A-2. The state would deepen it to 14 feet to store 240,000 acre-feet of excess lake water. Water managers could use an adjacent reservoir called A-1 that now cleans Everglades-bound water to store an additional 120,000 acre-feet. More land likely would be needed to clean the water once it leaves the reservoir to meet phosphorus pollution standards in the Everglades…[T]he district would determine through computer modeling how much more land it would need and how to obtain it and report that to the Legislature by January…Despite voting for the bill, Sen. David Simmons said instead of building a reservoir, the Legislature should expedite work to strengthen the Herbert Hoover Dike…to hold more water….Only after that can the state and the Army Corps of Engineers determine how much more storage is needed south and north.” Read Lake Okeechobee reservoir bill clears Florida Senate Appropriations Committee
The News Leader reports – “On Earth Day, April 22, The Florida Scrub-Jay Trail is giving community members a unique opportunity for hands-on nature learning – planting trees at the Trail to improve habitat for the Florida Scrub-Jay and help other wildlife by providing food, cover, and places for wildlife to thrive…Patrick Fitzgerald, senior director of community wildlife for the National Wildlife Federation [said,] ‘A single tree can clean the air and water, provide food for wildlife and humans and serve as shelter….’” Read The Florida Scrub-Jay Trail and National Wildlife Federation Plant Trees for Wildlife
Michael Howard writes for The Guardian – “Just before the Rio Earth summit 25 years ago, John Major, in whose cabinet I then served as environment secretary, made a bold prediction: reducing Britain’s carbon emissions in line with recommendations of climate science would not, he said, harm our economy: ‘Our initial measures…will bring a worthwhile economic payoff to the country, to business and to ordinary people.’ This was a controversial statement at [the] time…And indeed the argument can still be heard that reducing greenhouse gas emissions will ruin our economies – even that it will return us to a pre-industrial living standard. A quarter of a century later, the approach that we took has been richly vindicated. As research published…by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit demonstrates, in that period the average Briton has grown richer faster than citizens of any other G7 nation; at the same time, his or her carbon footprint has fallen faster than in any other G6 nation…[N]o one can seriously argue any more that our climate policies have generated economic harm.” Read Climate change action is good for the economy – and Britain is the proof
From Our Readers
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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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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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