Bruce Ritchie reports for Politico Florida – “A state agriculture department official told Cabinet aides on Wednesday the conservation easement program could run out of money by the end of the year even with a $10 million appropriation from the Legislature. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam had requested $50 million for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program next year after receiving $35 million for this budget year… The governor and Cabinet next week are scheduled to consider approving two proposed conservation deals covering 5,200 acres of Central Florida ranch land… Brown (lands program administrator for the Florida Forest Service) said the program will have $21 million remaining once the 2017-18 budget is signed. ‘So you will see easements at least until the end of this calendar year,’ he said. ‘Then after that, it could be kind of questionable.’ Environmental groups have said they were disappointed at the lack of funding in the 2017-18 budget for conservation lands programs, especially with voter approval in 2014 of a water and land conservation ballot measure.” Read Conservation easements program could run out of money by end of year
Sean Kinane reports for WMNF – “Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced Wednesday morning that he’s running for Florida Governor...WMNF News asked him what the Florida governor’s role should be in curbing emissions of the main gas causing climate change. But Putnam deflected the problem to the federal government. WMNF: If you’re Florida Governor, what do you think the Florida Governor should do about reducing carbon dioxide emissions? Putnam: ‘Well, certainly any policy of that size should be federal in nature, so that we don’t put Florida jobs at risk vis a vis other states and other countries…’ WMNF: So if the federal government does nothing, you’re OK with that? Putnam: ‘Let’s see what the federal government does.’” Read Adam Putnam is running for Florida governor; deflects question on climate
Robert Knight writes for The Gainesville Sun – “One of my closest neighbors is the University of Florida’s Hague Dairy Research Institute. UF’s Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) has a 500-cow Holstein dairy… Recently, the UF dairy installed two large Floridan Aquifer center pivot systems… [W]hen I asked why those gigantic sprinklers are necessary now and were not needed in the previous 40-plus years of active milk production, the answer was that the research farm’s water use permit from the Suwannee River Water Management District was not being fully utilized… UF/IFAS management decided to clear cut and sell “virgin” timber to pay for the pivots and allow additional area for growing forage crops for the cows. A neighbor whose house is next door to the irrigated UF/IFAS dairy has recently found that his private well is sucking air. Big wells have regional consequences. They draw down the level of the aquifer… Nearby private wells may stop producing water when the water table is lowered… Best management practices that do not require any reduction in profit margins and state-sponsored signs that say “This Farm Cares” were invented by Florida’s government to allow farming as usual, despite the drastic decline in the quality and quantity of the region’s groundwater and springs… Here in Alachua County, the Golden Rule might be rephrased as follows: ‘Agriculture’s rights end where mine begin.’ As a showcase of the wise management of Florida’s groundwater, I am hoping the UF/IFAS dairy will set a better example and return to their reliance on rain to water their crops.” Read Good neighbors and the Golden Rule
Ron Littlepage writes for The Florida Times Union – “[D]ry conditions… prompted the St. Johns River Water Management District to issue a “Water Shortage Warning Order’ last week for the district’s 18 counties. I found the following sentence in the news release about that order interesting: ‘Water conservation is at the core of our mission, and right now we need all hands on deck to secure our water supply during this drought.’ My reaction was similar to when I swallow a… gnat… The district routinely ignores its ‘core mission’ when it readily hands out hundreds of permits to pump millions of gallons of water out of the Floridan aquifer for such critical operations as raising grass-fed beef. That’s an aquifer that’s already depleted to the point our springs… are losing flow or drying up altogether. The district likes to blame that low flow on years of drought rather than forcing the big users to conserve. The prevailing theory in establishing minimum flows for rivers and springs seems to be that all will be OK when the rains return. But what if drought is the new normal, especially because of the thing the district can’t talk about – climate change? I do agree, however, that ‘all hands on deck’ are needed to conserve water now. That’s a no-brainer when half of our potable water is used on landscaping… The… district is asking for ‘voluntary’ efforts to cut back on water usage. That has been the approach for years, and it’s clearly not working.” Read Water conservation still lags in Jacksonville
Mary Bowerman reports for USA Today – “From climate change to habitat fragmentation, pollution and human conflict, species around the world are facing a slew of threats to their survival… As the world marks Endangered Species Day on May 19, here’s a look at… some of the startling statistics about endangered species:… - 41% of the world’s amphibians, 34% of conifers, 33% of reef building corals, 25% of mammals and 13% of birds, are threatened with extinction… - 120-230 Florida panthers are estimated to be in the wild. In 2016, 32 Florida panthers died from being hit by cars… And while the numbers may seem daunting…, ‘The good news is that we can save most of these species, but we have to pay attention and leave some habitat intact; we can’t convert the entire surface of the Earth to farm or cities and remain unscathed,’ [Joel Sartore] said.” Read Many species in peril on Endangered Species Day
George Bennett reports for the Palm Beach Post – “Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson and most of the state’s U.S. House delegation sent a letter inviting U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to come to Florida and tour the Everglades. Zinke… was appointed by President Donald Trump, who during the 2016 campaign pledged his support for the Everglades… [The] letter to Zinke… adds: ‘The U.S. Department of the Interior plays a critical role in our efforts to restore the balance of this ecosystem. As secretary, you serve as chairman of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force and play a vital role in the effort to restore the balance of water flow and management…’” Read Rubio, Nelson, House members pitch Everglades to Trump administration
Kimberly Miller reports for the Palm Beach Post – “More than 100 pythons have been killed since March 25 in an experimental program to cull populations of the invasive snake in the Everglades… The program, which pays hunters minimum wage plus bonuses based on snake length, is scheduled to end June 1 unless the water management district’s board agrees to extend it. So far, 102 pythons…have been eliminated… by SFWMD python hunters. That is an average of nearly two snakes killed per day. At least 40 percent of the snakes eliminated have been females, many found with 30 to 80 eggs inside that were also destroyed. This prevented the birth of more than 1,500 more of the invasive predators this year alone.” Read Python kill reaches 100 and beyond as time runs out
Seth Borenstein reports for the Associated Press – “A warmer, wetter climate is helping push dozens of Eastern U.S. trees to the north and, surprisingly, west, a new study finds.” Read Go west, young pine: U.S. forests shifting with climate change
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
May 20, 10:00 am – Participate in the March Against Monsanto in Tampa. For more information, click here.
May 20, 10:00 am – Participate in the March Against Monsanto in St. Petersburg. For more information, click here.
May 20, 10:00 am – Participate in a Hands Across the Sand event on Pensacola Beach in opposition to oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and in support of a transition to clean energy. Participants will meet at the Casino Beach Pavilion for live music, education, and inspiring speeches about protecting Florida’s beaches. At 11:00 am, the group will walk to the water’s edge to hold hands in silent remembrance of the 2010 oil spill. For more information, click here, call (850) 687 – 9968, or email email@example.com.
May 20, 11:00 am – Participate in the Hands Across the Sand Event on Treasure Island at the Bilmar Beach Resort. Join hands to end our dependence on fossil fuels and look ahead to a clean energy future. There will be a press conference at 11:00 AM and an after party at Sloppy Joes. For more information, click here.
May 20, 11:30 am – Participate in the Hands Across the Sand event in Clearwater Beach. For more information, click here.
May 20, 11:30 am – Participate in the Hands Across the Sand event in Indian Rocks Beach. For more information, click here.
May 21, 3:00 pm – Attend a free “Solar Co-op Information Meeting” for the Alachua County Solar Co-op at the Alachua Library Branch (14913 NW 140 Street) in Alachua. For more information and to RSVP, click here.
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