John D. Sutter reports for CNN – “Many scientists say it’s abundantly clear that Earth is entering its sixth mass-extinction event, meaning three-quarters of all species could disappear in the coming centuries… Gerardo Ceballos, an ecology professor at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and his co-authors, including well-known Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich, cite striking new evidence that populations of species we thought were common are suffering in unseen ways. ‘What is at stake is really the state of humanity,’ Ceballos told CNN. Their key findings: Nearly one-third of the 27,600 land-based mammal, bird, amphibian and reptile species studied are shrinking in terms of their numbers and territorial range… The scientists also looked at a well-studied group of 177 mammal species and found that all of them had lost at least 30% of their territory between 1900 and 2015; more than 40% of those species ‘experienced severe population declines,’ meaning they lost at least 80% of their geographic range during that time… Anthony Barnosky, executive director of the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve at Stanford University…said, ‘…[W]hen you realize that we’ve wiped out 50% of the Earth’s wildlife in the last 40 years, it doesn’t take complicated math to figure out that, if we keep cutting by half every 40 years, pretty soon there’s going to be nothing left.’… Twenty years. No more African elephants. Think about that.” Read Sixth mass extinction: The era of ‘biological annihilation’
The Herald Tribune Editorial Board writes – “The North Port City Commission meets Tuesday afternoon for the ‘discussion and direction regarding the city’s position on the disposition of the Orange Hammock [Ranch] property.’ Here is the easiest, best direction for the commission to take: Do nothing. That would let stand the city’s official stance since January 2016, when commissioners supported the public purchase and perpetual preservation of the entire 5,744-acre Orange Hammock Ranch… The commission’s membership changed after last year’s elections, but the compelling reasons for public acquisition of the ranch – the most environmentally valuable, large property in Sarasota County remaining and available for protection – have not. – The land has natural habitats for species ranging from the gopher tortoise to the Florida panther. It has wetlands galore that… promote flood control and filter pollution that could otherwise end up in waterways – including the city of North Port’s source of drinking water and the Myakka River, which is a Wild and Scenic River that feeds Charlotte Harbor.” Read North Port should back land purchase
Tom Palmer writes for The Ledger – “[W]ork to ease… barriers (to wildlife movement) is occurring in Polk County. The main effort, which has been underway for several years, has involved working with Florida Department of Transportation officials to re-establish connections that were severed when Interstate 4 was constructed through a portion of the Green Swamp in the 1950s… The report I received… was not encouraging on the timeline for any improvements in the FDOT’s work plan, but that’s dependent on state and federal budgeting decisions… Although restoring more safe places for wildlife to get across I-4 is the most discussed wildlife corridor in Polk County, it is not the only opportunity or future need… Another future corridor that will be required involves plans by Polk County to eventually four-lane Cypress Parkway… [T]he design of any future improvements of the road should incorporate wildlife underpasses at key locations to be determined. Yes, all of this will add to the cost of these projects. Nevertheless, it is one of the costs of growth that needs to be incorporated into any planning of Polk’s future as new roads and development push farther and farther into wildlife habitat areas. Think of it as a wildlife impact fee. It won’t make up for what was lost, but could reduce further losses.” Read Wildlife underpasses should be included in road projects
Ron Littlepage writes for The Florida Times Union – “If you’re more concerned about the negative impact on the health of the St. Johns River caused by dredging the shipping channel ever deeper than are the Jacksonville Port Authority board members who are gung-ho on the idea, there are good reasons you are nervous. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has approved the project, has a dismal record of devastating Florida’s fragile natural areas at the urging of business interests who care more about making money than protecting the state’s unique environment… The Kissimmee River. The barge canal. The coral reefs in Biscayne Bay. The Everglades. The record of the Corps doesn’t inspire confidence, and JaxPort officials have never bene able to say where the money will come from to hire the Corps again to mitigate the damage if they are wrong.” Read Corps of Engineers has sad record on environmental impacts
A.G. Gancarski reports for Florida Politics – “While Jacksonville and Northeast Florida politicians are excited by the fact that… federal and state resources are manifesting to dredge the St. Johns River, a note of caution continues to be sounded by the St. Johns Riverkeeper… The latest blast on Tuesday: a report from a New Orleans based ‘port and shipping expert,’ Dr. Asaf Ashar, that deems the deep dredge to be economically infeasible… ‘… We can’t afford to potentially spend hundreds of millions of tax dollars, cause significant harm to our river, and then find out later that the project wasn’t beneficial or even necessary,’ Orth (St. Johns Riverkeeper Executive Director) added.” Read St. Johns Riverkeeper decries ‘economically infeasible’ Jax dredge
Mike Ferguson reports for The Ledger – “Phase I of the Sabal Trail pipeline was given the go-ahead to begin full operation early last week.” Read Full Sabal Trail Pipeline operations underway in Polk
Alex Daugherty reports for the Miami Herald – “The Interior Department announced last week that Todd Willens, a longtime Washington-based lobbyist and congressional staffer, will take an assistant deputy secretary job under Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. In 2007, Willens urged the United Nations World Heritage Committee to remove Everglades National Park from the list of endangered natural and cultural sites over the objections of the committee’s scientific advisory group. The UN acquiesced to Willens’ request… That decision didn’t sit well with Florida Sen. Bill Nelson… ‘This action is absolutely unacceptable and, I believe, warrants Willens’ removal.’… In 2010, Nelson successfully lobbied the Obama administration to put the Everglades back on the list… In 2008, Willens was accused by the Government Accountability Office of interfering in decisions on protecting endangered species while working in the Interior Department.” Read Official who nixed Everglades from UN endangered-site list gets Trump job
Martin E. Comas reports for the Orlando Sentinel – “Seminole County and state officials… cut the ribbon on the new Lake Jesup Nutrient Reduction Facility… that will clean dirty stormwater and reduce the amount of harmful nutrients flowing into the large lake and eventually into the St. Johns River.” Read Seminole County cuts the ribbon on new facility to help clean Lake Jesup
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
July 12, 8:00 pm – Attend a showing of “Apalachicola River: An American Treasure,” a documentary about Florida’s largest river, at Blue Tavern in Tallahassee. For more information and to indicate your interest in attending, click here.
July 19, 6:45 pm – Attend a public solar information meeting at the Millhopper Branch of the Alachua County library system in Gainesville. The Alachua County Solar Co-op is open to new members until July 28th.
August 20-23 – Join the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute for its annual Florida Springs Field School; four days of outdoor activities and springs education in the Ocala National Forest! Field trip locations include Silver Springs State Park, Salt Springs, Juniper Springs, and Silver Glen Springs. For more information, click here or call (386) 454 - 2427.
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