Greg Stanley reports for the Naples Daily News – “A fight looms over how and where developers can build villages on swaths of farmland and fields around Immokalee and Ave Maria now that collier County has reopened its master plan for the area. County commissioners are considering revising their plan, which maps out the future of much of undeveloped eastern Collier County, for the first time since 2002, when commissioners created a voluntary program to settle a lawsuit over sprawl. The program, which applies to the Rural Land Stewardship Area, allows landowners to build villages, such as Ave Maria,… using credits earned by giving up their rights to develop more environmentally sensitive land. But two key issues need to be resolved… One is a cap to limit how many total acres can be developed… The program covers nearly 200,000 acres between Golden Gate Estates and Big Cypress National Preserve… The only limit now to how much of the area that developers can build on is how many credits are in the program. The county estimates that if every credit is earned, there are enough to develop almost 45,000 acres. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida wants to limit the potential development to about a third of that, 16,800 acres. ‘There are just too many credits in the system when you look at the original intent of the program,’ said Nicole Johnson, the Conservancy’s environmental policy director. ‘This was never meant to increase the population out there,’ Johnson said. ‘It was meant to cluster it, but not increase it.’… The Conservancy points to a study done for the county. The study found villages would need about 16,800 acres to serve the estimated population if the area is fully developed, under current limits, into a sprawling suburb with one house on every five acres. But not all environmental groups agree with the Conservancy. Landowners already have earned those credits with the expectation they will be able to use them to build, said Nancy Payton, Florida Wildlife Federal field representative.” Read Collier considers cap on development in rural areas around Immokalee, Ave Maria
Charlie Crist writes for the Tampa Bay Times – “I was governor of Florida when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in April 2010… We must remain vigilant… To permanently ban oil and gas exploration and drilling off the coast of Florida, action is needed at both the state and federal levels. The Florida Legislature and governor should revisit a constitutional amendment to ban drilling off Florida, as I proposed as governor after the Deepwater Horizon explosion. In Congress, we need to pass legislation introduced by Rep. Kathy Castor… and Sen. Bill Nelson to permanently ban drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, Straits of Florida and along our Atlantic coast… Nearly eight years later, the Gulf of Mexico is still recovering, the cost continues to rise, and the full extent of the damage – both to our environment and our economy – is unknown.” Read We must protect Florida’s future from offshore drilling
The Tampa Bay Reporter reports – “U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, Nanette Diaz Barragan, D-CA, and David E. Price, D-NC, [introduced] the Safe Coasts, Oceans, and Seaside Towns Act to codify two safety regulations implemented after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion. These two common-sense rules… have been targeted by Trump Administration attempts to minimize the oil and gas industry’s safety obligations, Crist said. The bill… has already received wide support from environmental and coastal community business groups…” Read Crist to Introduce Offshore Oil Drilling Safety Bill
Craig Pittman reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “For the fourth year in a row, Florida scientists counted more than 6,000 manatees in an aerial survey…” Read More than 6,000 manatees counted in Florida’s waters for 4th year in a row
Jenny Staletovich reports for the Miami Herald – “Over the decades, [Everglades National Park] and two other vast national wildernesses in South Florida have amassed enormous maintenance backlogs, lengthy lists of fixes big and small, from derelict ranger stations and research buildings to rundown visitor centers and weathered chickees… Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wants to cut the National Park Service budget by nearly $300 million… Visitors seem to have taken notice, too. In the last five years, Everglades National Park numbers steadily declined from 1.1 million in 2012 to 930,907 in 2016… A bipartisan bill that would ensure money for fixes and prevent the backlog from again accumulating is now gaining support in Congress.” Read Don’t be distracted by the beauty. Florida’s national parks are falling apart.
Juliet Eilperin and Michael Laris report for The Washington Post – “The White House has drafted a proposal to scale back environmental requirements in an effort to make it easier to construct roads, bridges and pipelines across the country… Critics of the administration said the proposal outlined in the document would gut key environmental protections in laws dating to the 1970s, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act… The White House plan identifies many aspects of the current permitting process that lead to delays, including the fact that multiple agencies often weigh in on the same permit… New limits and deadlines would be imposed on federal agencies reviewing projects, and in some cases, agencies – especially the Environmental Protection Agency – could be limited in their ability to weigh in on the permitting process… One (proposal)… would make it much easier for federal agencies to declare that certain projects have no significant impact on the environment and don’t require further study. Such declarations – known as “categorical exclusions” – are already widely used, easing the approval of many highway projects and others… The proposal would exempt any of these ruling from judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act, a law outside groups often use to challenge regulatory rollbacks… In several instances, the plan limits the extent to which the EPA can weigh in or block a project from going forward.” Read White House plan would reduce environmental requirements for infrastructure projects
Umair Irfan writess for Vox – “Some of the biggest changes Pruitt has made at the EPA have come by not doing anything at all. He’s steering the EPA’s work at an agonizingly slow pace, delaying and slowing the implementation of laws and running interference for many of the sectors EPA is supposed to regulate… The laws that govern the EPA require action, and whether those demands come from Congress, the courts, or constituents, the agency needs to produce results that stand up to legal challenges from all sides on a deadline… Pruitt may soon find out that doing nothing, or even very little, is not an option.” Read Scott Pruitt is slowly strangling the EPA
Dan Charles reports for NPR – “There are thousands of bee species… They play a vital role in the ecosystem, pollinating flowering plants. Many are in peril; some species have disappeared… And then there’s the honeybee: originally imported from Europe, raised and managed by beekeepers in order to make honey or to pollinate crops like almonds. It’s an agricultural animal, in the same way that sheep and cattle are. When flowers are abundant, there is plenty of pollen for both honeybees and their wild cousins. But in many landscapes, or when an orchard stops blooming, farmed honeybees can compete with wild bees for food, making it harder for wild species to survive.” Read Honeybees Help Farmers, but they Don’t Help the Environment
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
January 30-31 – Participate in the Reclaiming Florida’s Future for All Advocacy Day in Tallahassee. Citizens will gather together to support climate action and land conservation funding. They will receive free advocacy training and may receive free lodging. For more information, click here.
February 3, 8:00 am – 4:00 pm – Attend the Florida Scrub-Jay and Wildlife Festival at the Lyonia Preserve (2150 Eustace Ave.) in Deltona. The free festival offers an 8:00 am early-bird hike, and continues at 10:00 am with eco-buggy rides, guided hikes, wildlife exhibits and presentations, and activities for kids. For more information, call (386) 789 – 7207.
February 6, 12:00 pm – Attend Springs Academy Tuesday in High Springs. This talk will be focused on springs stresses such as groundwater pumping, fertilizers, wastewater disposal, and recreation. For more information, click here.
February 8, 3:00 pm – Attend the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s public meeting regarding their proposed offshore drilling plan in Tallahassee. This is the only meeting scheduled in Florida as part of the mandatory public comment period for the plan. For more information, click here. If you would like a free ride from Pensacola to Tallahassee for this meeting, please contact Christian Wagley with the Gulf Restoration Network at Christian@healthygulf.org or (850) 687 – 9968.
February 14, 12:45 pm – Attend the Villages Environmental Discussions Group to hear presentations by Marty Mesh, Mike Archer, and Jody Woodson-Swartzman at the Belvedere Library (325 Belvedere Blvd.) in The Villages. Marty Mesh is the founder and executive director of Florida Organic Growers. He will speak about the importance of organic agriculture and accomplishments of the 2017 Inaugural Food & Farming Summit. Mike Archer and Jody Woodson-Swartzman will discuss their efforts to reduce the use of plastic bags. They have a no-sew method of converting a t-shirt into a shopping bag. For more information and to RSVP, contact Mary Hampton at email@example.com.
February 22, 6:00 pm – Attend 350 Pensacola’s Chasing Coral Event at the West Florida Public Library (239 N. Spring St.) in Pensacola. The event will feature the award-winning film, Chasing Coral, which allows viewers to join divers, photographers, and scientists as they set out to discover why coral reefs are disappearing. After the film, there will be a panel discussion with experts on the plight of the world’s reefs and what we can do to save them. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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