Isadora Rangel writes for Florida Today – “When then-Gov. Jeb Bush – a self-described ‘head-banging conservative- signed into law a program to buy conservation land, he called it ‘the most significant’ legislation passed in 1999. In recent years, however, it’s been hard to convince our Republican-led Legislature of the value of Florida Forever, which buys land for trails, wildlife corridors and parks… The fact that more than 75 percent of voters approved in 2014 the Water and Land Conservation constitutional amendment has done little to persuade most lawmakers of the importance of land conservation. As if in an act of defiance against voters’ decision, they defunded Florida Forever in the 2017 legislative session… There is a glimmer of hope in the 2018 session… A bill filed by the influential Republican Senate budget Chairman Rob Bradley would dedicate $100 million each year to the Florida Forever Trust Fund… Senate Bill 370 cleared two committees unanimously and has one more stop before it can be heard on the Senate floor. But the bill doesn’t have a House version, which signals little interest from the lower chamber… Unlike water pollution, land conservation is not an emergency that lawmakers feel pressured to address. It prevents future crises but it doesn’t draw passionate pleas from voters as algae blooms and fish kills do. Only when our pristine landscapes give way to the next strip malls and cookie-cutter housing developments will we understand the need for land conservation.” Read You passed Amendment 1 in 2014 and lawmakers hijacked it
Steve Newborn reports for WUSF – “[T]he Florida Wildlife Corridor group has been pushing for the need to connect the state’s natural lands before they get developed. But since the group took its first cross-state expedition in 2012, money to preserve corridors for bears, panthers and other critters has sank to practically nothing… This spring, a trio of environmentalists with the group will try to re-spark the interest from two previous 1,000-mile hike, bike and kayak treks. The “mini-trek” they plan is to call attention to protecting the narrow green space between the burgeoning sprawl of Tampa and Polk County on one side; and Orlando on the other.” Read Environmental Preservation Back on Tallahassee’s Radar
Tyler Treadway reports for the TC Palm – “Claiming none of the South Florida Water Management District’s options for a reservoir to cut Lake Okeechobee discharges properly cleans water before sending it south, the Everglades Foundation has come up with a plan of its own. But the Foundation’s proposal would require getting more than 10,000 acres through swaps with landowners near the reservoir site. That could be tough, as the district said it hasn’t found any willing sellers or swappers… Matt Morrison, the district federal policy coordination chief, said the computer modeling required by the state Legislature shows all the district’s project options meet federal water quality requirements… ‘The district sent out letters. That’s not enough. What they need to do is to get the landowners in a room and say, ‘Let’s make this happen[,’’ Eikenberg, of the Foundation, said.]… Most of the privately held land around the project site is owned by Florida Crystals… Three of the water district’s five options for the reservoir project call for using the 16,500 acres of state-owned land known as the A-1 parcel. But that land already has been made into a shallow reservoir as part of a program called Restoration Strategies the state and federal governments agreed to in order to meet a federal court ruling that water coming off farmland south of Lake O be clean enough to send to Everglades National Park… The Everglades Foundation proposal doesn’t take any land in the A-1 parcel… The Foundation laid out its plan for the district…, Eikenberg said, and got no response. The meeting took place, said district spokesman Randy Smith, but the Foundation representatives ‘didn’t present any data or technical documents to support their plan.’ And when district staffers asked for data to evaluate, Foundation staffers ‘said they were not willing to provide that.’” Read Everglades Foundation: SFWMD reservoir to cut discharges won’t clean water; ours does
Quinton White writes for the Florida Times Union – “I’m going to use fish as my example of how and why animals adapt, evolve and thrive in a certain salinity. But the same principle applies to every other living thing, from bacteria and single-celled algae to blue whales and cypress trees.” Read Irma’s long-lasting impact on St. Johns River salinity
The News Service of Florida reports – “More than 1.1 million Florida voters won’t have a representative in one of the legislative chambers when the 2018 session begins… Resignations and a recent death have created six open seats, with most expected to remain vacant through the 60-day session because of scheduling requirements for special elections.” Read Vacancies leave 1.1 million Floridians without representation
Juliet Eilperin and Dino Grandoni report for The Washington Post – “The Trump administration is overhauling how federal officials monitor safety procedures on offshore drilling operations, revising a pair of rules enacted in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill on the grounds that they are overly burdensome on industry… Neither proposal amounts to a wholesale reversal of existing regulations, according to experts, but instead each minimizes some of industry’s obligations and changes compliance terms in several instances to language favored by drillers. [One] proposed rule…, for example, eliminates a requirement that safety and pollution prevention equipment be inspected by independent auditors certified by the BSEE… Instead, under new regulations, oil companies will use industry-set ‘recommended practices’ for ensuring that safety equipment works – as was done before the Deepwater Horizon incident. Recommended practices by industry groups… ‘are simply that – they make recommendations but don’t require anything,’ said Nancy Leveson, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology… ‘The documents are filled with “should” instead of “must,”’ she noted in an email.” Read Trump administration to overhaul safety-monitoring rules for offshore drilling
The Herald Tribune Editorial Board writes – “The Trump administration is behind a wave of efforts to undermine longstanding policies and sensible regulations on drilling for oil and gas off U.S. coasts. The erosion of reasonable protections would jeopardize marine environments and tourism-and-real-estate-based economies – including Florida’s – up and down the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Members of Congress from both political parties should quickly and firmly resist the concentrated attempt to erode safeguards designed to protect human lives, the natural environment and economic sustainability.” Read Retain regulations on offshore drilling
Lisa Friedman, Marina Affo and Derek Kravitz report for The New York Times – “More than 700 people have left the Environmental Protection Agency since President Trump took office, a wave of departures that puts the administration nearly a quarter of the way toward its goal of shrinking the agency to levels last seen during the Reagan administration. Of the employees who have quit, retired or taken a buyout package since the beginning of the year, more than 200 are scientists. An additional 96 are environmental protection specialists, a broad category that includes scientists as well as others experienced in investigating and analyzing pollution levels. Nine department directors have departed… as well as dozens of attorneys and program managers. Most of the employees who have left are not being replaced… Employees say the exodus has left the agency depleted of decades of knowledge about protecting the nation’s air and water. Many also said they saw the departures as part of a more worrisome trend of muting government scientists, cutting research budgets and making it more difficult or academic scientists to serve on advisory boards… Political appointees, however, are on the rise… Several employees said they feared the departures with few replacements in sight would put critical duties like responding to disasters and testing water for toxic chemicals in jeopardy.” Read E.P.A. Officials, Disheartened by Agency’s Direction, Are Leaving in Droves
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
January 9, 12:00 pm – Attend Springs Academy Tuesday, a lunchtime lecture series on Florida’s springs, in High Springs. January’s lecture is on Springs Biology with special guest Dr. Stephen Walsh of the USGS Wetland and Aquatic Research Center. For more information, click here or call (386) 454 – 2427.
January 20, 9:00 am – Participate in the annual Newnan’s Lake Cleanup in Gainesville. Volunteers will meet at Earl P. Powers Park (5910 SE Hawthorne Rd) on the southwest edge of the lake. Current Problems will provide cleanup supplies such as bags, grabbers, gloves, nets, and scales. There will be snacks and drinks for volunteers. For more information, contact Megan Black at firstname.lastname@example.org.
January 30-31, 10:00 am – 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.
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About the FCC: The Florida Conservation Coalition (FCC) is composed of over 80 conservation-minded organizations and over two thousand individuals devoted to protecting and conserving Florida’s land, fish and wildlife, and water resources.
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