Nicholas G. Penniman IV writes for the Herald Tribune – “A few weeks ago, SB 1402 and its House companion HB 7043 appeared on the legislative horizon. Since then, these two parallel bills have moved hastily through committees with the backing of powerful lobbies for development and related industries – the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida. Introduced as a priority for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, these bills will further erode the already dismal state of protection for Florida’s remaining wetlands, which function as nature’s kidneys… The proposed transfer of federal [wetlands protection] to the state rests on the notion that Florida has the expertise, intention and capacity to protect wetlands. That is nonsense because DEP has stated that, if given this massive responsibility, it will do so without additional funding for training, new staff or other necessary resources to review federal permit applications… [I]n 2002 the state permitted a large, man-made drainage ditch as part of a proposed residential development within the Cocohatchee wetland system, which hydrates the Audubon Corkscrew Sanctuary, home to endangered Florida panthers and wood storks. However, the Corps denied the project, citing inappropriate impacts to wetlands. While the project was ultimately litigated and constructed, action taken by the Corps resulted in a much improved project and better result for the environment and for Corkscrew. Though the Corps, the major federal entity responsible for overseeing wetland destruction permits (“404 permits”), has no stellar record in denying bad development projects, federal review has largely produced more positive outcomes than state agencies.” Read Putting our wetlands at risk
Chris Farrell writes for The Florida Times Union – “Bald eagles are making a strong comeback in Florida thanks to conservation policies and well-managed conservation areas that safeguard the habitat and wetlands they need. The Moses Creek Conservation Area was protected by some of Florida’s early conservation programs. These places also function as our ‘green infrastructure’ by helping to protect the water we need to drink, swim and fish in – and the wetlands we need to absorb flooding. Right now, state Sen. Rob Bradley of Clay County is working hard in Tallahassee to protect this green infrastructure through his Senate Bill 370 – and also through his role chairing the Florida Senate’s Appropriations Committee… If you love Florida’s wildlife and wildlands, I hope you’ll join Audubon in thanking Bradley for his leadership to protect our natural resources – and in urging Northeast Florida’s lawmakers to support his Florida-friendly efforts.” Read We’re making progress on protecting Florida’s wildlife
Frederick Reimers reports for Outside Online – “The outdoor recreation economy is officially a big deal. On Wednesday, the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released numbers detailing the economic power of the outdoor recreation industry, showing it comprises 2 percent ($373.7 billion) of the entire 2016 U.S. Gross Domestic Product. It’s an impressive figure that puts it on the scale of industries like construction (4.3 percent); legal services (1.3 percent); agriculture, including farming, forestry, and fishing (1 percent); and, most significantly, mining, oil, and gas extraction (1.4 percent). The report also stipulates that the outdoor industry is growing by 3.8 percent, a faster rate than the overall economy (2.8 percent)… The BEA’s report differs from the OIA’s own 2017 report, which said that outdoor recreation was $887 billion in size… [T]he BEA did not measure travel expenses or spending on recreation trips less than 50 miles from home. ‘We know that two-thirds of all outdoor recreation happens within those 50 miles,’ says Roberts, who says that difference is likely to blame for the discrepancy between the BEA and OIA figure.” Read Government Puts Outdoor Industry Size at $373 Billion
Greg Stanley reports for the Naples Daily News – “A Florida panther was found dead… on the outskirts of Immokalee… The 5- to 6-year-old female panther had been struck by a vehicle… It was the eighth roadkill of a panther this year, all in Collier and Hendry counties, and the fourth this month…” Read Endangered Florida panther killed by vehicle south of Immokalee
Jim Little reports for the Pensacola News Journal – “Rogers,… founder of Escambia Citizens Watch,… is challenging the county’s decision to grant an opt-out to the Mid-West Sector Plan to former County Commissioner Wilson Robertson… The outcome of the hearing will not only set a precedent for Escambia County but the entire state of Florida as this is the first opt-out to a sector plan in Florida history… A non-profit group dedicated to planning issues in Florida called 1000 Friends of Florida has weighed in on Rogers’ side.” Read Escambia County case could affect future of long-term land planning in Florida
Charlie Frago reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “A simmering feud between Tampa and the regional water authority avoided boiling over Monday, but little was resolved.” Read Water Wars starting to simmer again in Tampa Bay
Corey Lazar and Rachel Ravina report for Wink News – “Approximately 78 million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean each year… There is expected to be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. Kim Bassos-Hull, a senior biologist at the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program and MOTE Marine Lab, said she has done rescues and witnessed the effects on marine wildlife in areas like Naples, Marco Island and the Pine Island Sound… ‘(It’s the) little pieces of plastics that break down smaller and smaller are now being ingested by the lower trophic levels like small, tiny plankton and fish and that stuff accumulates up the food chain,’ Bassos-Hull said. The plastics include packaging materials, plastic shopping bags and disposable drinking straws… [R]esidents can use the following tips to help keep the beaches and waterways clean: - Read labels and avoid personal care products that contain polyethylene. – Use… reusable shopping bags. – Avoid using plastic drinking straws. – Bring your own reusable water bottle… - Recycle as many plastic items as possible” Read Plastic pollution is increasing, killing marine life in Southwest Florida
Sandra Laville reports for The Guardian – “Microplastics have been found in some of the most remote and uncharted regions of the oceans raising more concerns over the global scale of plastic pollution.” Read Microplastics pollute most remote and uncharted areas of the ocean
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
February 20 – April 17 – Solar United Neighbors is hosting several solar co-op information sessions around Florida throughout the next few months. Attendees will learn about solar equipment, financing, and the benefits of joining a solar co-op. For a complete list of sessions, click here.
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.
February 24, 7:00 pm – Attend Shore Stories at Waterboyz (380 N. Ninth Ave.) in Pensacola. The event will feature 6 short films discussing the perils of offshore oil drilling and conclude with a question and answer session with representatives from the Gulf Restoration Network and Surfrider Foundation. For more information, contact Christian Wagley at Christian@healthygulf.org or (850) 687 – 9968.
February 28, 6:00 pm – Attend Shore Stories at the Amavida Coffee St. Andrews Cafe (2997 W. 10th St.) in Panama City. The event will feature 6 short films discussing the perils of offshore oil drilling and conclude with a question and answer session with representatives from the Gulf Restoration Network and Surfrider Foundation. For more information, contact Christian Wagley at Christian@healthygulf.org or (850) 687 – 9968.
March 1, 6:00 pm – Attend Shore Stories at Grayton Beer Company (217 Serenoa Rd.) in Santa Rosa Beach. The event will feature 6 short films discussing the perils of offshore oil drilling and conclude with a question and answer session with representatives from the Gulf Restoration Network and Surfrider Foundation. For more information, contact Christian Wagley at Christian@healthygulf.org or (850) 687 – 9968.
March 3 – 4, 10:00 am – Attend Florida Springsfest in Silver Springs. Enjoy music, art, mermaids, Glass Bottom Boat rides, environmental presentations, and more. For more information, click here.
March 8, 6:30 pm – Attend Newts of the Apalachicola National Forest in Tallahassee. Rebecca and Ryan Means will discuss the plight of the endangered newts of the Apalachicola Forest. For more information, click here.
March 14-16, 8:30 am – Attend The Endangered Apalachicola Conference in Tallahassee. The Apalachicola ecosystem has incredible biodiversity and once provided for a booming oyster industry. Unfortunately, this ecosystem is now struggling to survive due to a lack of fresh water. The problem is so dire, Florida is suing Georgia over its water use! The Florida Conservation Coalition invites you to come learn more about this endangered ecosystem. After Thursday’s overview of challenges facing the Apalachicola, FCC Chair and former Florida Governor, Bob Graham, will host a special keynote dinner. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.
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