Steven Lemongello reports for the Orlando Sentinel – “The future of the controversial Lake Pickett South project could soon be determined in Tallahassee. The planned development of 2,000 homes in east Orange County, also known as The Grow, has been in limbo since a judge ruled in August that Orange County broke its own growth rules in approving it… [S]tate Cabinet aides will hear from project opponents, developers and lawmakers as part of the Cabinet’s review of Administrative Law Judge Suzenne Van Wyk’s ruling. The case is expected to come before Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet on March 7.” Read Cabinet, governor to hear Lake Pickett case
Hannah Morse reports for the Bradenton Herald – “The attorney for the River Club Homeowners Association said he’s prepared to do whatever it takes to quash the creation of a municipal services taxing unit, or MSTU, that would lead to the establishment of a preserve… The Manatee County MSTU in question is being proposed to 1,440 residents in the Braden Woods/River Club subdivisions to increase their property tax rate by one millage over 30 years. The funds would be used to purchase a 330-acre parcel of land to turn it into a preserve. An agreement needs to be in place by March 31, a deadline set by developer Pat Neal, who intends to cluster 32 homes on the site and call it the gated community of Myara… The board of county commissioners will decide on the matter at their next regular meeting on March 6.” Read Supporters want taxing unit to fund Braden Preserve. Opponents want to hear from Pam Bondi
Ryan Benk reports for WJCT – “Environmental groups and local governments are sounding the alarm about Florida legislative proposals that would change how new development is planned. The most wide-ranging measure is heading to the House floor. The bill does a number of things, including requiring counties to hold referenda on their rural and urban development boundaries every decade… Thomas Hawkins with 1000 Friends of Florida said it could unleash city sprawl and hurt the environment after many cities created the growth boundaries to rein in development.” Read In Waning Hours of Session, Environmental Groups Warn Against Growth Management Policy Changes
David Abel reports for The Boston Globe – “After a year when scientists found a record number of dead North Atlantic right whales, the species has yet to produce a single newborn this calving season – an unprecedented and potentially catastrophic outcome for one of the world’s most endangered animals. There are only about 100 adult female right whales left in the world… Over the past year, 18 right whales have been found dead, winnowing the population to about 430. At that rate, the species could go extinct by 2040, scientists say… While the number of adult females has actually increased in recent years, the number producing calves has fallen significantly. Adult females are giving birth less frequently. On average, they used to produce calves once every three years; now it’s more like once every decade. The best explanation for the decline is that nearly all right whales have been injured by fishing lines, scientists say… ‘When you’re carrying fishing gear while still alive, it takes more energy to swim,’ Moore said. ‘With too much stress from entanglement, they don’t’ get pregnant.’ Climate change could also be a factor. The Gulf of Maine has warmed faster than nearly any body of water on the planet, a shift that has affected organisms throughout the ecosystem. In the past decade, scientists have measured an 80 percent fall in phytoplankton… Among those organisms are copepods, tiny crustaceans that right whales have long fed on in the nutrient-rich waters off New England. Scientists have theorized that copepods have been moving north to the colder Canadian waters, which could also explain why more right whales have been turning up there in recent years… Environmental groups… [have] filed lawsuits against NOAA urging the agency to do more... from requiring that lobstermen use different gear to closing off more areas to fishing.” Read After year of record deaths, right whales produce no new calves, which could be ‘catastrophic’
Matt Soergel reports for The Florida Times Union – “The big hurricanes get the headlines. But as sea levels continue to rise, Northeast Florida will increasingly see threats from simple nor’easters and even super high tides. In fact, it’s seeing it already… Mike Buresh, chief meteorologist at Action News Jax… noted how quickly speculation of a changing climate, stronger storms and rising seas has caught up with reality. ‘Just a few years ago, we were doing stories in Vilano Beach, and the homes that are now gone,’ he said. ‘We were questioning: Could they last another 15, 20, 25 years? Well, they didn’t last five.’ Jacksonville University associate professor Jeremy Stalker trained as a geologist, so he takes a long-term view of the world… ‘I would argue that Florida has spent most of its existence under water,’ he said… In Jacksonville alone, he said numerous places are or will soon be at risk from nuisance flooding and big storms – the Beaches, of course, along with Mayport Naval Station, San Marco and the Baptist Hospital complex, parts of Riverside and Ortega, and EverBank Field… Stalker even questioned the wisdom of getting a 30-year mortgage in some parts of Northeast Florida. Perhaps it’s better, he said, to rent.” Read Northeast Florida scientists agree: Sea-level rise is here, and it’s dangerous
Mark Perry writes for the TC Palm – “For too many years, state taxpayers have covered the costs of treating billions of gallons of agricultural runoff and removed thousands of tons of the industry’s phosphorus. Isn’t it time we tell them to store and treat their water on their own lands, just like we require other land development to do now?” Read Make agriculture clean water on its own land south of Everglades
K.O. Frost reports for The Gainesville Sun – “Off the coast of Southeast Florida, a mysterious new disease is killing coral reefs… More than half of the state’s 330-year-old Coral Reef Tract, which stretches across 175 miles in the Florida Keys, is infected with the disease… called “White syndrome”… The causes of the disease are still unknown, though researchers believe it may be due to a combination of factors, including water quality… Coral reefs are important hotspots for many fish, producing almost one-third of the world’s marine fish species, despite covering only 1 percent of the ocean floor… ‘They are a major player in Florida tourism,’ [Zangroniz] said. ‘People come to South Florida from around the world to fish, snorkel, scuba dive, boat and enjoy the reefs.’… [T]he Coral Reef Tract also acts as a first line of defense against hurricanes or other major storms… The Coral Reef Tract is the third largest coral reef in the world, only after the famous Great Barrier Reef… and the Belize Barrier Reef. It’s the only coral reef in the United States… Before the new syndrome struck, coral had already been struggling because of coral bleaching, a problem worldwide… While the bleaching weakens the coral, “white syndrome” is fatal.” Read Mystery disease killing Florida’s only coral reef
Ari Natter reports for Bloomberg Politics – “Some House Republicans have bucked their party on climate change – not only acknowledging its’ real, but vowing to fight the problem as well. But one environmental group says they still have poor voting records. Republican members of the bipartisan “Climate Solutions Caucus” scored an average of just 16 percent on scorecards released… by the League of Conservation Voters that tracks how lawmakers voted on major environmental issues last year… ‘Republicans are using the caucus to provide cover to hide their extreme anti-environmental record,’ said Alex Taurel, the Washington-based environmental group’s deputy legislative director. ‘What we need is action, not just talk.’ GOP members of the caucus have voted to open Alaska’s pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling... and rollback regulations on the emissions of methane… One of the more recent members to join the caucus, Florida Republican Matt Gaetz, introduced legislation last year that ‘terminates’ the Environmental Protection Agency… The Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), a grassroots group that played a role starting the Climate Solutions Caucus, says the league’s environmental scorecard doesn’t accurately reflect the caucus’s efforts… Valk ( a spokesman for CCL) says the Republican members of the caucus have achieved small victories, such as voting to defeat an amendment on the House floor that would have killed language requiring the Department of Defense to study the effects of global warming on its military bases. ‘Much is happening behind the scenes, thanks to the caucus, and we think patience will eventually be rewarded with major legislation to address climate change,’ Mark Reynolds, the [CCL] executive director.” Read These Republican Climate Hawks Get Low Environmental Marks
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
February 28 – 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 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 2 & 3, 6:30 pm – Watch “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” at the Voices of Pensacola Building (117 E. Government Street) in Pensacola. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the door. Finger food and wine will be served before the movie. For more information, click here or contact Mary Gutierrez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
March 26, 6:00 pm – Attend a talk by Maya van Rossum, Delaware Riverkeeper, on The Green Amendment: Our Right to a Healthy Environment at the Working Food Community Center (219 NW 10th Avenue) in Gainesville. Doors open at 5:30 PM.
Do you know of an upcoming environmental event or meeting you would like to include in the FCC News Brief? Send us a quick e-mail and we will include it for you.
We hope you enjoy this service and find it valuable. Our goal is to provide you with the latest and most relevant environmental news for Floridians. Our hope is that you will use this information to more effectively and frequently contact your elected representatives, and add your voice to the growing chorus of Floridians concerned about the condition of our environment and the recent direction of environmental policies.
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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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