FCC News Brief - April 29, 2019

Quote of the Day: “For most of the wild things on earth, the future must depend on the conscience of mankind.” - Dr. Archie Carr

Read To protect Florida’s environment, fully fund Florida Forever - “As the chief environmental adviser to six Florida governors, for more than 28 years I was in the thick of almost every major environmental issue from the Cross Florida Barge Canal, to Preservation 2000, to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. A lifetime of studying and advocating for laws to protect the environment has led me to the conclusion that we cannot regulate our way to clean water, plentiful wildlife, and preserved wild spaces. To protect Florida’s environment, we need to actually protect it. That means buying lands and conservation easements, and lots of them, while they are still in their natural state or can be restored. Conservation land acquisition is the most effective and, over time, least expensive solution to address our state’s most pressing environmental problems. Natural lands provide an unending list of benefits and reduce the need for more expensive and less effective infrastructure projects to mimic the ecosystem services natural lands once provided… Unfortunately, the Legislature is moving in the wrong direction. Budget proposals by the Florida House and Senate included only $20 million and $45 million, respectively, for land conservation programs. That’s less than the $100 million appropriated last year and mere fractions of the historic $300 million appropriation; and all while major expressways are being planned through the heart of sensitive areas that need to be conserved. Florida’s state agencies have identified millions of acres of priority lands they’d like to see protected at an estimated cost of nearly $12.3 billion. At current expenditure rates, it would take 172 years for the state to raise enough funds to acquire these lands…” Estus Whitfield writes Opinion for the Tampa Bay Times

Read We need to save land to save water - “Like many of you, I care about clean water. I’m horrified by the outbreaks of harmful algae blooms that have plagued Florida’s coasts, springs, and rivers in recent years...Florida’s leaders are rightfully focused on addressing water quality challenges. Political will to pour money into restoration projects is strong, but, unfortunately, there seems to be much less motivation to head off the problems before they even begin, forgetting that prevention is an important part of the cure. In Florida, we spend billions of dollars on Everglades restoration, trying to restore the natural functions of an ecosystem we altered. We build reservoirs to store and treat water and mimic the ecosystem services wetland environments naturally provided before they were destroyed. This is important work, but much of it could have been avoided if we had saved more of the natural system and located agriculture and development on more suitable lands. Rather than learning from our mistakes, we continue the destruction of wetlands across the state, adding to the restoration work that will be necessary in the future. There’s still time to invest in acquiring environmentally sensitive lands now to save us the restoration costs, or the high price we frequently pay when our health suffers along with the environment. There are already lists of priority lands vetted for protection. But at current land acquisition expenditure rates, it will take the state approximately 172 years to accrue its share of the funds necessary to protect these properties. We do not have 172 years to acquire these lands. Our waters are failing now, and each hour 10 acres of natural and working lands are converted to development. With each acre that is lost, lands that were once natural pollution sinks are replaced with new pollution sources, and we’re on track to continue this unsustainable trend until all remaining, and unprotected, natural lands are gone…” Linda Stewart writes for the Orlando Sentinel.

Read Florida Forever, state technology funding remain unsettled - “The source of Florida Forever funding remains a point of disagreement between the House and Senate. As the Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations committee issued its final budget offer to the House, there was near agreement. But the House could not accept some $40 million worth of funding differences still separating chambers. But while a number of issues got bumped to higher level negotiations, leaders noted it’s not so matter a question of what gets funded as much as how that gets done. “It’s the funding source where money is allocated from,” said state Sen. Debbie Mayfield, a Melbourne Republican. Perhaps most significantly, the Senate still has a $41 million transfer to the Florida Forever Trust Fund. State Rep. Holly Raschein, a Key Largo Republican, said she felt good about negotiations as far as bringing the talks between House and Senate committees to a close. She chairs the House Agriculture Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee. Members of the Senate said the Florida Forever disagreements will have to be sorted out by Appropriations chairs for the two chambers. “That’s gonna be at the Rob Bradley-Travis Cummings level,” said state Sen. Ed Hooper…” Jacob Ogles reports for Florida Politics.

Read Environmentalists wary of bleak Florida Forever budget - “As negotiations for the state’s yearly budget get closer and closer to a resolution, one line item has environmentalists shaking their heads. The initial offer for funding Florida’s premier land acquisition program, Florida Forever, is less than half what some expected going into budget negotiations. The House is offering a little more than $20 million, and the Senate’s offer sits at $45 million. The numbers are a far cry from Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposed $100 million and even farther from the wishes of some environmentalists, who wanted to see a number to the tune of $300 million. Last year the program was funded for $100 million. “Now we’re talking about $45 [million] to $20 million,” said David Cullen, of the Sierra Club. “It’s really hard to get excited about that.” In 1999, as Preservation 2000 was set to expire, then-Gov. Jeb Bush signed the Florida Forever Act, which was aimed at continuing preservation of the state’s heralded environmental landscape. Of all the bills passed that year, Bush called Florida Forever “the most significant.” It was meant to provide $300 million annually, in addition to about $100 million from other public trusts. By 2008, however, the fund had been dipped into for other things triggered by the economic recession. The state was able to keep its strong economy by cutting $300 million from land-buying bonds. By 2012, there was $0 left. Voters took the matter into their own hands in 2014, and voted on a ballot initiative that mandated that 33 percent of revenue from real-estate documentary stamps would go to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund…” Samantha J. Gross reports for the Miami Herald

Read Activists call on Gov. DeSantis to keep a campaign promise to ban fracking - “As two similar bills that would ban fracking in Florida are stalled in both the House and the Senate, activists are calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis.  The governor made a promise during his campaign for office to ban the drilling practice. "Gov. DeSantis is really the only person who can get the ball rolling," said V Miller, who works for ReThink Energy Florida. "DeSantis can save the fracking ban if he comes out and says that he wants it done." The stalled bills are HB 7029 and SB 7064. Miller and others installed a 35-foot Florida-shaped art piece in the Capitol courtyard, illustrating the 35 oil or wastewater associated with oil production spills that occurred in the state from 2015-2018.   Those spills included three in Lee County, eight in Hendry County, six in Collier County and 18 in Santa Rosa County…” Tori Schneider reports for the Tallahassee Democrat.

Read Pensacola leaders, advocates cheers as Trump offshore drilling expansion plan put on hold - “Panhandle political leaders and environmental advocates cheered news Thursday that a plan by President Donald Trump's administration to expand offshore drilling has been put on hold indefinitely. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told the Wall Street Journal that a March ruling by a federal judge in Alaska disrupted the agency's much-anticipated announcement of a new five-year plan for oil and gas drilling in federal waters.  The plan, which local leaders had expected to be unveiled any day, could have opened some Gulf waters off Florida to oil and gas exploration — a move that was heavily opposed by the state's congressional delegation...The federal judge in Alaska ruled that a 2017 Trump administration order revoking an Obama administration ban on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans was illegal. Bernhardt told the Wall Street Journal that the administration will have to delay the new five-year plan while it appeals that ruling...In 2018, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment prohibiting oil and gas drilling for exploration or extraction in state waters by nearly 70 percent of the statewide vote…” Melissa Nelson Gabriel reports for the Pensacola News Journal.

Read There is unfinished business in the Ocklawaha River - “I am a lab manager at the University of Florida. I rear thousands of stink bugs for research by doctoral students. Next to my computer, I have the biography of my grandmother, “Marjorie Harris Carr: Defender of Florida’s Environment,” written by Peggy Macdonald...The Rodman-Kirkpatrick dam was left in the Ocklawaha River after construction of the Cross Florida Barge Canal was halted and the dam repurposed for “recreation and conservation.” The problem with this is that the recreation that is happening at the dam is not conservation-oriented. Recreation and conservation don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Conservation can and should include recreation. But in order to do that, conservation needs to be made a priority. The recreation part will then fall into place, a.k.a. Ecotourism. In the case of this dam being used as an artificial fishing hole for half a century, they’ve got their priorities bass-backward. Pardon the pun. There’s nothing funny about boating around federally protected species like everything’s OK. It’s a sham. Real Floridians advocate for the environment. Real men don’t need a dam to fish…” Jennifer Carr writes Opinion for the Gainesville Sun.

Read Northwest Florida not immune to statewide ‘sewer crisis’ - “More than 900,000 gallons of raw sewage flowed into Sarasota Bay after a violent December storm forced open a city pipe. Summer rain in Daytona Beach and equipment failure in Jacksonville each prompted more than a quarter-million gallons of human waste to spill from sewers last year. In DeFuniak Springs, 55,000 gallons of untreated wastewater spewed from a manhole into nearby Bruce Creek, while in Boca Raton, nearly 50,000 gallons gushed out of a pressurized pipe. The sewage spills are emblematic of failing wastewater systems across Florida, which is grappling with aging infrastructure and no easy solutions to pay for a fix...Experts say the sewage has fed the blue-green algae blooms wreaking havoc on Florida estuaries and exacerbated red tide in the Gulf of Mexico. Amid historic growth in Florida, environmentalists fear it will only get worse. “We are at a point where sewers need to be replaced and have been for some time now,” said Glenn Compton, chairman of Manasota-88, an environmental advocacy organization in Southwest Florida. “Until the local governments make it a priority, we are going to continue seeing these spills.” An analysis of reported spills shows Florida’s sewers failed nearly 23,000 times over the past 10 years — a clip of more than six sewer spills each day. The systems leaked enough human waste to fill about 2,400 Olympic-size swimming pools…” From GateHouse Media Florida.

From Our Readers

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Job Openings:

Sustainability Administrator - City of Fort Lauderdale

Marine Science Faculty Position- Florida Keys Community College

Executive Director - Friends of Gumbo Limbo

Upcoming Environmental Events:

May 4 - 8:00am-4:00pm - Grand Opening of Bogey Creek Preserve - (Jacksonville) - After years of work to obtain and make improvements to the lands at Bogey Creek Preserve, North Florida Land Trust is pleased to be hosting grand opening events at their first public park. The property, located off Cedar Point Road in North Jacksonville, will officially open to the public on Saturday, May 4. Bogey Creek Preserve is a 75-acre scenic preserve consisting of a mix of maritime hammock forest, seep-fed cypress swamps and mixed pine-oak forest. The preserve neighbors Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park and the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve and protects nearly one mile of critical marsh front on Clapboard and Bogey Creeks. Grand opening events at Bogey Creek Preserve will be held on Saturday, May 4. From 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., guides will be leading a birdwatching trip through the preserve. Nature yoga and a hike will take place from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. A naturalist tour will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., guests can participate in a botany hike. The events are free and open to the public, but space is limited. Guests must register at nflt.org/calendarofevents or email Stewardship Manager Emily Dunn at edunn@nflt.org. Parking is located at 6141 Cedar Point Rd., Jacksonville, FL, 32226. Starting Saturday, May 4, the park will be open to the public seven days a week from sunrise to sunset.

May 16-19 - 39th Annual Florida Native Plant Society Conference - (Crystal River)- Our theme this year "Transitions" is pertinent to the Nature Coast region of Florida in a number of ways - sea level rise, migrations of ecosystems due to climate change, and the transition zone between north and south Florida.  You will be delighted by mind-expanding experiences, tempted by sumptuous meals (including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free) and amazed by the networking and social opportunities. As always, we will offer an abundance of presentations and workshops. 9301 West Fort Island Trail, Crystal River, FL 34429 . Click here for attendee and vendor registration.

June 10-14, June 24-28, 2019 - Camp Kids in the Woods at the Austin Cary Forest - (Gainesville) - Is your 6th-9th grade child looking for fun adventure this summer?  Consider Camp Kids in the Woods! Campers will conduct various field explorations led by local scientists from forestry, wildlife, and water resources. Highlights include: fishing, handling wildlife, exploring local ecosystems, a trip to a local spring, camping out one night at the Austin Cary Forest, building wildlife nesting boxes, and participating in games and scavenger hunts. After a week of fun in the forest, campers gain a better understanding and deeper appreciation of their natural world and what is required to be a good steward of the environment. Camp Kids in the Woods summer program is a collaborative effort between the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation and the USDA Forest Service. Session 1: June 10-14, 2019; Session 2: June 24-28, 2019. For more information and to register visit: www.campkidsinthewoods.org , or contact the Camp Director, Molly Disabb at kidsinthewoods@ifas.ufl.edu

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.


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