FCC News Brief - April 30, 2019

Quote of the Day: “Conservation is a cause that has no end. There is no point at which we will say "our work is finished."  - Rachel Carson

Read Algae in St. Johns already? Time for changes - “St. Johns River watchdogs this week say they’ve found troubling signs of algae blooms throughout the lower basin — the part of the river that includes downtown Jacksonville — a potential harbinger of a slimy, toxic summer ahead for Florida’s longest river. This is the result of a number of factors — weather patterns, warmer-than-normal water temperatures, higher nitrogen and phosphorous pollution levels — the perfectly mixed cocktail priming the river for blooms. There have been times in the past when early conditions seemed right for gnarly outbreaks in the river, only to have a relatively algae-free summer in the St. Johns. So perhaps that happens again, and so far state scientists say they’ve seen low levels of harmful toxins in water samples. What’s clear right now is what’s happening before our eyes, and given the time of year, it’s alarming stuff: Sickly green blooms in Palatka and San Mateo — a resident there told one of my colleagues it’s one of the worst he’s seen in a half century — reports of green streaks along the riverwalk in downtown Jacksonville, algae in the water column by St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Riverside and possible signs of algae in Arlington. As temperatures rise and residents start fertilizing their lawns more and more — what regulators call “non-point source” pollution — the problem could well get worse. As is often the case, though, North Florida troubles are eclipsed by those farther south…” Nate Monroe writes for the Florida Times-Union.

Read Ron DeSantis announces newly-formed Blue-green Algae Task Force - “Gov. Ron DeSantis has placed a special emphasis on Florida's environment since taking office, and Monday was one more step in the direction to clean up the state's waterways. At the Nathaniel P. Reed Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge, DeSantis named the members of the state's newly-formed Blue-green Algae Task Force. "The focus of this task force is to support key funding and restoration initiatives and make recommendations to expedite nutrient reductions in Lake Okeechobee and downstream estuaries," DeSantis said.  The team consists of: Mike Parsons, professor of marine science at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers and director of it's Coastal Watershed Institute and Vester Field Station. James Sulivan, executive director of Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. Valerie J. Paul, director of the Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce. Wendy Graham, director of the University of Florida Water Institute. Evelyn Gaiser, professor at Florida International University…” Sara Marino reports for the Treasure Coast Newspapers

Read New toll highways will take a toll on rural areas - “The U.S. Census Bureau recently reported that Polk County was among the fastest-growing communities in America. Some 22,000 newcomers arrived in the Lakeland-Winter Haven metropolitan area between July 2017 and July 2018. That represented a 3.2% population boost — good for fourth place nationally behind Midland, Texas, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and St. George, Utah. Clearly the influx of new residents should impress upon local elected leaders to need to examine our infrastructure. Florida is growing again after the end of the Great Recession, and Polk County will be a hub for that surge. But while we will need some new or expanded local roads, sewer and water lines and other necessities to accommodate this growth, we do not need what the Legislature has in store for us. On Wednesday, the state Senate passed what’s hailed as Florida’s biggest expansion of its highway network in 60 years, since the origination of the Florida Turnpike. Prodded by Senate President Bill Galvano, senators nearly unanimously backed appropriating roughly $400 million over the next three years, and $140 million annually beginning in 2022, to launch three new toll highways, all slated to be finished by 2030. Yet that funding is just for planning-related purposes. Actual construction will run into the billions, which most likely will be borrowed…” From the Gainesville Sun Editorial Board.

Read Sandhill cranes more visible because of growth - Federal authorities recently decided not to list Florida’s sandhill cranes as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The idea has been discussed for decades, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded the birds are doing OK with the current protections they enjoy under other state and federal wildlife laws. Unlike sandhill crane populations in other parts of the United States, Florida sandhill cranes are not game species. Florida sandhill cranes are one of six recognized subspecies...One of the phenomena that has been discussed is the fact that these birds have become more visible in recent decades. Some of it, I suppose, is because so much of their original native habitat has been converted to development or more intensive agricultural uses, which has pushed them to areas they didn’t formerly inhabit. Habitat loss caused by drainage and increased development was cited as a problem for cranes in other parts of the United States as long ago as the 1920s, though in Florida dry weather that reduces wetlands areas ideal for successful nesting has also been a factor, according to some scientists. That is the same phenomenon that doomed a plan to establish a breeding population of whooping cranes in Florida. The surviving birds are scheduled to be transferred at some point to join a successful non-migratory breeding population in Louisiana. Additionally, changes in water flow to wetlands can result in the growth of willows and other woody plants that can also make the wetlands unsuitable for cranes to nest. Florida sandhill cranes reportedly are also injured regularly trying to cross fences they can’t get under or around…” Tom Palmer writes Special to the Lakeland Ledger

Read Florida’s new chief science officer started off as a surfer dude- “Florida’s new chief science officer didn’t start out as a scientist. Instead he was a surfer dude. Thomas Frazer, named to the post created by Gov. Ron DeSantis last month, was born and raised in the quintessential surf city of San Diego. When he was 8, he bought his first board — a Lightning Bolt — and spent as much time riding the waves as he could. That’s what led him to become an expert on water pollution. Florida’s new chief science officer didn’t start out as a scientist. Instead he was a surfer dude. Thomas Frazer, named to the post created by Gov. Ron DeSantis last month, was born and raised in the quintessential surf city of San Diego. When he was 8, he bought his first board — a Lightning Bolt — and spent as much time riding the waves as he could. That’s what led him to become an expert on water pollution...Despite repeated requests from the Tampa Bay Times, state Department of Environmental Protection officials declined to make Frazer available for an in-depth interview. However, in brief comments he made the day DeSantis named him to the job, Frazer discussed his priorities. At this point, they do not include tackling rising sea levels, protecting the state’s aquifer-saving wetlands, or finding new habitat for the Florida panther and other endangered species. “It’s pretty clear water and water quality-related issues are on the top of the list,” Frazer told the Palm Beach Post. “In the short term, blue-green algae is a big issue and a lot of my time will be focused on that....” Craig Pittman reports for the Tampa Bay Times.

Read Trout Trouble? Statewide water issues likely to result in reduced bag limit for spotted seatrout?- “...Other anglers fishing the waters within 20 miles of the 17th Street Bridge have reported decent fishing for trout, too. But range farther south and north in the Indian River Lagoon, and signs indicate trout may be in trouble. In some of Florida's waters — where trout catches were always considered a reliable target — the economically important fish is being caught in alarmingly low numbers. Anglers say years of declining water quality coupled with devastating losses of sea grass habitat in Florida's fragile and critical estuaries have trout at a tipping point. Help may be on the way. But some recreational anglers worry, will it be enough to help trout rebound? The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has been assessing trout stocks for two years. During its meeting May 1-2 in Havana, near Tallahassee, FWC staff will recommend a reduction in harvest for recreational anglers in an effort to help trout stocks strengthen…” Ed Killer reports for the Treasure Coast Newspapers.

Read Bee crisis: Pollinators endure countless threats in Florida- “Scientists call it a “pollinator health crisis.” One in three mouthfuls of everything we eat directly or indirectly rely upon honeybee production, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Pollinators contribute more than $24 billion to the American economy, $15 billion from honey bees alone. But domestic pollinators have plummeted for decades, especially native bees, recent research shows. Managed honey bees dropped from 6 million colonies in 1947 to 2.5 million now. A phenomenon called colony collapse disorder killed 23 percent of the honey bee population after the winter of 2006-2007. Meanwhile, monarch butterflies have dipped 84 percent. Fewer pollinators pose a serious risk to domestic crops, ecological health and the economy in Florida and nationwide, scientists warn. Like canaries in a coal mine, bees also reflect the overall health of the environment...Florida’s bees, appear to be — for the moment — on the mend, beekeepers and state agricultural officials say. They continue to face a litany of threats from pests, pesticides and diseases, as well as hurricanes. But Florida has the advantage of yearly boosts from commercial beekeepers up north who bring their bees to winter here, providing a spillover effect for beekeepers like Clifton Best. He sees first hand — without using gloves — a bee comeback in Brevard. It manifests in the daily calls he fields from fearful homeowners wanting to rid their property of unwanted bees without using pesticides to kill them…” Jim Waymer reports for the Associated Press.

Read How wind and solar became America’s cheapest energy source - “In late 2009, as America was clawing its way from the worst recession in 80 years, fiscally pressured local and state governments were doing everything they could to slash costs. That included cutting back on clean-energy initiatives. Here's how the New York Times described the case of Durango, Colorado, a town of 18,000 in the southwest part of the state: “But for many other groups, even green-minded ones, the higher price of clean electricity has caused soul-searching and hesitation. Early this year, the city government of Durango, Colo., stopped buying renewable power from its utility, saving $45,000 a year. The clean electricity had cost 40 percent extra.” Ten years later, nearly one-third of Colorado's electricity comes from renewable sources, the state's biggest utility is moving to entirely carbon-free energy, and its voters have elected a governor who promised to set the most aggressive clean-energy standard in the nation.  That story is mirrored in dozens of other states, where consumers have demanded cheap power and corporations have moved into clean-energy projects in droves. Behind this shift is not just increasing environmental awareness, but simple economics. The price of renewables has been dropping exponentially—and shows no sign of reversing…” Irina Ivanova reports for CBS News MoneyWatch


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

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Petitions

Tell Florida Lawmakers: Stop Destructive Tollway Bills

Save the Heritage Trees at Martin Luther King Jr. Park - Winter Park

No Fracked Gas in Tampa Bay

Help Save Our Panthers

End collection & removal of tropical marine life from Phil Foster Park

Thinking of going electric? Nextcar Pledge

Another Gulf is Possible

Save the Serenova Tract in Pasco – Say NO to the Ridge Road Extension

Florida Solar Bill of Rights

Protect Florida’s Gulf Coast from Offshore Drilling

Protect Weeki Wachee Springs; Stop the 7 Diamonds Mine in Pasco County

Stop New Phosphate Strip Mining in Florida

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