FCC News Brief - February 11, 2019

Read North Florida Land Trust marks record conservation year - “The nonprofit North Florida Land Trust celebrated a record year for land conservation — spending about $18 million to preserve more than 6,100 acres of natural land essential to wildlife and water shed throughout the region. Jim McCarthy, land trust president, said money from donors and at the local, state and federal level helped the conservation organization reach some historic acquisitions in 2018 — both the largest conservation easements and the largest uplands acquisition to date. “We were also able to acquire two square miles of the Floridan aquifer recharge area, which is beneficial to everyone because the Floridan aquifer provides fresh water to more than 90 percent of Floridians,” McCarthy said. Saying the organization is lucky, McCarthy praised its ongoing partnership with Camp Blanding Joint Training Center in southern Clay County and the U.S. Army National Guard, which provided more than $15 million in 2018 for land conservation surrounding Camp Blanding and within the Ocala to Osceola (O2O) wildlife corridor. The land trust in 2018 focused on preserving land in the corridor, which stretches from the Ocala National Forest to the Osceola National Forest, which is considered essential natural habitat and critical to the region’s water shed. The corridor provides important habitat for the Florida black bear as well as many endangered species including the red-cockaded woodpecker, indigo snake and gopher tortoises…” Teresa Stepzinksi writes for the Florida Times Union.

Read ‘Fracking’ ban bills to be heard in House, Senate - “With Gov. Ron DeSantis supporting the idea, proposals to ban the controversial oil- and gas-drilling technique known as “fracking” could start moving in the House and Senate. The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee and the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee are scheduled Wednesday to take up bills (PCB ANRS 19-01 and SB 314) that would prohibit fracking in the state. Florida has long had oil drilling in parts of the Panhandle and Southwest Florida, but the possibility of fracking has led to repeated debates. Critics of the technique contend it could lead to water contamination. Past attempts to ban the practice have died in the Legislature, but DeSantis, who took office Jan. 8, has called for a prohibition. The bills are filed for consideration during the legislative session that starts March 5.” From the News Service of Florida.

Read Water quality testing for wastewater spills and other contamination- “A December upsurge of raw sewage spills from the city of Valdosta, Georgia, has a dozen downstream counties organized into a Task Force, demanding action from Florida state legislators. But what action? I recommend first getting a grip on the extent of the problem, funding keeping that picture up to date, and then funding fixes. Valdosta spilled not just twice, but two dozen times in December, totalling more than six million gallons of raw sewage. And Tifton, Quitman, and Lowndes County also spilled. We know this because the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) is publishing statewide spill reports each business day, after a campaign by Suwannee Riverkeeper’s umbrella organization, WWALS Watershed Coalition (WWALS), involving thirty Florida and Georgia organizations...The state of Florida is doing a surprising amount of testing, especially at springs. Yet there are gaps from the state line downstream. The state of Florida could fund and direct the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to fill those gaps...We are all appreciative of the $60 million Valdosta already spent on sewer system improvements and more to be spent. However, as by far the biggest city in the Suwannee River Basin, Valdosta has a responsibility to finish the job. Florida (and Georgia) legislators could help by allocating funds. In Florida, water quality testing funds are the most obvious. In Georgia, testing and more sewer system improvement money would help. Threats of lawsuits have gotten attention to the problem, and this all may result in lawsuits. Then testing and funding will still be needed. So let’s start with testing and funding…” John S. Quarterman writes Opinion for the Suwannee Democrat

Read Miami-Dade plans to build a highway over wetlands. These kids say that’s a bad idea - “At this week’s annual Fairchild Challenge debate tournament, an annual rite of passage for aspiring debaters in Miami-Dade County, high schoolers were asked to argue one of the more heated issues to surface over the last year: whether to build a highway across wetlands that once made up the headwaters of an Everglades river...“The congestion is bad but the expressway isn’t necessarily going to fix it and the Everglades is this pure natural resource,” said Austin Cerber, a senior at Palmetto Senior High who lives in a West Kendall neighborhood the extension is aimed at helping. “Seeing the evidence that the highway wasn’t going to fix it made it seem like a waste.” Unlike other debates that focus on broader topics, like the death penalty or freedom of speech, Fairchild organizers like backyard issues, especially ones that might affect kids for years to come...The plan to extend the Dolphin Expressway over wetlands in the Bird Drive Basin outside the urban development boundary has drawn sharp criticism from environmentalists along with state water managers and environmental regulators, who say it might interfere with an Everglades restoration project. State lawmakers from Miami-Dade have also proposed abolishing the expressway authority, known as MDX, which County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said could derail the project…” Jenny Staletovich reports for the Miami Herald.

Read Courts turn blind eye to protecting Everglades from oil, gas drilling - “The Sunshine State is blessed with one of the world’s most biodiverse and scenic natural wonders: the Florida Everglades, which spans more than 730 square miles in South Florida and draws nearly one million visitors each year...As a county commissioner representing an area bordering the Water Conservation Areas of the Everglades, I remain fully committed to sustainably using natural resources and leaving them cleaner than we found them. With so much time and taxpayer dollars invested into saving the Everglades, it’s disappointing that our courts — so-called “protectors” of the Everglades — have seemingly turned a blind eye to one of the greatest threats it has experienced in our lifetime: oil and natural gas drilling. Recently, drilling on a site in the Everglades was given the go-ahead by a three-judge panel in the 1st District Court of Appeals. We need to call on Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature to step in and vehemently oppose this decision. Florida leaders on both side of the aisle have strongly rejected offshore drilling, because we all recognize the risk it poses to our beaches and economy.Florida’s environment and our economy go hand in hand. Without a clean and healthy environment, Florida wouldn’t be a desirable place to live, work, retire and vacation. If our beaches are important enough to protect from drilling, why aren’t our Everglades?..” Melissa McKinlay writes Opinion for the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Read No more asking nicely in climate fight - “During the Vietnam War, the voting age was lowered to 18 from 21 years old. Young voters wanted a say in electing officials who could send them overseas to possibly be killed. Today, elected officials are again making decisions that harm young people who have little say in the matter. They include allowing greenhouse-gas emissions to heat the planet and alter the climate in ways that will most seriously affect today’s children. Young people are responding with tactics that go beyond seeking change at the ballot box. Alachua County resident Isaac Augspurg, 13, is among the young plaintiffs in lawsuits over climate change filed by the nonprofit organization Our Children’s Trust. “Youth have had to take on this fight,” Augspurg said. “We’ve marched, we’ve protested, we’ve asked nicely. We can’t continue asking nicely.” The lawsuits aim to force states and the federal government to honor their constitutions by protecting natural resources that are supposed to be held in the public trust. The goal is a major shift to renewable energy in order to prevent the most extreme consequences of climate change...But their message was ultimately one of hope, not fear. Like the Parkland students who responded to a horrific school shooting with activism against gun violence, these young people are pushing their elders to better protect their lives and futures. Rather than looking to lawmakers who keep letting them down, the plaintiffs in the lawsuits are asking judges to take action. They’re following in the tradition of court cases that forced the desegregation of schools and legalization of same-sex marriage — but hopefully on a faster timetable, before climate change reaches a tipping point…” Nathan Crabbe writes Opinion for the Gainesville Sun.

Read Hurricanes are strengthening faster in the Atlantic, and climate change is a big reason why, scientists say - “A group of top hurricane experts, including several federal researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, published striking new research Thursday suggesting that hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean have grown considerably worse, and climate change is part of the reason why. The study focused on rapid intensification, in which hurricanes may grow from a weak tropical storm or Category 1 status to Category 4 or 5 in a brief period. They found that the trend has been seen repeatedly in the Atlantic in recent years. It happened before Hurricane Harvey struck Texas and before Hurricane Michael pummeled the Gulf Coast with little warning last fall. Hurricane Michael, for example, transformed from a Category 1 into a raging Category 4 in the span of 24 hours. The study, published in Nature Communications, describes its conclusion in blunt language, finding that the Atlantic already has seen “highly unusual” changes in rapid hurricane intensification, compared to what models would predict from natural swings in the climate. That led researchers to conclude that climate change played a significant role…” Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis report for the Washington Post.

From Our Readers

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Job Openings:

Pinellas County Sustainability & Resiliency Coordinator

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Upcoming Environmental Events:

February 11 - 6:00PM-7:30PM CST - “The Problem with Plastics” screening & discussion - (Pensacola) - Join Dr. Enid Sisskin Chair of the Natural Resource Committee for the League of Women Voters of the Pensacola Bay Area, as she discusses the “The Problem with Plastics”. The presentation is part of Earth Ethics Environmental Education Series on Monday, February 11th beginning at 6 p.m.at Ever’man Educational Center, 327 W Garden Street, Pensacola, FL. Stay up to date on the event or to RSVP at the Facebook event here. Or get your free event tickets from Eventbrite here. Light refreshments will be served.

February 13- 12:45PM-2:45PM - Villages Environmental Discussions Group meeting - (The Villages) -Villages Environmental Discussions Group (VEDG) will host its next meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 13, from 12:45 to 2:45 p.m., at the Belvedere Library, 325 Belvedere Blvd., The Villages, FL. Our guest speaker will be Lisa Sanderson, Sumter County UF/IFAS Residential Horticulture Extension Agent II and Master Gardener Coordinator. Lisa will discuss simple home vegetable gardens. She will also describe plants that can be used to attract pollinators. Beginning gardeners and Master Gardeners are welcome to this FREE program. Questions? Email:  raivedg@gmail.com

March 2nd & 3rd - Florida SpringsFest 2019 - (Ocala) - Since 2000, Florida SpringsFest has been educating visitors about the importance of Florida’s springs. In 2019, Florida SpringsFest will be held on Saturday March 2 and Sunday March 3, at Silver Springs State Park, with the theme sustainability. This two-day event will feature everything that Silver Springs has to offer- Glass Bottom Boat tours, canoe, kayak, and stand-up paddleboard rentals, interactive education center, ranger programs, and trails through beautiful gardens, overlooking the crystal-clear spring. In addition, SpringsFest includes environmental speakers, educational displays, artists, crafters, demonstrators, food vendors, live entertainment, a student art show, a silent auction, and more! Join us for this two-day event to learn about Florida Springs! History, science, fun, music, food, and friends- all for $2/person park admission! Glass bottom boat rides are not included with your park entry, but will be HALF-OFF all weekend! Follow the Florida Springsfest Facebook for more information!

March 11 - 6:00 PM-7:30 PM - ‘Environmental Justice: What, Why, You’ discussion - (Pensacola) - Join Earth Ethics, Inc. in welcoming Wilma Subra, environmental scientist and advocate, guest speaker for Earth Ethics Environmental Education Series for March. Ms. Subra will discuss Environmental Justice issues in our community and across the state and nation. Subra served for seven years as vice-chair of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology, for six years on the EPA's National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, and for five years on the National Advisory Committee of the US Representative to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. She appeared in the 2010 documentary Gasland. The event is being held at Ever’ man Educational Center, 327 W Garden Street, Pensacola, FL. RSVP on Facebook here, or get your free event ticket from EventBrite here. Light refreshments will be served.

March 13 - 10:00 AM-4:00 PM - Reclaiming Florida’s Future For All: Clean Water, Clean Air, Clean Energy - (Tallahassee) - Rethink Energy Florida is hosting an advocacy day at the Florida State Capitol (400 Monroe Street, Tallahassee FL 32301)! We are advocating to protect Florida’s clean water, support renewable energy, and BAN Fracking! We will be talking with our legislators about these critical issues. This event is co-sponsored by Floridians Against Fracking, Sierra Club Florida, Physicians for Social Responsibility Florida, Environment Florida, ReThink Energy Action Fund, Food and Water Watch Florida, Center for Biological Diversity, Ignite Change, and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. RSVP here or check out the Facebook event for more information.

March 27 - 12:00 PM -1:30 PM - Free 2019 Florida Legislative Update Webinar - This free webinar is scheduled for a little more than three weeks into the 2019 Florida Legislative Session. The actions taken during the session likely will have significant public policy impacts for planning, conservation, transportation, community design and other issues of concern to many Floridians with myriad impacts for concerned citizens, professionals, local elected officials and others. 1000 Friends President Paul Owens, Policy and Planning Director Thomas Hawkins, and Board Member Emeritus and Past Chairman Lester Abberger will discuss key growth management, design, conservation and related bills including budget recommendations that are being considered during the 2019 Florida Legislative Session and other legislation that may surface as the session progresses. This event has been approved for 1.5 AICP CM LEGAL CREDITS for planners (#9162194). 1000 Friends has applied for professional certification credits for Certified Floodplain Managers, Florida attorneys, Florida Environmental Health Professionals, and Florida DBPR Landscape Architecture but cannot guarantee credits will be approved. Register at www.1000friendsofflorida.org/webinar/.

April 27 - 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM - The Water Festival - (Deland) - The Volusia Water Alliance invites one and all to a street party celebrating water with a day of fun activities and performances in historic downtown DeLand. The festival will feature live mermaids, sidewalk chalk artists, dance and musical performances, a Blessing of the Waters (a Native American tradition), children’s games and activities, a Dog Zone, educational displays, and vendor booths. Visit VolusiaWater.org for more information. Admission is FREE. A few sponsorships and vendor spaces are still available. (West Indiana Avenue, DeLand, FL 32720) 

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Help Save Our Panthers

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

Stop Development on Fish Island along the Matanzas River * Learn more about the plight of Fish Island in this WUFT News & UF College of Journalism and Communication publication.

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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