FCC News Brief - February 18, 2019

Read DeSantis reappoints Department of Environmental Protection secretary - “Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Friday that he has reappointed Noah Valenstein to keep his role as secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Valenstein was first appointed in 2017 by former Gov. Rick Scott, for whom he served as environmental policy aide from 2012 to 2015. “Noah has led DEP with distinction and has played an integral role in implementing my vision to protect and restore Florida’s environment,” DeSantis said in a statement Friday. “I’m confident his continued leadership will bolster our efforts to take decisive action on behalf of the people of Florida.”...Valenstein’s initial appointment pleased environmental groups who took issue with his predecessor, who sparred with groups over land acquisition and management practices and eventually left for a legal and lobbying firm that had done business with DEP...One of his more controversial actions as head of the district was when it voted to allow Sabal Trail to build a $3 billion natural gas pipeline through an environmentally vulnerable conservation area. He worked as director of legislative affairs from 2010 to 2012 for the Everglades Foundation, which praised DeSantis’ pick…” Samantha J. Gross reports for the Miami Herald.

Read Florida is drowning. Condos are still being built. Can’t humans see the writing on the wall? “I stood behind a worn shopping center outside of Crystal Springs, Florida, looking for the refuge where a hundred manatees were gathered for winter. I found them clustered in the emerald-colored spring, trying to enjoy a wedge of sunlight and avoid the hordes of people like me, boxing them in on kayaks and tour boats, leering over wooden docks...2018 was the second deadliest year on record for manatees. Like many of our coastal species, they’re vulnerable to habitat loss and warming seas, which are more hospitable to algal blooms and red tide. Science has given us the foresight we need to make decisions that will reduce the future suffering of other species and ourselves, but we don’t heed it. Why? Studies show that humans don’t respond well to abstract projections. We overvalue short-term benefits, such as driving SUVs, burning coal and building waterfront real estate. We choose these extravagances even though they impede beneficial long-term outcomes, such as saving threatened species, or reducing the intensity of climate change. Humans tend to respond to immediate threats and financial consequences – and coastal real estate, especially in Florida, may be on the cusp of delivering that harsh wake-up call. The peninsula has outsized exposure: nearly 2 million people live in coastal cities. In the list of the 20 urban areas in America that will suffer the most from rising seas, Florida has five: St Petersburg, Tampa, Miami, Miami Beach and Panama City. In 2016, Zillow predicted that one out of eight homes in Florida would be underwater by 2100, a loss of $413bn in property…” Megan Mayhew Bergman writes for The Guardian.

Read Lee County commissioners must protect our farmlands, stop mining proposals - “Florida has an abundance of natural resources, and we, as residents and citizens of this great state, are its caretakers. Some questionable decisions over the years, however, have changed our role to more of a triage medic frantically scrambling for solutions in hopes of reversing the damage we’ve done to the Florida Everglades, Caloosahatchee, groundwater resources, wetlands, coastal waterways and estuaries.  Meanwhile, those that have made those decisions – our politicians and leadership in Washington, Tallahassee and Fort Myers – stand bewildered. There is no quick fix for our environment. One of those local decisions with huge implications is approaching. An amendment to Lee County’s mining plan would open up limerock mining to a greater area and more mining operations, despite irrefutable evidence that our existing limerock supply is plentiful, enough to last 33 years, according to a recent study. Yet, Lee County is weighing proposals to establish two additional mega-mines along State Road 82 between the Gateway community, southeastern Lehigh Acres, and the Village of Estero, which would destroy wildlife habitat, threaten nearby farms, jam traffic and endanger lives. The decision would abolish the traditional Alico Road mining corridor and turn S.R. 82, Corkscrew Road and Daniels Parkway into strategic routes for dump trucks...We need our leadership to step up and make a tough decision for the betterment of our residents, our environment and our future. Agriculture, an economic driver for many years in this community, is facing extinction. Once these thousands of acres of sustainably farmed fields and groves are mined, they are lost forever. A generation or two later, the land’s only use will be subdivisions built around a deep, but essentially dead, alkaline lakes void of life.  Agriculture creates an economic pipeline for years to come, but mining is a finite operation – once the limerock is used up, it’s gone...Our leaders are concerned about development and population growth, and rightly so, but if prospective residents and business owners find Southwest Florida has water shortages, fouled estuaries, void of locally grown produce, diminished wildlife, and roadways clogged with dump trucks, then what’s the point of all this?...” Randall Johnson writes Opinion for the News-Press.

Read Audubon releases plan to restore Gulf of Mexico - “The National Audubon Society has released its restoration plan for the Gulf of Mexico. It would draw on the $20 billion settlement from the 2010 BP oil spill. Audubon would apply for part of the $2.5 billion that was awarded to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. It would be used to fight the effects of sea level rise in the Gulf that threatens critical bird nesting habitat. Mark Rachal, sanctuary manager of Audubon's Coastal Islands program in Tampa Bay, said they want to use the money to finish a breakwater to calm waves that threatens to erode the islands.  "Everyday that the islands are unprotected is another day that we're losing shoreline and potential nesting habitat for Florida's most iconic birds gulf-wide, brown pelicans, roseate spoonbills, reddish egrets," he said. "It's imperative that we have this protected habitat where the birds can nest and raise the next generation." Audubon's $1.7 billion plan for the Gulf is part of the largest ecosystem restoration effort ever attempted…” Steve Newborn reports for WLRN.

Read How pro-environment is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis? - “Right from the start, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is making a splashy show of his commitment to improve water quality and address the state's other urgent ecological needs. While not embracing the politically fraught term "climate change," he has vowed to take actions like speeding aid to hurricane-ravaged Mexico Beach in the Panhandle and adding a state scientific officer to monitor rising seas...The Republican governor's underlying message: On this issue he's his own man, not the Donald Trump acolyte he modeled during his gubernatorial campaign, and not an anti-environmentalist like Scott. Conservationists reviled DeSantis' predecessor for, among other things, disbanding the growth watchdog Department of Community Affairs and replacing it with a Department of Economic Opportunity...Before Scott, "Florida had the best growth management in the Southeastern United States," says Jonathan Webber, deputy director of Florida Conservation Voters. "Governor Scott closed the whole thing down. There's not even a growth management law on Florida's books." Webber says the effects show up in polluted water, overburdened sewer systems and toxic red tide... Webber is watchfully waiting to see if DeSantis exerts the leadership required to sell his environmental vision. "We'll know more once the final budget is passed," Webber says. "Is his staff going to be fighting for the governor's budget at the Capitol, or is this just kind of a media hit?" Matthew Schwartz thinks he knows the answer to that question. "A lot of the environmental solutions that are put out there are political," says Schwartz, executive director of the South Florida Wildlands Association. The Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir DeSantis champions is a $1.6 billion project that depends on federal as well as state funding. It won't end the discharges, it won't stop the algae blooms, and it just underlines the need to restore wetlands to save Florida's water resources," Schwartz says. But restoring wetlands and creating green spaces require conserving land instead of developing it, and Schwartz sees too little effort directed at that goal – and not much help from DeSantis. Schwartz and Webber agree that reviving the Department of Community Affairs to oversee growth would be optimal…” Noreen Marcus reports for U.S. News

Read Tallahassee, don’t tread on St. Pete’s ban on plastic straws - “This big, long state in which we live contains communities young and old, seaside and landlocked, city and country, conservative and not. St. Pete has its own distinct vibe — its thriving downtown, rolling green waterfront, art, parks, bungalows and annually, the biggest Pride event in Florida. And, recently, its admirably progressive ban on those plastic drinking straws that currently litter the world. That is, unless the Florida Legislature decides it knows what's best for the rest of us. Apparently lacking more urgent matters, your lawmakers in Tallahassee may soon consider whether St. Pete should have that power to decide for themselves. Nope, says House Bill 603, co-filed by Rep. Anthony Sabatini, a Republican from Howey-in-the-Hills, which is also not St. Pete. The bill, and a similar measure in the Senate, means no city, county or other local government entity would be allowed to pass no-straw regulations. It says only the state would be able to do that. Yes, a separate measure, Senate Bill 502, would in part mean a statewide ban on food-selling businesses providing plastic straws. St. Pete, by the way, has gone about its no-plastic push pretty sensibly. Through 2019, restaurants are supposed to offer straws only to customers who ask, with the ban in place by 2020. And the good people of the town seem to be adjusting. Aaron Pfeiffer, assistant manager at Red Mesa restaurant, tells me less than half of their customers ask for straws. "No one really gets upset about it," he says. Even across the bridge in stodgier Tampa, waitstaff in certain establishments are also asking first instead of sticking a straw in every ice tea. The pending bill is all about taking away local control, says St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman….” Sue Carlton writes Opinion for the Tampa Bay Times.

Read Water board’s final meeting eclipsed by emotional resignation, verbal jabs and no votes - “A simmering feud between outgoing South Florida water managers and Gov. Ron DeSantis ended Thursday with the resignation of the district’s executive director following an abbreviated meeting crippled by the lack of a quorum...The resignation capped the continued sparring between board members, all appointed by the former governor, Sen. Rick Scott, and DeSantis, who vowed to take on Big Sugar during his campaign and tackle the state’s water problems. DeSantis called for the entire nine-member board to resign two days after he was elected after board members defied his request to delay voting on a lease extension for sugar farmers on land slated for an Everglades reservoir. The reservoir is supposed to help reduce the release of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee that fueled devastating algae blooms around the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries last year, which became a central issue in the election...The division falls along predictable lines on Everglades restoration — the nation’s biggest and most expensive environmental restoration project — pitting agricultural interests against the coast. Tucker said it was unfair to blame only farmers, when residential septic tanks also play a role in the water pollution crises. Moran predicted that the new board would try again to buy out farmland to restore marshes, a deal first considered under former Gov. Charlie Chist and his chief of staff, Eric Eikenberg, who now runs the Everglades Foundation…” Jenny Staletovich reports for the Miami Herald.

From Our Readers

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Job Openings:

Marine Science Faculty Position- Florida Keys Community College

Communications Coordinator - Florida Sea Grant

Pinellas County Sustainability & Resiliency Coordinator

Education Specialist - Nature’s Academy

Gulf Research Program’s Science Policy Fellowship

Executive Director - Friends of Gumbo Limbo

Upcoming Environmental Events:

February 19 - 11:00AM- 12:00 PM - Sierra Club Florida Press Advisory: Stop Kanter Real Estate Exploratory Oil Drilling in the Everglades - (Fort Lauderdale) - Sierra Club Florida is holding a press conference where local elected leaders, Everglades restoration and clean energy advocates, and concerned citizens will express their fierce, collective opposition to the Kanter Real Estate oil drilling proposal and call on the Governor, the legislature, and the public to support the efforts to stop Kanter’s plan. The Broward League of Cities will be represented, as will organizations dedicated to the restoration of the Everglades and a 100% clean renewable energy future for Florida.  The public is invited to attend. For more information, visit Sierra Club’s website here.

February 22 - 6:30PM - 9:30PM - Lectures on the Lawn: The Florida Wildlife Corridor’s ‘The Forgotten Coast’ - (Odessa) - Pasco County Parks, Recreation, and Natural Resources is hosting part two of a cultural event in the Lectures on the Lawn series. Join us Friday, February 22, 2019, at the newly-developed Starkey Ranch District Park for a special screening of The Florida Wildlife Corridor’s “The Forgotten Coast.” The keynote presentation for this free event will feature Mallory Dimmitt, a seventh-generation Floridian and expedition team member, who is working to raise awareness for statewide conservation. “The Forgotten Coast” is a documentary film showcasing Florida’s wildlife corridor stretching from the Everglades to the northernmost part of the Florida Gulf Coast. The lawn-seating event also features live music, so bring your chairs, blankets and a picnic. For a printable flyer with complete details, including on-site food truck and local brewery offerings, click here: bit.ly/2Nb4PmC. Starkey Ranch District Park
11880 Lake Blanche Drive, Odessa, FL 33556

February 27 - 12:00PM-1:00PM - “What the Frack” - (Hialeah) - Communities across Florida have already made it clear they want fracking banned, passing 90 local measures against fracking in cities and counties that represent over 70% of the state population. It's time the Legislature stepped up and passed a statewide ban. Join Rethink Energy Florida, the Institute for Civic Engagement, YES! Club, Earth Ethics Institute and hear from knowledgeable panelists to discuss the impacts of FRACKING on our health, local economic development and communities. Miami Dade College -Hialeah Campus; 1780 West 49th Street, Hialeah FL 33012. For questions or more information contact Salome at 786-387-5111 or SaGarcia@fwwatch.org , stay updated on the event’s facebook page here.

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 13 - 7:30AM-6:00PM - Ride the Bus for Clean Water! - (Jacksonville-Tallahassee) - St. Johns Riverkeeper and fellow river advocates are joining partners on March 13th for Reclaiming Florida’s Future for All Advocacy Day at the Statehouse in Tallahassee. During our bus ride from Jacksonville, St. Johns Riverkeeper staff will provide training and talking points to help bus riders become effective advocates. At the Capitol, you will have the opportunity to meet your state legislators and ask them to protect all of St. Johns River’s waterways, including its springs and tributaries. Bring family and friends with you to support water conservation efforts. 2019 is off to a clean start for our state’s waters, but we need to ensure the St. Johns River is not forgotten! Bus Meeting Location: Lowe’s, 5155 Lenox Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32205. For more information and to register (FREE), visit the website here.

Register by Friday, March 8, 2019. Registration is FREE but seating is limited.

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) 

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.


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

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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