FCC News Brief - July 11, 2019

Read Climate change denial ends at agency that protects waters in South Florida - “...Out went former Executive Director Ernie Marks, whom the Scott appointees had hired. In came Drew Bartlett from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. He vowed, “Nothing is going to get in the way” of Everglades restoration. The Florida Wildlife Federation had sued the district after the previous board – with almost no public notice – extended a lease that allows Florida Crystals to keep farming land that will become a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. The reservoir will reduce or eliminate the many harmful discharges to the east and west. Environmental groups worried that the lease could delay the reservoir for eight years. Under new management, the district secured assurances from Florida Crystals that the company would make the land available when needed. That commitment prompted the federation to drop the lawsuit. A representative confirmed Tuesday that the federation will rely on “the new board.”...Other Republicans are noticing that environmental protection resonates with voters. In March 2017, Sen. Marco Rubio said buying land for that southern reservoir could turn communities around Lake Okeechobee into “ghost towns.” Last December, Rubio joined U.S. Rep. Brian Mast – whose Treasure Coast district suffers regularly from lake discharges to the east – in asking the Army Corps of Engineers not to delay the reservoir...Another sign of the new attitude could come soon. During his first year, Scott ordered huge, indiscriminate budget cuts at the district. Each year, he told board members to cut taxes, despite warnings that the agency didn’t have enough money for flood control. Goss wouldn’t commit to a tax increase for next year. For now, he’s “leaning on staff” for guidance. “My concern is the long-term operations and maintenance. We need to keep the pumps running to deal with sea level rise…” Randy Schultz writes Opinion for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Read Wait, you’re not going to drink that, are you? (Or swim in it or even touch it?) - “The water is trying to kill you. The Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, plus Florida’s rivers and springs and lakes and streams and sloughs and marshes and creeks and sinks, can be–and often are–deadly. Wait, you’re not going to drink that, are you? What comes out of Florida’s taps can be a bit iffy, what with coliform bacteria and runoff from superfund sites. Arsenic, too, and sometimes just good old salt: rising sea levels mean contaminated wells… Like to boat on the St. Johns or the Caloosahatchee or the St. Lucie or the Santa Fe? Don’t touch the water. Blue-green algae is living large in our rivers and it’s poisonous. Stuff causes nasty skin rashes, diarrhea, liver problems, and respiratory stress. The fish don’t like it, either. You can tell by the way they’re floating belly up in protest. Big Paper and Big Ag blame lawn fertilizer and septic tanks for the noisome, nutrient-rich runoff choking our water bodies; people with septic tanks and lush lawns blame Big Paper and Big Ag. They’re all correct. In late April, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a “Blue-Green Algae Task Force” to study the problem, which, to Florida politicians, is almost as good as actually doing something about it. Way cheaper, too… But say you make it to the warm waves of the Gulf (thanks to our climate crisis, they’re very warm: one reason Hurricane Michael was so destructive). You go for a lovely swim. This is assuming there aren’t thousands of dead fish, birds and turtles from red tide stinking up the shore. Careful: there’s flesh-eating bacteria in that water. Doctors in Sarasota diagnosed necrotizing fasciitis in one lady who’d been at Siesta Key in May. Another woman noticed her leg swelling up and turning red half an hour after swimming in the Gulf, and a 12 year-old who’d been in the water at Destin in June needed three surgeries...Still think we can just screw around with our environment and get off scot- free? Still think we can cut and pave and drain and dredge and spew toxins and greenhouse gases for 150 years with no consequences? Still think we can outsmart outraged Nature? Think again. In Florida, Nature bats last…”  Diane Roberts writes for the Florida Phoenix

Read Water-rights dispute Florida v. Georgia seems to have stalled - “More than a year ago, Justice Stephen Breyer released the final ruling of October Term 2017 when he announced the decision in Florida v. Georgia, “breezily” summarizing “the ruling in this water dispute that he acknowledges is not a blockbuster.” After holding that Special Master Ralph Lancaster had applied too strict a standard in ruling against Florida, the court sent the case back to the special master with a set of questions to answer. Some had hoped the case could proceed quickly; however, it now seems to have stalled… As required, both Florida and Georgia submitted post-remand briefs and proposed findings and conclusions on January 31, 2019; both sets of briefs sought to address the questions laid out by the court. In its supplemental brief, Florida noted that Lancaster found that Georgia’s upstream water use was unreasonable and that the Supreme Court rejected Lancaster’s additional finding that nothing could be done because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the reservoirs in the river system, is not a party to the case. Florida cited the court’s finding that “uncertainties about the future do not provide a basis for declining to fashion a decree” to argue that “Florida is entitled to relief if, under ‘reasonable predictions of future conditions,’ … the benefits of a decree would substantially outweigh its costs.” Georgia’s supplemental brief emphasized that Florida has not met its “heavy burden” of proving “by clear and convincing evidence that the benefits of an equitable apportionment decree substantially outweigh any harm that might result.” Georgia further argued that Florida has failed to prove harm to the Apalachicola River or Bay; rather, “the Corps—not Georgia—caused those lower river levels through Congressionally authorized activities in the [Basin], Florida allowed over-harvesting of oysters after the Deepwater Horizon, and experts determined that additional water from Georgia would not have improved conditions.”... On March 12, Florida submitted a motion for oral argument, requesting at least 90 minutes per side and indicating that Georgia did not join or oppose the request. On March 22, Kelly updated the distribution list for service but did not rule on Florida’s motion for oral argument. At this point, the case has gone dark. Stay tuned to the docket…” Lara Fowler writes for SCOTUSblog

Read Thousands of palm trees are dying from a new disease. Tampa is ‘ground zero’.  - “The section of Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard that winds around the Hillsborough Bay is lined on either side by one of Florida’s most iconic plants, the palm tree. Some are tall and spindly, necks so long and thin it seems impossible they could support an entire head. Others have verdant green limbs that stretch around their short trunks. Among a canvas of lush palms, a few trees stand out. Their fronds are a sickly light brown. Local forester Richard Bailey offers a prophetic warning: These palm trees are dying. So are many more around the Tampa Bay area and throughout Florida. Just as worrisome: There is no cure for the disease that ails them… The disease that afflicts these trees, lethal bronzing, has a name similar to the color it turns diseased leaves, a brown that slowly morphs onto each leaf until the whole tree dies. The first characterized case of lethal bronzing occurred in Texas in 2002, according to Brian Bahder, an assistant professor of insect vector ecology with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences extension. But it wasn’t until 2006 that the disease was first identified in Florida. The disease starts with a tiny insect. The aptly-named plant hoppers feed on the tree’s sap and inject their saliva into its tissue through their “needle-like mouths,” Bahder said. When a planthopper feeds on an infected tree, they become a carrier of the disease...Right now, there is one solution: Pump unafflicted trees full of an antibiotic, oxytetracycline, which can be used to treat acne and rosacea in humans, every three to four months…” Elizabeth Djinis reports for the Tampa Bay Times

Read Gopher tortoises: study to determine if diseases, dwindling habitat cause low productivity - “You've probably seen some great big gopher tortoises lumbering through a local park, a natural area or even your own backyard. But how many small gopher tortoises have you seen? Researchers from Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute near Fort Pierce and the Loggerhead Marinelife Center at Juno Beach want to find out if diseases and dwindling habitat are causing gopher tortoises to produce fewer gopher tortoises. The study began a couple of years ago when Justin Perrault, research director at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center at Juno Beach, led an effort to conduct health assessments on about 60 gopher tortoises at nearby Loggerhead Park. The 17.5-acre Loggerhead Park is an example of a 'fragmented habitat," surrounded by the ocean on one side and busy roads and development on the other three. "Now we want to do the same at the Harbor Branch campus and compare the populations," said Dr. Annie Page-Karjian, an assistant research professor and clinical veterinarian at Harbor Branch. The 40-acre Harbor Branch campus along the Indian river Lagoon north of Fort Pierce has more than 100 gopher tortoises, Page-Karjian said. Data provided by the project will provide insight on the reproductive success of the two communities, then that can be compared to other gopher tortoise groups throughout Florida. Healthy gopher tortoise populations make for healthy ecosystems. The tortoises are a keystone species because their burrows can be home to more than 300 other animal species. Listed as "threatened" in Florida by the federal Endangered Species Act, both gopher tortoises and their burrows are protected by law…” Tyler Treadway reports for the Treasure Coast Newspapers

Read Business solar co-op launches as pilot on Jax beaches - “Jacksonville Beach and Neptune Beach will see Florida's first business-focused solar co-op when a partnership led by The North Florida Green Chamber of Commerce and Solar United Neighbors launches the co-op Thursday. By bulk ordering through the co-op, members get access to discounted installation prices, as well as access to vetted installers. The pilot program is the first business-focused solar co-op in Florida, according to Solar United Neighbors Regional Field Director Angela DeMonbreun. "It's something we hope to bring to all areas of Florida," said DeMonbreun. Residents may enter as well, though the partnership intends to market mainly to small businesses. DeMonbreun hopes the program will show what the biggest hurdles are for businesses looking to go solar so her organization can find ways to reduce friction...The beaches' co-op will be the organization's 49th in Florida. The League of Women Voters of Jacksonville/First Coast, USGBC Florida, Beaches Go Green and Sierra Club Northeast FL Group are also partnering on the co-op.” Will Robinson reports for the Jacksonville Business Journal

Read ‘Lift that nest up’: Florida’s endangered birds threatened by floods - “Sea level rise and other effects of climate change are now adding to the list of challenges facing some of Florida’s smallest residents: rare birds. On the St. Marys River in Northeast Florida, just a stone’s throw from the Georgia border in Yulee, the nonprofit White Oak Conservation Foundation is breeding and researching wildlife…The Florida grasshopper sparrow is found in the wild in just four locations in Central Florida, and its population has declined sharply in recent years as 95% of its dry prairie habitat has been decimated, said Andrew Schumann, White Oak’s animal collection manager. The species is at high risk of extinction. The wild population began to decline in the ‘70s when prairie grasslands were converted to make way for cattle grazing, sod production and other agricultural uses...Schumann said, “Over the past few years, we’ve kind of salvaged those flooded nests and brought them into captivity to save them. They’ve actually played a big role in establishing our captive populations.” State Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission field crews also monitor the sparrows. When they find nests in low-lying, flood-prone areas, they raise them. “Today we think there are less than 80 birds in the wild,” he said...Ken Warren with the Fish and Wildlife Service said, “You take away the gators, you take a take away the manatees, you take away the Cape Sable seaside sparrow, and what do you have? A bunch of highways. A bunch of condos. This wildlife and this biodiversity is really what makes Florida Florida, and I think that’s why a lot of people have moved to Florida. I think that’s what makes people appreciate Florida and that’s why it’s worth protecting.” Brendan Rivers writes for Adapt.

From Our Readers

The information in this section is forwarded to you at the request of some of our readers. Inclusion in this section does not necessarily constitute endorsement by the FCC.

Job Openings:

Community Outreach Coordinator - Alachua Conservation Trust

Executive Director - Current Problems

Policy and Planning Director - 1000 Friends of Florida

Organizing Representative, Red Tide & Wildlands Campaign - Gainesville - Sierra Club

Organizing Representative, Red Tide & Wildlands Campaign - Ft. Myers/Naples - Sierra Club

Staff Attorney - Everglades Law Center

Upcoming Environmental Events:

July 11, 7:00pm - Toxic Puzzle Screening & Environmental Panel - (Orange Park)- TOXIC PUZZLE is a medical and environmental detective story where documentary filmmaker Bo Landin follows ethnobotanist Dr Paul Alan Cox and his scientific team around the world in a hunt for the hidden killer. The pieces come together in a toxic puzzle where cyanobacteria in our waters become the culprit. Are these organisms, fed by human pollution and climate change, staging nature’s revenge by claiming human lives? Join the St. Johns Riverkeeper at the Thrasher-Horne Center for the Arts in Clay County (283 College Dr, Orange Park FL 32065) for a live screening and panel discussion on the issue of toxic algae blooms and the serious short and long-term health effects it’s having on our communities, wildlife, and habitats of our River and what YOU can do to help. For more information and to register, click here.

July 13 - 8:30am-11:30am - Blue Spring Clean Up for Manatees - (Maitland)- Trash and debris is a huge problem for manatees and other wildlife. Many manatees ingest trash which can harm or even kill them. Una is a Blue Spring manatee, so let's help her and her friends and clean up some trash! Join Save the Manatee on Saturday July 13th, 2019 at 8:30 a.m. at Blue Spring State Park. We will meet on the lawn in front of the Thursby House by the lower parking lot. This is a CleanUp event in collaboration with Volusia County, Blue Spring State Park and Central FL Recon. You can help on land, by snorkeling or by kayak, however the most trash will be found on land (any trash from land can easily blow into the water and become a problem for manatees!) We will provide buckets, gloves and trashpickers, but feel free to bring your own. Visit the Facebook page here for more information. Register here.

July 15-19 - Living Lagoon Summer Camp - (Vero Beach) - ORCA's free summer camps focus on improving the health of the Indian River Lagoon through hands-on activities designed to promote teamwork and environmental stewardship. The camps include peer-to-peer mentoring and are open to Indian River County Exceptional Student Education student mentees and general education student mentors ages 14-18. Activities include habitat restoration, fishing, seining, gardening, cooking with native plants, eco-art activities and much more! To learn more and register, contact Retta Rohm, Education Coordinator at 772-467-1600 or rrohm@teamorca.org

July 18, 5:30pm - 7:30pm - Conservation on Tap: Orlando - (Orlando) - Do you love Florida? Do you enjoy the outdoors? Are you passionate about conservation, wildlife, or Florida's environment? If you answered yes to any of the above, join Conservation Florida! Conservation on Tap is an opportunity to drink a beer, learn about conservation, and meet the Conservation Florida team. For more information, visit the Facebook event page here. Ivanhoe Park Brewing Company, 1300 Alden Road, Orlando FL 32803.

July 20- 9:00am-4:30pm - Rights of Nature Workshop - (Fort Myers) - This one-day workshop will provide an overview of the movement in the United States and abroad to recognize legally enforceable rights for ecosystems. The workshop will focus on four main areas – (1) the failure of conventional environmental regulatory law to protect the natural environment; (2) the growth of the “community rights” movement in the U.S. in over three hundred communities to recognize rights to sustainability; (3) the theoretical and legal basis for the recognition of legally enforceable rights of ecosystems, where those laws have been adopted, and how they are being enforced; and (4) the application of the rights of nature to counties and municipalities in Florida, including an exploration of next steps in Lee County. The workshop will be led by Thomas Linzey, Esq., Senior Counsel for the nonprofit Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) (www.celdf.org). A short curriculum and lunch will be provided to participants. Attendance is limited to thirty individuals who should have a history of community activism. Please email info.cwn2019@gmail.com to preregister for this ticketed event. For more information, visit the EventBrite page here.

July 23rd - 6:00pm-7:30pm - Escambia-Santa Rosa Solar & Storage Info Session - (Pensacola) - Live in Escambia or Santa Rosa County and want to go solar? Now's your chance! Neighbors across the area have formed the Escambia-Santa Rosa Solar + Storage Co-op with the help of Solar United Neighbors to make it easier to save money on the purchase of solar panels and storage solutions, while building a community of local solar supporters. Join us for a free information session to learn about solar energy, battery back-up, as well as how the co-op simplifies the process of going solar while providing a discount through its bulk purchasing power. RSVP for this free event here. Address: Pensacola Library, 239 N Spring St, Pensacola, FL 32502 .

July 25-28 - Springs Field School - (Ocala) - Join the Florida Springs Institute for an in-depth course on Florida springs for all backgrounds. Held from July 25th-28th in Ocala, the Springs Field School explores topics on springs ecology, water use, pollution impacts, and environmental management. Florida’s artesian (deep groundwater) springs are an important natural resource, providing the basis for extensive wildlife support and human recreation. These springs and the Floridan Aquifer that feeds them are under increasing threats from human activities, including flow reductions, nutrient increases, aquatic weed management activities, recreational impacts, and a variety of water resource development projects. A growing awareness of these problems is leading to a rapid increase in demand for knowledge about the basic chemistry, biology, and ecology of springs to be used for improved resource management. This course provides an overview of the current understanding of how springs are a product of their environmental surroundings and how they respond to management decisions. For more information and to register, click here.

August 5th - 5:30pm - 8:30pm - Calusa Waterkeeper Town Hall - (Fort Myers) - Participate in the premiere of Calusa Waterkeeper’s new documentary, “Troubled Waters.” This short film will feature expert scientists and doctors as they explore the human health impacts of cyanotoxins and BMMA in South Florida. An extended Q&A session with an all-star panel of experts will follow the video screening. Tickets and more information is available here. Address: Broadway Palm Dinner Theater, 1380 Colonial Blvd, Fort Myers FL 33907.

August 10th - 8:00am-11:00am - Brevard County Clean Up for Manatees - (Cocoa Beach)- In collaboration with Keep Brevard Beautiful, Save the Manatee is organizing a Beach CleanUp this summer! Trash in our environment is a big problem for manatees and other wildlife. Manatees can ingest trash or get entangled in it, which can lead to injuries or even death. Any piece of trash on land can easily blow into the water and become a hazard for manatees. During the summer months, manatees can be found in shallow coastal areas and can sometimes even be observed from the beach, so we want to help them and clean up!
We'll meet on Saturday, August 10th, 2019 at 8 a.m. at Lori Wilson Park (1500 N Atlantic Ave, Cocoa Beach, FL 32931). Parking is available and supplies (buckets, gloves, trash pickers) will be provided. This is a family-friendly event and everyone is welcome! Visit the Facebook page for more information, and register here.

August 12th - 6:00pm-7:30pm - Escambia-Santa Rosa Solar & Storage Co-op - (Pensacola) - Join us for our August Earth Ethics Environmental Education Series as we welcome Julia Herbst with Florida Solar United Neighbors who will discuss and answer any questions with regards to the Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties Solar & Storage Co-op. Learn more about the co-op by visiting https://www.solarunitedneighbors.org/co-ops/florida/escambia-santa-rosa-county-solar-co-op-2019/. Follow the Facebook event here.

August 19th - 7:30pm-8:30pm - Agriculture & Conservation Easements workshop - (Callahan) - Conservation easements can be a profitable way of preserving farms and forestlands, while keeping them in production and in the family. However, there are dozens of easement programs out there, with difficult enrollment procedures and confusing rules for property owners. The UF/IFAS Nassau County Extension office has partnered with the North Florida Land Trust (NFLT) to offer a workshop on understanding how conservation easements work. NFLT's Land Protection Director, Marc Hudson will present their pros and cons, how they preserve agriculture and natural resources and how your property might qualify for one. We'll also give an overview of the various financial incentive programs available.  For further questions, please call the Nassau County Extension office at 904-530-6353 or email jdacey@ufl.edu.  Refreshments and snacks will be provided. To register (free) click here. UF/IFAS Nassau County Extension, 543350 US Highway 1, Callahan, FL 32011.

August 27th-28th -Florida Panhandle Forests & Drinking Water Workshop - (Apalachicola) - Join the Florida Forest Service & Workshop Planning Team for a tour and workshop of the Apalachicola Estuary and Tate’s Hell State Forest to learn about the connection between healthy forests and clean water. The tours begin at 1pm on the 27th, starting at Tate’s Hell State Forest, and ending with a boat tour of the Apalachicola Estuary. The workshop begins Wednesday August 28th at 8:00am at the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve Nature Center in Eastpoint. The workshop agenda includes both presentations and group discussion sessions. The primary goal is for participants to leave the meeting with tangible “next steps” to accelerate community-based watershed stewardship and protection throughout the Florida Panhandle. Lunch will be included at the August 28th Workshop. For additional information and registration, visit the Eventbrite site here.

September 30th - October 2nd- Public Land Acquisition & Management (PLAM) Partnership 2019 Conference - (St. Augustine) - The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is proud to announce the Public Land Acquisition and Management (PLAM) Partnership Conference. This statewide conference focuses on public land acquisition and management issues in Florida. PLAM has typically been hosted on a rotating basis by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the five water management districts. The conference will be held at the World Golf Village Renaissance Resort (500 S Legacy Trail, St. Augustine, FL 32092). WHO SHOULD ATTEND: Local, regional, state, federal, non-profit and private land managers; Land acquisition specialists and agents; Water managers; Engineers, planners, attorneys, surveyors, appraisers, architects; Public officials; Non-profit groups; Consultants; Others interested in conservation land planning. Registration coming soon. For more information, click here.

October 10 - 6:30pm-8:30pm - Follow the Ichetucknee - (Lake City) - Mark your calendars now for an informal celebration of the Ichetucknee at Halpatter Brewing Company, 264 NE Hernando Avenue, Lake City, Florida 32055. Admission is free! You'll enjoy: Viewing new and newly scored videos about the Ichetucknee by collaborators Eric Flagg and Michael Amish; Meeting directors and members of the Ichetucknee Alliance; Socializing with people who love the Ichetucknee; Tasting craft beer and munching on pizza; Exploring our interconnections with the aquifer, the Ichetucknee, and each other; Finding out what you can do to help restore, protect and preserve the Ichetucknee. We are thrilled that the generous proprietors of Halpatter have offered their venue for this event. Please share this information with anyone you know who might be interested. There's also information about this event on our Facebook page here.

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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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.  

For more information, visit https://www.wearefcc.org/

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