FCC News Brief - July 2, 2019

Read Springs advocates say state funds aren’t being well-spent - “When Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new state budget last week that includes $100 million for springs restoration, there was no exuberant splashing of water from advocates of the chilly natural pools from which groundwater emerges. Instead, they said the money will do little good if it continues to be spent as restoration money has for years — focusing on programs that so far have failed to make much of an improvement in water quality — and if stronger measures are not taken. Among the advocates is Robert Knight, executive director of the Florida Springs Institute based in High Springs. “The fundamental problem is the money is not being spent very well. They are not really prioritizing ways to fix the springs cost effectively,” Knight said. “Some of the projects have created some benefits, but there is no evidence the projects are helping — we are not seeing a turnaround on any of the major springs. There is increasing nitrate levels, and there are continuing reductions in long term flow in the springs.”...Springs are imperiled, however. An explosion of algae from too many nutrients — farm fertilizer is the primary culprit in the Suwannee and Santa Fe basins while septic tanks are a bigger concern in Marion County — is growing on rocks, aquatic grass and spring beds. Algal blooms can reduce oxygen needed by fish and other life. Bacteria can convert nitrogen into nitrates, which can affect human health. The $100 million budgeted this year for springs restoration includes $50 million that was allocated last year but not spent...Despite action taken already, advocates say the condition of springs continues to decline. The Florida Springs Council, a consortium of state advocacy groups, has filed an administrative challenge to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection over the “Basin Management Action Plans” — commonly referred to as BMAPs — it was required to develop by the legislature for 30 springs deemed “outstanding.”...Council Executive Director Ryan Smart said the plans fall short of measures needed to restore the springs, contending that greater limits are needed on agricultural practices, septic tanks and other pollution sources. Smart added that the budgeted money for projects is not enough. Buying more land to keep it from being farmed or developed is needed, particularly since only a trickle of money from the 2014 passage by voters of the Amendment 1 land acquisition measure has been spent…” Cindy Swirko reports for the Gainesville Sun

Read The Key Largo woodrat and cotton mouse were already endangered. Then came the pythons - “When the Key Largo cotton mouse and woodrat were placed on the Endangered Species List in 1984, federal scientists named several factors that were imperiling the rodents’ existence. Most serious was the loss of habitat due to development. Not mentioned were Burmese pythons, feral cats or black and white tegus, a species of omnivorous reptile native to South America that has gained a foothold from Florida City to about halfway down the 18 Mile Stretch of U.S. 1 leading to the Florida Keys. But in the 35 years since the woodrat and cotton mouse became federally protected, those three predators have become major obstacles to them shedding their endangered status. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week released draft recovery plan revisions for 42 endangered species including three species found only in the Florida Keys — the woodrat and cotton mouse, as well as the Schaus’ swallowtail butterfly, which used to thrive in the tropical hardwood hammocks in the Miami area, but is now found only in a few areas in Key Largo. In order for the cotton mouse and woodrat to be taken off the endangered list, federal scientists propose a series of steps that must happen first. These include the emergence of clusters of the rodents living in five new locations other than the two places where they are found now, the Dagny Johnson Botanical Preserve State Park and the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge, both in Key Largo. Also, the populations of Burmese pythons, feral cats and tegus in the area must be significantly reduced. While tegus have not been found in Key Largo in the large numbers that they have in Florida City, the FWS maintains they are a threat to the cotton mouse and woodrat, as well as other native species, because they are omnivorous and “highly intelligent, capable of running at relatively high speeds, and known to consume small vertebrates,” according to the draft plan. Meanwhile, federal officials theorize there’s a connection between the growing numbers of pythons and feral cats: cat food. Jeremy Dixon, manager of the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge, has long urged people in the Upper Keys to stop feeding feral cats because they prey on the cotton mouse and woodrat…” David Goodhue reports for the Miami Herald

Read On environment, Florida Legislature refuses to close the barn door - “Florida lawmakers came away from this spring’s session congratulating themselves on the heroic job they did in defense of Florida’s environment. After the Rick Scott years, that wasn’t hard. Unfortunately, it wasn’t true. With Gov. Ron DeSantis’s leadership they did a heroic job of spending money on trying to repair self-inflicted damage. They did nothing to stop the bleeding. They refused to close the barn door. Closing the barn door when some horses have escaped is basic common sense. You don’t go chasing out after what’s escaped without doing something to keep more problems from escaping. Toxic blooms of blue green algae, red tide, and brown tide are a serious public health problem from the Indian River down to Florida Bay, up the west coast and across Florida’s lakes and waterways. On an issue where people argue a lot about who to blame, most everyone agrees that the causes for the dramatic increase in toxic water in the last decade are warmer weather and more nutrients (meaning fertilizer, sewage, and manure). The Florida Legislature may yet join the scientific community in believing that action is necessary on global warming, but slowing down that trend is going to take a while. The legislature can do something about the increased inflow of nutrients into our waterways. They chose not to. They spent a lot of our tax money, but they did nothing to stop the problems at the source...Sugar companies and their allies keep repeating the mantra that “We are all to blame.” It is true that every single one of us adds nutrients in one way or another: septic tanks, broken sewer lines, urban sludge spread in rural pastures, lawn fertilizer, crop fertilizer, livestock, inadequate stormwater treatment and the destruction of natural wetland filters that often goes with new agricultural or urban development. Blaming all of us seems to be an excuse for doing nothing about any of it… Legislators didn’t even think about asking both urban and agricultural development to clean up the nutrients at the source. That approach is fairer to taxpayers as well as being more efficient...They failed miserably in fully funding the Florida Forever conservation land-buying program. Florida voters resoundingly supported restoring Florida’s successful program to purchase and preserve natural wilderness. Those are the areas that provide free natural cleanup and storage as well as public recreation and wildlife conservation…” Maggy Hurchalla writes for the Florida Phoenix

Read Red, white and green: Four ways to celebrate July Fourth and protect the planet - “...The Fourth will bring picnics, family gatherings, the aroma of meats cooking on grills, music playing, and at sundown traditional fireworks displays. All will seem safe and well, just as it should. But since 1979 scientists have been telling us that lurking ahead is a climate crisis of potentially catastrophic proportions. We casually refer to the pending crisis as “Climate Change.” However, the world’s leading climate scientists predict extreme atmospheric conditions with potentially devastating consequences...We know that humans are burning and releasing carbon at an alarming rate. In fact, more carbon has been pumped into the atmosphere since the end of 1989 than the total for all previous years since the beginning of civilization. Alarmingly, CO2 levels continue to increase and the concentration of atmospheric CO2 this past year was the highest on record. The hotter the planet, the greater the creation of weather extremes. Stronger and more frequent hurricanes such as Michael; more rain and major flooding, as Missouri and Oklahoma recently suffered; more extended periods of drought and wild fires like those that consumed homes and resulted in a loss of lives in California and Colorado. Each is a sobering example of what lies ahead...To honor the creation of our founders, what is the most significant thing we can do to assure our children and grandchildren and those living during the next 243 years will have the same opportunity for a free and bountiful life? The answer: We must stop our country and our planet from further warming! We all know the drill: replace incandescent lightbulbs, seasonally adjust our thermostats, reduce single-use plastics made from oil, drive less, buy energy star appliances, and stop idling when in line. Those are important, but not nearly enough.  It’s time to tackle the big stuff – the stuff that will really have impact…” Stew Parsons writes for the Tallahassee Democrat

Read Blue-green algae bloom on Lake Okeechobee at Port Mayaca over 3 times too toxic to touch - “A blue-green algae bloom on the Lake Okeechobee side of the Port Mayaca Lock and Dam in western Martin County is more than three times too toxic to touch. The bloom contained the toxin microcystin at a level of 29 parts per billion, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection reported on its algae website Monday morning. That's more than three times the 8 parts per billion the federal Environmental Protection Agency considers hazardous in recreational contact. The 50-by-100-yard bloom was within the "wing walls" of the lock with "streaks of BGA (blue-green algae) throughout this area upstream of the structure," according to a South Florida Water Management District crew that reported the algae Wednesday. No algae blooms have been reported in the C-44 Canal downstream of the dam. The canal leads to the St. Lucie River.  The gates at both the Port Mayaca dam at Lake O and the St. Lucie Lock and Dam, where the C-44 empties into the river, have been mostly closed since Lake O discharges ended March 30…” Tyler Treadway reports for the Treasure Coast Newspapers

Read U.S. House members push to ban sunscreen in Florida - “The fourth of July holiday weekend is upon us, and millions of Americans will head to their nearest beach, apply some sunscreen, and soak up some UV rays. As of right now, that sunscreen Americans apply to try to help protect their skin is completely legal, but that maybe short-lived. The use of certain types of sunscreen  may soon be outlawed within national marine sanctuaries where coral reefs are found. Banning sunscreen use sounds like crazy talk, but there is a measure filed in the U.S. Congress that calls for such a ban. A few months back, Florida Rep. Francis Rooney (R) introduced legislature that would prohibit the use of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone or octinoxate. The bill, which was also cosponsored by freshman Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D) and Rep. Alcee Hastings (D), was deemed necessary to prevent those two chemicals from “killing our coral reefs” in these marine sanctuaries…” Javier Majarres reports for the Floridian

Read New Florida law requires shark fishing permit; here are the details- “The popular challenge of shark fishing is in the jaws of a new Florida law which requires anglers to seek education before casting a line. The new law is a regulation update which became effective Monday and requires all anglers seeking to target or harvest sharks from the shore to take an online shark-fishing education course and acquire a permit, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The law’s purpose is two fold with the primary role in protecting humans. Shark fishing naturally brings the apex predators closer to popular beaches and has the potential to create harmful or deadly situations for unsuspecting swimmers, according to the FWC. The new rules changes would prohibit anglers from bringing sharks onto shore, and require them to release their catch immediately. The law’s second function is to protect sharks and maximizing their chances of survival upon being targeted…”  Joe Mario Pederson reports for the Orlando Sentinel

Read Jim and Tara’s wood stork rookery: A backyard swamp adventure- “ ‘In general,’ Jim Stevenson says, ‘it is easy to manage a swamp.’ The swamp to which Jim refers is his backyard. For his wife, Tara Tanaka, it’s a photographer’s dream. Two duck blinds let her observe animals visiting directly behind their house. She also keeps the sliding door clean, and a camera attached to a birding scope is always ready to capture whatever happens by. One morning, it was a bobcat carrying a wood duck. Other days, there could be hundreds of wading birds foraging in shallow water. This includes ibis, roseate spoonbills, egrets, herons, and the animal that brings us here, the wood stork. But they didn’t purchase 45 acres of cypress swamp simply to take amazing photos and videos. Jim, a retired biologist with the state park service, wanted to protect what he saw as an important ecological resource…. Accompanying us is Misty Pentom. She has also recently joined the WFSU Education and outreach team. She and Jim have been neighbors for a long time, living on a quiet street surrounded by wetlands and floodplain forest. In fact, when another parcel of that land was about to be developed, Misty mounted a grassroots effort to protect that as well… More than alligators, the wood stork’s greatest ally here is space and a plentitude of trees. They may feed in dirty ditches, but they need an intact cypress swamp to nest in colonies like they do. And 45 acres inside of Capital Circle is valuable real estate for wading birds, if not in terms of human dollars. Jim and Tara found this out after Tara was concerned that the cypress would be clear cut, and they decided to buy the land. “Fortunately, it didn’t cost a lot, Jim says, “because society doesn’t place much value on swamps… The plants in the wetlands are purifying water by removing contaminants off of our streets, and from our lawns,” Jim says. This is a service provided by many wetland ecosystems, from swamps to salt marshes. While marshes and oyster reefs filter water flowing into our oceans, swamps help protect the water we as humans use every day. “We have two sinkholes in this swamp that take water down to the aquifer periodically. But also, water seeps through the bottom of the wetland, and it replenishes the aquifer in that manner as well.” The Floridan aquifer is the source of our drinking water, as well as the water that flows out of our springs. If clean water goes in, then clean water comes out of our taps, as well as at our favorite summer swim holes... The Floridan Aquifer is one of the largest is aquifers in the world, lying under 100,000 square miles of Florida and Georgia. People in this area use up to a billion gallons of water from it a year. Wetlands like Jim and Tara’s help protect this resource…” Rob Diaz de Villegas reports for the WFSU Ecology Blog

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

Outreach Coordinator - Miami Waterkeeper

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 8, 6:00pm - July Earth Ethics Environmental Educational Series - (Pensacola) -Join us at Ever'man Educational Center located at 327 W Garden Street. We will be viewing A PLASTIC OCEAN.  A PLASTIC OCEAN begins when journalist Craig Leeson, searching for the elusive blue whale, discovers plastic waste in what should be pristine ocean. In this adventure documentary, Craig teams up with free diver Tanya Streeter and an international team of scientists and researchers, and they travel to twenty locations around the world over the next four years to explore the fragile state of our oceans, uncover alarming truths about plastic pollution, and reveal working solutions that can be put into immediate effect. We'll discuss what you can do to help reduce your use of plastics! One lucky winner will receive a giftset to jump start a plastic reduced life. Check out the Eventbrite page here, and Facebook Event here. For more information, email earthethicsaction@gmail.com

July 9, 7:00pm-9:00pm - Climate Justice membership meeting - (Miami) - 350 South Florida is focusing on incredible battles across the region. From stopping fossil fuel projects, increasing climate justice literacy, to advocating for sustainable initiatives in the transportation and energy sector. Who is 350 South Florida? Every day residents from communities across Palm Beach, Broward and Miami Dade County who decide to step up, learn about Climate Justice, and volunteer their time to help the environmental movement grow. JOIN US, and get more meaningfully engaged with 350 South Florida. We depend on people like you to stand with us. Where: 7411 NW 36th St, Miami, FL 33166. For more information, visit the Facebook event page here, or email 350SouthFlorida@gmail.com.

July 10, 6:00pm-7:30pm - Silver Springs Alliance July Meeting- (Ocala) - Join the Silver Springs Alliance for their monthly meeting for discussion and action plans for the preservation and restoration of Silver Springs. All interested parties are welcome. Ocala Police Headquarters, 402 S Pine Ave, Ocala FL 34471. For more information, visit the Facebook event page here.

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 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) - Hosted by Solar United Neighbors and the League of Women Voters, neighbors across Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties can join the Escambia-Santa Rosa Solar + Storage Co-op! Co-op participants work with the help of Solar United Neighbors to make it easier to save money on the purchase of solar panels, while building a community of local solar supporters. Join us for a free information session to learn about solar energy, as well as how the co-op simplifies the process of going solar while providing a discount through its bulk purchasing power. Attend this free event by RSVPing here. Address: Ever'man Education Center, 327 W Garden St, Pensacola, FL 32502.

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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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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