FCC News Brief - June 28, 2019

Read NOAA: Red tide still killing dolphins in Southwest Florida - “Toxins from a strong red tide that gripped Southwest Florida for 16 months are still killing dolphins along the coast, according to records from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  NOAA reports show that 174 dolphins died as of June 20 due to what it calls an unusual mortality event related to the red tide outbreak. "We still consider the UME to be ongoing and, although, the red tide bloom seems to have died down since at least February of 2019, we are still closely monitoring the dolphins to see if we are seeing secondary impacts due to the effects of the red tide," said Erin Fougeres, NOAA's marine mammal stranding program administrator for the Southeast United States..Last summer was the height of the bloom. Millions of pounds of sea critters, birds and other animals were taken to a local facility to be burned with trash...Red tide conditions have improved since the beginning of the year, and coastal waters have looked picturesque in recent weeks.  But the toxins are still killing wildlife. Jim Beever, with the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, said the dolphins could be dying from eating contaminated fish. "It could be bioaccumulation,"said Beever, who worked for years as a biologist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "The red tide toxin becomes incorporated in the food web by consumption of the (microscopic) organisms which get eaten by fish that are eaten by other fish. It can become toxic at the level of an apex predator like a dolphin." Red tide experts say the toxins can linger along the coast for months after a bloom dissipates. No red tide related fish kills have been reported in Southwest Florida in recent months, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission...Heather Barron, director of the animal hospital at the Center for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, or CROW, said the hospital is still getting birds that show signs of red tide poisoning.  "Just because everybody is waving the all’s-clear flag doesn’t mean we're not still getting patients in," Barron said. "If (the dolphins) only eat fish but there are no fish available and they change to blue crabs and (the blue crabs) can’t clear the toxin for a month or more, you’re going to see some sick dolphins." Chad Gillis reports for the Fort Myers News-Press

Read DeSantis signs bill weakening Tampa’s tree ordinance - “The word spread through Tampa’s tree loving community quickly Thursday: The city’s tree ordinance had been buzzed way back by the stroke of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ pen. The governor signed a new law that bans cities from regulating the removal, replanting, pruning or trimming of a tree on private property if a licensed arborist determines the tree poses a danger. Tampa city attorneys said the legislation removes the city’s arborists from the role of verifying dangerous trees and being involved in the pruning of trees through the permitting process. They also fear that trees will be allowed to be cut down without any recourse from the city. he decision disappointed advocates like Joe Chillura, the former Tampa City Council member and Hillsborough County Commissioner, who wrote the city’s original protections for its tree canopy back in the early 1970s. For more than a year, builders and advocates had gathered in living rooms and coffee shops to hammer out a compromise that allowed more flexibility to site a house in exchange for more protections for trees. They hailed their efforts as a “historic compromise. Thursday’s action erases much of that. “It’s beyond disappointing,” Chillura said…” Charlie Frago reports for the Tampa Bay Times.

Read Bear kill on I-4 in Orlando is region’s fourth in less than two weeks - “A black bear killed Wednesday on Interstate 4 in Orlando is the second to die in two days on the busy highway — and the fourth since June 15. “Bears are venturing large distances this time year — adults are looking for mates from June to early August and young bears are trying to find ranges of their own,” said Sarah Barrett, a biologist with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, which supervises management of the territorial species. The yearling was the 83rd Florida bear to die in a collision with a vehicle so far this year and the fifth on I-4 since the new year began. A bear was hit and killed in Seminole County about 1:15 a.m. Tuesday at westbound I-4 and County Road 46A , Seminole County sheriff’s spokesman Bob Kealing said. FWC’s Mike Orlando said two bears died June 15 and 16 in crashes on a stretch of I-4 that runs through a forested corridor between DeLand and Daytona Beach. Another deadly collision occurred in Volusia County in April...Orlando and other wildlife officials say highway deaths of bears also can be attributed to increasing human populations and development; increasing traffic volumes and speeds; and fragmented bear habitat, which force bears to cross roads more frequently. “Bears are seasonal and dispersal is essentially young bears getting out of their home ranges,” he said. “It happens every season and it’s happening all over the state.”...With one notable exception, crashes are annually the biggest killer of Florida bears, who have no natural predators. That year was 2015 when crashes killed 248 bears — and hunters killed 304… Although complete year-to-year statistics were unavailable Wednesday, archived Orlando Sentinel statistics show motor vehicles killed more than 3,000 bears since the year 2000, including 242 bears in 2014 and 230 in 2016. It’s one of the reasons the Legislature passed the Wekiva Parkway and Wekiva River Basin Protection Act to build the tolled beltway around Orlando. The road design provides a corridor for bears to pass underneath the elevated highway. Juvenile bears, known as yearlings, tend to separate from mama bears in May or June as a new breeding season begins…” Stephen Hudak reports for the Orlando Sentinel

Read North Florida Land Trust is urging Florida Cabinet Members to save Fish Island - “North Florida Land Trust is asking for the community to show their support for preserving Fish Island by reaching out to Florida Cabinet members. The 57-acre property is located on the Intracoastal waterway immediately adjacent to the 312 bridge onto Anastasia Island. NFLT has been working to preserve the land for months and successfully negotiated an assignable option contract with the owners. On July 23, the Governor’s Cabinet will meet in Tallahassee to decide if the State will accept the contract and acquire Fish Island through the Florida Forever program.   “The citizens spoke out about wanting to preserve this environmentally sensitive land which is also an important part of Florida history and now we are asking the community to let Florida’s Cabinet know how important it is to them to preserve Fish Island,” said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT. The project will be presented to the Florida Cabinet for their consideration by Noah Valenstein, Secretary of Environmental Protection. McCarthy will be making a supporting presentation to the Cabinet as will State Senator Rob Bradley and Vice Mayor of St. Augustine Leanna Freeman. Freeman has been working to protect this property for approximately 14 years and her presence at the Cabinet meeting is in solidarity with the St. Augustine community’s support.   “We are deeply honored to have Vice Mayor Freeman and Senator Bradley join us in this event,” said McCarthy. “Senator Bradley led the effort to fund Florida Forever in 2018 and fought tirelessly for the $100 million it received. That is the money that will be used to protect this property. The Senator has been a strong supporter of our efforts to protect valuable historic and environmentally sensitive land in north Florida. Without his leadership, this effort would not be possible.” NFLT began private discussions with the owners of Fish Island late last year. The state and the nonprofit then did their due diligence and appraised the property before submitting an offer letter to the owners. After extensive negotiations between NFLT, the seller, the seller’s bank and the state, the offer was accepted…” From NFLT press release

Read Crackdown on anacondas spurs legal challenge - “Owners and dealers of anacondas have launched a legal challenge after the state largely banned the snakes amid a struggle to control damaging invasive species. An administrative law judge is scheduled to hold a hearing July 1 in the case, which targets a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rule that took effect in May and added a series of animals — ranging from anacondas to meerkats and flying foxes — to a list of “prohibited non-native species.” The rule generally allows the prohibited species to be kept only for research or exhibition purposes, though it includes an exception for people who had the animals as pets before the change took effect. Those people can obtain permits to keep possession until the animals die. But the rule bars selling or buying the animals in Florida, spurring the challenge from 12 anaconda owners and dealers who live in various areas of the state. In part, they argue that the commission didn’t properly compile what is known as a “Statement of Estimated Regulatory Costs” that would show the financial impact of the rule on small businesses...The rule is part of a broader effort by the state to limit invasive species that can harm Florida wildlife. The commission last month pointed to a need to prevent invasive species from becoming established in the state. “Our native fish and wildlife are facing a serious threat posed by various invasive species found throughout the state,” Kipp Frohlich, director of the commission’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation, said in a prepared statement. “This new rule will help prevent those species on the prohibited list from becoming the next Burmese python.” From the News Service of Florida

Read Forest Service accepting applications for Longleaf Pine Private Incentive Program- “The Florida Forest Service announced this week that applications are now being accepted for the Longleaf Pine Private Landowner Incentive Program. Applications will be accepted through Friday, Aug. 2. The primary objective of the Longleaf Pine Private Landowner Incentive Program is to increase the acreage of healthy longleaf pine forests in Florida by assisting eligible, non-industrial private forest landowners with the long-term investment necessary to establish and maintain the valuable longleaf pine ecosystem. “We are excited to expand the program this year to include all counties within the historical range of longleaf pine, providing assistance to more landowners across the state,” said Jim Karels, State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service. Longleaf pine forests are native to the southeastern United States and are among the most diverse ecosystems in North America. Longleaf pines provide high-quality wood products and are valued for their resistance to damage by insects, disease, wildfire and storms. Due to urbanization and conversion to other land uses, longleaf pine forests have been dramatically reduced and now cover less than four percent of their historical range. Florida is home to more than 2 million acres of longleaf pine ecosystems, which represents more than half of all current longleaf pine forests. The Longleaf Pine Incentive Program offers incentive payments for the completion of timber stand improvement, invasive species control, prescribed burning, planting longleaf pine, establishing native plant understory and mechanical underbrush treatments. Private lands in the 58 Florida counties north of Lake Okeechobee are eligible. To learn more and access an application, visit FloridaForestService.com or contact your local Florida Forest Service county forester…” Special to the Washington County News

Read EPA rule lets political officials block FOIA document requests- “A new EPA rule would allow political appointees to review and withhold documents requested by the public under the Freedom of Information Act.  The final rule, published Wednesday in the Federal Register, was signed by EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on June 14 and takes effect July 25. It was not preceded by a public comment period. It comes one week after a similar policy was reported by CQ Roll Call  at the Department of the Interior. The practice drew criticism from lawmakers and advocates of public access to records. Wheeler and political appointees will be able to “issue final determinations whether to release or withhold a record or a portion of a record on the basis of responsiveness or under one or more exemptions under the FOIA, and to issue ‘no records’ responses.” “The unresponsive records aspect is particularly troubling,” said Sean Moulton, a senior policy analyst at the Project on Government Oversight. “When records are deemed unresponsive, the requestor isn’t even informed that they exist. And so it’s a very important authority to be able to say which records are responsive or not.” According to Moulton, that will limit the requestor’s ability to take turned-down FOIA requests to court. “If something is responsive and withheld for national security, you can go to court and argue as to whether or not you can get records,” Moulton said. With a “no response” or unresponsive reply from the EPA, it would be impossible to take those requests to a courtroom, he said.  The absence of a comment period was particularly alarming, Moulton said…” Meg Cunningham reports for Roll Call

Read $600 million water storage reservoir is under construction in Hendry County - “The C43 West Basin Storage Reservoir is under construction in western Hendry County. The major project is being funded by the South Florida Water Management District, although based on the state and federal split of the Central Everglades Restoration Project, it comes with a trade for a project in the future funded by the federal government.  Construction contracts total more than $600 million dollars to create the above ground reservoir. The two-celled reservoir is six miles from east to west and three miles north to south, covering 10,500 acres. The former orange groves have been cleared for water to fill the land once the project is completed, which is slated from December 2023. The concept of the reservoir is to hold water from the Caloosahatchee River, both basin run off and Lake Okeechobee releases, offering specific timing of releases of the water to give the estuary more fresh water during the dry season and manage high levels of flow during the wet season…” Jaclyn Bevis reports for NBC 2

Read A year of rising climate change awareness, action for South Florida - “ A statewide collaborative news reporting partnership that will focus on climate change issues. A new, high-ranking Chief Resilience Officer who will work to “prepare Florida for the environmental, physical and economic impacts of climate change, especially sea-level rise.” A heightened awareness among the electorate that Florida has arguably more to lose from climate inaction than any other state. What a difference a year makes...As if to hammer that point home, a March Quinnipiac University poll of Florida voters said about three-quarters either felt “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about climate change issues (like sea-level rise). Sixty-six percent were “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” that climate change will personally affect themselves or a family member. Wait, there’s more! Last Thursday, barely a week ahead of the Miami debates, the League of Conservation Voters dropped a survey by Public Policy Polling that shows 57 percent of all Florida voters consider environmental and climate issues are “important.” We are set to undertake the most dramatic economic and social transformation in human history, and yet no one has bothered to estimate what the core components of climate adaptation will actually cost,” Richard Wiles, executive director of the Center for Climate Integrity, said during a press conference last Wednesday. Well, now that we have a better idea of that “cost,” the question is: Does the state have the political will to do what’s required? The answer is, we have to. Because how far we’ve come in the past year is not enough. Not, for example, if Democratic presidential candidates fail to discuss climate change during debates in one of the most vulnerable cities in the country. Clearly, there is more work to do. That’s why the newspaper and radio partners in The Invading Sea collaborative, along with the Tampa Bay Times, are launching the new Florida Climate Reporting Network. More than just opinion writing, this is a news partnership to cover a statewide issue too big and too important for any one news organization to do it justice…” Rick Christie writes Opinion for the South Florida Sentinel

Read Florida county urges cities to give regional recycling collaboration another chance - “In order to address mounting problems after the global recycling crash, one Florida county is looking to take back control of its local recycling system. But first, it will have to end past squabbles. Broward County commissioners recently approved a memorandum of understanding for an integrated waste plan under a new political subdivision, but it still requires buy-in from cities representing at least half of the county's 2 million residents. Getting enough municipalities onboard by the Sept. 30 deadline could prove difficult. Only a few years ago, cities chose to abandon a similar interlocal agreement and forge waste management contracts on their own. "We're hoping everyone signs the MOU by September — that gives us a year to determine a lot of the governance structure," Broward County Mayor Beam Furr told Waste Dive. "Some of the smaller cities just don't want to deal with this at all. I think we have to show why it's to their benefit, so we've got some work cut out for us."…The Florida legislature previously set a statewide goal to recycle 75% of its municipal waste by 2020. By 2013, Broward County was at 60% — largely because the state counts incineration as recycling...Those changes, coupled with a crash in the global recycling market, tanked Broward County's recycling progress. In October 2018, the county retained a team led by Arcadis Design & Consultancy to study its waste issues. The consultant foundthat, as of October 2018, the county's recycling rate had dropped to 34%...The MOU directs the county and participating cities to explore the possibility of creating a tax district to help raise revenue for waste management. "That would allow us to build a recycling center that would complement the burner that's still there and other forms of recycling," said Furr. While the MOU also notes the potential for a public-private partnership, Furr noted it's important for the county to retain ownership of its facilities this time instead of handing them off to profit-driven businesses....” Leia Larsen reports for Waste Dive.

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Upcoming Environmental Events:

June 27, 6:00pm-7:30pm - Underwater Climate Rally - (Miami) - The first democratic presidential debate is our opportunity to let the candidates - and the world - know that Floridians want lawmakers to offer solutions for the #ClimateEmergency. Climate has got to be a central platform for any serious Presidential candidate. Come to the “Underwater Climate Rally” and add your voice calling for action on climate. Wear Blue - to signify the “underwater” theme. Bring blue tarps, snorkel gear, paper towels, masks, rainboots or umbrellas - whatever you have handy to let everyone know you do not want to be "underwater" and signify you're ready for the candidates to #ActOnClimate. Gather: 6:00 p.m. Press Conference: 7:00 p.m. March to Debate: 7:30 p.m. (The debate airs from 9pm - 11 pm) For more information visit Facebook event here.

July 1, 9:00am-3:00pm - DEP Blue Green Algae Task Force meeting - (Fort Myers)- The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is hosting the second meeting of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force, which will play an important role in expediting water quality improvements in the next five years. The key focus of the Task Force is to support funding and restoration initiatives, such as prioritizing solutions and making recommendations to expedite nutrient reductions in Lake Okeechobee and the downstream estuaries. During the second meeting, the Task Force will continue covering the Lake Okeechobee BMAP and begin discussing innovative technologies. The agenda is available on the Blue-Green Algae Task Force website. All members of the public are welcome to attend. (Lee County School Board, 2855 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers, FL 33966.)

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 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.

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.

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