Quote of the Day: “To be whole. To be complete. Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.” - Terry Tempest Williams
Read State must stop pollution at its source- “Gov. Ron DeSantis is touting his “bold agenda” to protect Florida’s environment, but the latest state legislative session once again gave a pass to polluters. Even after widespread red tide and blue-green algae blooms plagued the state last year, the Legislature did little to prevent the nutrient pollution fueling the problem. Instead, lawmakers directed big spending toward cleaning up the messes made by polluters while also passing measures that encourage development that will only cause more pollution. Water pollution from sources such as fertilizer, municipal sewage and septic tanks contributes to the length and severity of algae blooms. Yet lawmakers failed to pass bills that would have required inspections to ensure septic tanks are working and fined utilities for sewage spills or made them invest in new infrastructure. Instead, they dedicated hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to restoration efforts. The DeSantis administration this week praised the Legislature’s “historic investment” in environmental projects, but stopping pollution at its source wouldn’t require taxpayers to spend such massive amounts on these efforts. The state would better protect its natural resources with smarter growth management that discouraged sprawl. But the Legislature passed a bill this session that would construct three new toll roads through rural and environmentally sensitive areas, likely leading to new development and pollution...State lawmakers also passed legislation in the waning hours of the session, HB 7103, that would require citizens who challenge a local government’s development decision to pay the government attorney’s fees if they lose. The provision was approved without committee hearings on a last-minute voice vote without discussion. The smart-growth group 1000 Friends of Florida said the measure would “gut the ability of Floridians to challenge decisions on growth in their communities,” calling on DeSantis to veto the legislation…” From the Gainesville Sun Editorial Board
Read New SFWMD board hints at regulating water polluters, criticizes BMPs honor system - “The newly appointed South Florida Water Management District board hinted Wednesday that besides building water-cleaning projects, they intend to impose stricter regulations on polluters. And the newest board member led the charge during a workshop on the district's role in cleaning the state's water...District Executive Director Drew Bartlett told board members "you have the authority to do projects and you have the authority to regulate as well." Several board members had some serious questions about the state's system of having farmers use best management practices, commonly known as BMPs, to reduce water pollution. The most pointed questions came after Vanessa Bessey of the state's agriculture department noted farmers aren't required to prove their BMPs are cleaning water before it leaves their land. "Don't we have a monitoring tool to prove they're getting the nutrient reduction they say they're achieving?" asked board member Jay Steinle of Palm Beach County. "If they implement the BMPs developed and recognized by the (Florida Department of Environmental Protection), there's the presumption they're meeting water quality standards," Bessey replied. "It's intuitive to us that if they put less fertilizer on their land, there will be less coming off their land." Board Vice Chairman Scott Wagner of Miami-Dade County was incredulous, saying the program was "based on theory" and self-regulation..."We would love to have more money," said Chris Pettit, who was announced Wednesday morning as head of the department's agricultural water policy office."You need more data, more budget and more staff," Gary Goforth, a Stuart environmental engineer and former SFWMD engineer, said during a public comment session. "A hole has been dug for you all" because of budget cuts imposed during former Gov. Rick Scott's administration…” Tyler Treadway reports for the Treasure Coast Newspapers.
Read After a decade on life support, Florida just killed growth management- “Growth management has barely been clinging to life since 2011, when Gov. Rick Scott - a relative newcomer to the state - put it on his hit list. That year, the Legislature went along with Scott and essentially got the state out of the business of reviewing development proposals. They left the task to local governments that, too often, lack the expertise or the inclination to do the job. All wasn’t lost. Not yet. Citizens could still challenge local government decisions through a “consistency review.” Put simply, that means if a city decided to allow apartments in an area where only single-family homes were allowed under the growth plan, a citizen or a group of citizens could ask a court to get involved. Even that was too much for our state’s lawmakers. In a last-minute legislative move, state Sen. Jeff Brandes slipped in an amendment that makes the loser responsible for all legal fees. Yes, that means if some neighbor or homeowners association decides to challenge the city council’s decision, they’ll be responsible for everyone’s attorney fees if they lose. That might include the developer’s legal fees if they become a party in the case...We know exactly what this means. Without the threat of legal action, city councils and county commissions will be even more liberated from listening to their constituents during public hearings. They’ll know that very few people - except the very wealthy - will be willing to risk so much money to fight what they see as the government’s wrong decision on a new development…” From the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board.
Read Indian River Lagoon fared ‘better’ this legislative session but serious work remains- “Brevard County's portion of the Indian River Lagoon has been the red-headed stepchild in the Florida Legislature. Lawmakers across the state are quick to rally behind Everglades restoration and the need to reduce Lake Okeechobee discharges, which spur blue-green algae blooms in the southern part of the lagoon. But when it comes to the Space Coast — which covers more than 70 percent of the estuary — it's hard to get traction for our environmental issues in Tallahassee...The lagoon did "better than in the last two years," Virginia Barker, Brevard County Natural Resources Management director, told me. There's money to study algal blooms, address red tide, which reached our coast last year, and local projects received funding: one to conduct a study on how to restore Turkey Creek in Palm Bay back to its pre-1950 condition; another to connect sewer lines to septic tanks. DeSantis has the final say on whether the projects get funded. "Better" doesn't necessarily mean enough. Bills to regulate septic tank pollution didn't go anywhere. We have yet to see a stable, annual fund for the lagoon and millions we used to get for muck dredging in the past disappeared…” Isadora S. Rangel reports for Florida Today.
Read Builders and tree advocates agreed on how to protect Tampa’s canopy, but new legislation could gut their efforts- “Trees were a battleground issue for years at Tampa City Hall before council members last month approved an historic compromise between builders and tree advocates. A week later, state lawmakers passed a property rights bill that is likely to remove much of its impact. Though still awaiting the signature of Gov. Ron DeSantis, House Bill 1159 would stop Tampa from doing much of what the ordinance set out to do. Local governments would be barred from regulating the removal, replanting, pruning or trimming of a tree on private property if a licensed arborist determines the tree poses a danger. Assistant City Attorney Kristin Mora said the legislation, set to take effect June 1, would remove the city’s arborists from the role of verifying dangerous trees and being involved in the pruning of trees through the permitting process. Chelsea Johnson, founder of Tree Something, Say Something, a tree advocacy group, says the proposed law would open the door to decimation of the city's tree canopy, which has won national awards…” Charlie Frago reports for the Tampa Bay Times.
Read Coal power plant in Lakeland, owned by OUC and Lakeland Electric, to be retired - “An aging coal plant owned by Lakeland and Orlando is slated to be shuttered within five years, furthering the demise of electricity produced from coal-powered generators and heightening attention toward a pair of power plants in Orange County. Lakeland’s city council approved a plan on Monday by Lakeland Electric to retire its 37-year-old McIntosh coal-powered generator by 2024, a move that environmental groups had long sought...Orlando Utilities Commission and Lakeland Electric will share in decommissioning costs that have not yet been determined, according to both utilities. Sierra Club has pursued grass-roots support for shuttering the plant. “This would not be possible without the countless members of the community who came to meetings and forums, wrote letters and made calls,”said Susannah Randolph, organizing representative for Sierra’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Florida. Lakeland spokesman Chris Neal said the decision came down to the plant’s age, the rising cost of keeping it running, the lower cost of using plants that run on natural gas and many environmental concerns associated with coal. Neal said the coal plant could close sooner than 2024 if it suffers a costly breakdown…” Kevin Spear reports for the Orlando Sentinel.
Read Trump White House quietly cancels NASA research verifying greenhouse gas cuts - “You can't manage what you don't measure. The adage is especially relevant for climate-warming greenhouse gases, which are crucial to manage—and challenging to measure. In recent years, though, satellite and aircraft instruments have begun monitoring carbon dioxide and methane remotely, and NASA's Carbon Monitoring System (CMS), a $10-million-a-year research line, has helped stitch together observations of sources and sinks into high-resolution models of the planet's flows of carbon. Now, President Donald Trump's administration has quietly killed the CMS, Science has learned. The move jeopardizes plans to verify the national emission cuts agreed to in the Paris climate accords, says Kelly Sims Gallagher, director of Tufts University's Center for International Environment and Resource Policy in Medford, Massachusetts. "If you cannot measure emissions reductions, you cannot be confident that countries are adhering to the agreement," she says. Canceling the CMS "is a grave mistake," she adds…” Paul Voosen reports for Science Mag
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Upcoming Environmental Events:
May 16th - Clean Water Paddle Series - (Pensacola Beach) - Join the Healthy Gulf for the Clean Water Paddle Series every Thursday at 6 pm. Paddleboards, kayaks, canoes—all paddlecraft are welcome. Paddleboards will be available for rental. We’ll paddle around Little Sabine Bay for up to one hour, then enjoy the sunset from The Shaka Bar. Environmental education will be provided before, during, and after the paddle by Healthy Gulf and others. Learn about seagrass, clean water, marine life, and how you can help to protect it all. For more information about the Clean Water Paddle Series please visit Healthy Gulf on Facebook or call 850-687-9968 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Meet at Aloha Wine and Liquor, 649 Pensacola Beach Blvd, Pensacola Beach.
May 16-19 - 39th Annual Florida Native Plant Society Conference - (Crystal River)- Our theme this year "Transitions" is pertinent to the Nature Coast region of Florida in a number of ways - sea level rise, migrations of ecosystems due to climate change, and the transition zone between north and south Florida. You will be delighted by mind-expanding experiences, tempted by sumptuous meals (including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free) and amazed by the networking and social opportunities. As always, we will offer an abundance of presentations and workshops. 9301 West Fort Island Trail, Crystal River, FL 34429 . Click here for attendee and vendor registration.
June 10-14, June 24-28, 2019 - Camp Kids in the Woods at the Austin Cary Forest - (Gainesville) - Is your 6th-9th grade child looking for fun adventure this summer? Consider Camp Kids in the Woods! Campers will conduct various field explorations led by local scientists from forestry, wildlife, and water resources. Highlights include: fishing, handling wildlife, exploring local ecosystems, a trip to a local spring, camping out one night at the Austin Cary Forest, building wildlife nesting boxes, and participating in games and scavenger hunts. After a week of fun in the forest, campers gain a better understanding and deeper appreciation of their natural world and what is required to be a good steward of the environment. Camp Kids in the Woods summer program is a collaborative effort between the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation and the USDA Forest Service. Session 1: June 10-14, 2019; Session 2: June 24-28, 2019. For more information and to register visit: www.campkidsinthewoods.org , or contact the Camp Director, Molly Disabb at email@example.com
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