FCC News Brief - May 24, 2019

Quote of the Day: “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” - John Muir

Read Lee board advances plan to allow business, commercial structures in wetlands- “Lee County commissioners endorsed a land-use plan change that would allow commercial and industrial buildings to start popping up in areas that have historically been environmentally protected wetlands. On a 3-0 vote, with Commissioner Frank Mann absent, the commissioners agreed to submit the proposed change in the county's comprehensive land-use plan to state agencies for nonbinding review. The vote came after more than an hour of public testimony from supporters and opponents of the change. Dialogue included a well-organized effort by developers, buttressed by their lawyers, engineers, builders and planners, to make the case for the change proposed by the county community development staff...The commission's professional staff pushed back on activists' claim that commercial uses will hurt the environment. "There's a lot of rhetoric out there that somehow we are doing something to destroy wetlands  and things like that," said Community Development Director David Loveland. The change involves undeveloped areas where a landowner gets a permit from the state or from the South Florida Water Management District to "impact" wetlands, sometimes by filling them in. Currently, impacted wetlands intended for residential use can be traded up to the land use allowed on adjoining parcels so long as they include wetlands preservation on the site..."The proposed amendment is going to basically allow destruction of wetlands ... with no incentive or alternative," complained Meredith Budd, of the Florida Wildlife Federation. "This change in inconsistent with the tenets of the policy and will just undermine the steps Lee County has taken to protect wetlands over the years." Barbara Joy Cooley, environment committee chair of COTI, the Sanibel-based Committee of the Islands, urged commissioners not to move forward with a land-use plan "that will continue down the path of overdevelopment which has degraded the quality of life here."... Bill Smith reports for the Fort Myers News-Press.

Read How much algae toxin is too much? EPA issues guidelines for recreational exposure- “Amid rising concern about the potential health effects of toxic algae, the Environmental Protection Agency has issued official safety advice. The federal agency sets forth thresholds for how much is too much exposure to two common cyanotoxins – the substances released by cyanobacteria, commonly called blue-green algae. “With Memorial Day and summer vacations around the corner, EPA is providing this information to help Americans know when it is safe to swim and play near the water,” said EPA Office of Water Assistant Administrator David Ross in a statement. “EPA’s new recommendations will help state and local officials make informed decisions about when to issue local water quality and swimming advisories that are designed to protect the public, especially vulnerable populations like our nation’s children.” Blooms caused by cyanobacteria sometimes produce cyanotoxins at concentrations that can be harmful to people swimming or participating in other activities in or on the water, the statement said. States can adopt EPA’s recommended cyanotoxin values into their water quality standards or use the values as the basis for issuing a local swimming advisory. The EPA says its recommendations are protective of all age groups, based on peer-reviewed and published science, according to the statement, but some groups say they don’t go far enough, pointing out that the guidelines are less protective than those set forth in the agency’s 2016 draft recommendations. “We are very disappointed by the EPA’s decision to recommend criteria for toxic algae that are far less protective than the 2016 draft recommendations,” said Jason Totoiu, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Dangerous cyanotoxins threaten our state’s families, waters and wildlife. "We expected better and we will be petitioning the state, which is well aware of the crisis before us, to adopt more stringent water quality criteria for toxic algae in Florida’s waters.” Amy Bennett Williams reports for the Fort Myers News-Press.

Read CDC a welcome entry in quest to see whether SW Florida algal blooms harm humans- “Amid all the technical talk about cyanobacterial neurotoxins and BMAA at a round-table discussion hosted by U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples on May 10, one very human statement stood out: “Last summer, when I was out on the water taking reporters and scientists out to the epicenter of these red tide and cyanobacteria blooms, both myself and Chris Whitman, our program director, became really sick and we stayed sick for a really long time.” That was from Daniel Andrews, a Sanibel fishing guide whose livelihood was interrupted by last year’s blue-green algae and red tide events. It comes as welcome news then that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are undertaking a study of the health of fishing guides to determine whether exposure to the harmful blooms, known to kill fish and devastate sea grasses, has any long-term health effects on humans. Our only nit to pick is that the study, as described to USA Today Network reporter Amy Bennett Williams, focuses on Lake Okeechobee guides. The CDC is trying to recruit 50 volunteers from the Lake O area to participate in the study. Why limit it to the lake? There are plenty of stories like Andrews’ to suggest harmful effects flow downstream with the blue-green algae, which gets its start in the lake and spreads into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers as water is released in the rainy season. Residents of canal-laced Cape Coral reported serious breathing problems last summer when the blooms were at their worst, as did residents of east coast communities such as Jensen Beach…” From the Naples Daily News Editorial Board.

Read ACT awarded healthy watershed grant- “Greater protections for the Santa Fe River basin is the goal of a $166,000 grant the Alachua Conservation Trust has received from the Healthy Watershed Consortium. The money will be used for a full-time coordinator to oversee programs to preserve a watershed that includes the Santa Fe and Ichetucknee rivers, several creeks and more than 90 springs, according to an ACT news release. By protecting water quality, the release says the effort will help wildlife and ensure the rivers and springs remain healthy spots for recreation including paddling, fishing and swimming. The consortium is an endowment-led partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service to protect healthy watersheds…” Cindy Swirko reports for the Gainesville Sun.

Read Endangered Florida panther dies after being hit by car- “An endangered Florida panther has died after being struck by a vehicle. It's the ninth fatal collision this year, out of 11 total panther deaths. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says the remains of a 1-year-old male panther were found Tuesday in Lee County near Wild Turkey Strand Preserve. Florida panthers once roamed the entire Southeast, but now their habitat mostly is confined to a small region of Florida along the Gulf of Mexico. Up to 230 Florida panthers remain in the wild…” From the Associated Press.

Read Here’s what the Tampa Bay region has to learn about climate change from the Netherlands- “Henk Ovink realized about 30 seconds into his climate change talk that he was probably preaching to the choir. He had come to the Hilton Carillon on Wednesday at the invitation of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council to give a presentation about how local governments can prepare for climate change. As the Special Envoy for International Water Affairs for the the Netherlands, Ovink had some thoughts about how the Tampa Bay area can learn from the Dutch experience. The history of the Netherlands, Ovink explained, is one of climate adaptation. Just about 30 percent of the land area of the country is above sea level. The nation founded its first regional water authority almost 900 years ago...The Dutch official also made the case that the Netherlands’ best adaptations to rising seas came from collaborations between government, scientists and businesses. He showed the audience a photo of protective dikes built into coastal dunes in Katwijk aan Zee. Inside the dunes is a parking garage. The dunes protect the ecosystem; the dikes protect the people; the parking spaces protect the bottom line...The audience seemed to be on board with Ovink’s blunt assessment. During a question-and-answer session after the talk, audience members vented their frustrations about the politicians who are unwilling to acknowledge the threat of climate change. “We have the most regressive government right now,” Dayna Lazarus, an urban and regional planning masters student at the University of South Florida, told Ovink.. “People are voting for these people who are not going to do anything you just said.” Ovink acknowledged to Lazarus that the Netherlands has different political values than the United States. But he argued in a subsequent interview that planning for climate change at any level that brings people together is worthwhile…” Kirby Wilson reports for the Tampa Bay Times.

Read ‘Nasty-tempered’ tegus arrive; non-native lizard population emerges in Charlotte County - “The Punta Gorda-based DeHart farm has more than 100 free-range birds running around their property. There are dozens of chickens, around 15 goats, some ducks, and two turkeys. The chickens typically lay 27 dozen eggs weekly. But, eight years ago, DeHart realized her egg count had severely dropped to roughly two dozen eggs, if she was lucky. “I had no idea what I was dealing with,” DeHart said. Finally, she spotted an estimated 5-foot-long tegu on her front porch. The Argentine black and white tegu is a nonnative lizard originally from South America. They have no natural predators, are a threat to the already endangered gopher tortoise and eat many chicken eggs...DeHart said she has lost thousands of dollars in revenue due to tegus, among other loses. And tegus are spreading. Tegus have established populations in Hillsborough and Miami-Dade counties, according to Daniel Quinn, a biologist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s nonnative program. “Tegus are not native to Florida and have been known to consume native species,” Quinn said. “There is scientific evidence to suggest that tegus could spread to other parts of Florida and even other parts of the southeastern United States…” Liz Hardaway reports for the Charlotte Sun.

Read Evolution of Florida citrus growers: What it takes to stay in the embattled industry- “The Durrance family grove is in the middle of the state: Bowling Green, which is in Hardee County. You have to drive down a narrow dirt road sandwiched by citrus trees to get to the large, white house with wrap-around porch. "You see how the trees looked then versus the way the trees look now-- how thick they were and all the oranges are uniform? That's what greening does… it makes the oranges just look terrible," Danny said.  They don’t even look like oranges anymore. They’re green; they’re just not pretty, like you wanna see an orange."Danny Durrance was born and raised in this grove that his great grandfather started in the 1800s with just four acres. At their peak, they had about 250 acres, but the citrus greening disease has cut this family’s production in half...But now, like other growers in the state, things are improving. They’re planting new trees that are more resilient to greening. Ian has also been experimenting with better insecticides and fertilizers. "My son's got a citrus degree from Florida Southern," Danny said. "And when he got to college age I told him, I says, ‘Ian, why do you want a citrus degree? You were born and raised in an orange grove. You’ve been in an orange grove your whole life.’ Well, it's very good that he did that because that is really helping us.”...He said some neighbors have recently sold their groves to developers because of these insects. In fact, nearly 92,000 acres of planted citrus are gone compared to a decade ago, but this family has no plans to sell...Just 30 percent of the growers from 10 years ago are still fighting to stay in the industry…” Jessica Meszaros reports for WJCT.

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Upcoming Environmental Events:

May 29, 6:30pm-8:30pm - Film Screening & Environmental Panel: The Human Element - (Jacksonville) - Hurricane season officially starts June 1 and we need to activate our community and our leaders. Join St. Johns Riverkeeper, Groundwork Jacksonville, and local experts for a special screening of The Human Element. A new documentary from the producers of RACING EXTINCTION, THE COVE and CHASING ICE, you’ll travel with environmental photographer James Balog as he captures the lives of everyday Americans on the front lines of climate change. Immediately following the film, environmental and community experts will be on hand to discuss the impact of rising waters in our community and how you can help create a more resilient Jacksonville. Sun-Ray Cinema, 1028 Park Street, Jacksonville FL 32204. Visit the St. Johns Riverkeeper’s site here to get your tickets.

June 10-14, June 24-28- 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 kidsinthewoods@ifas.ufl.edu

June 12, 6:00pm - Know your GREEN - (Orange Park) - The St. Johns Riverkeeper is already getting several reports of algal blooms across the Lower Basin of the St. Johns River from Palatka to Jacksonville. Read WJCT’s recent news story covering the issue. Now’s the time to take action and help us raise awareness to get the GREEN out! Join St. Johns Riverkeeper staff for this evening presentation to learn what causes these blue-green algal blooms and why they’re harmful for you and our River. We’ll also teach you ways to help us reduce algal blooms by living a more River Friendly lifestyle. You’ll also learn: What happened on nutrient pollution bills in the 2019 Legislative Session, How to report algal blooms when you see them, and Upcoming algal bloom outreach events, summer volunteer opportunities, and more! Light snacks and drinks provided. RSVP here. Location: Orange Park Town Hall, 2042 Park Ave, Orange Park, FL 32073.

June 13, 6:00pm - Know your GREEN - (Palatka) - The St. Johns Riverkeeper is already getting several reports of algal blooms across the Lower Basin of the St. Johns River from Palatka to Jacksonville. Read WJCT’s recent news story covering the issue. Now’s the time to take action and help us raise awareness to get the GREEN out! Join St. Johns Riverkeeper staff for this evening presentation to learn what causes these blue-green algal blooms and why they’re harmful for you and our River. We’ll also teach you ways to help us reduce algal blooms by living a more River Friendly lifestyle. You’ll also learn: What happened on nutrient pollution bills in the 2019 Legislative Session, How to report algal blooms when you see them, and Upcoming algal bloom outreach events, summer volunteer opportunities, and more! Light snacks and drinks provided. RSVP here. Location: St. Johns River Center, 102 N 1st St, Palatka, FL 32177.

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.

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