Quote of the Day: “There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story.” - Linda Hogan
Read Legislature impeding the will of voters- “Florida lawmakers really showed their disdain for democracy in the recently ended legislative session. They ignored or put limits on ballot initiatives passed by voters, while trying to stop citizens from considering such measures in the future or turning to local officials for help. In recent years, Florida voters have approved state constitutional amendments when lawmakers failed to act or acted against popular opinion. Yet the GOP-controlled Legislature has repeatedly ignored the will of the people on such issues as fairly drawing legislative districts, protecting environmentally sensitive land and fully legalizing medical marijuana. The latest example is Amendment 4, passed by nearly 65 percent of voters last fall. The measure was supposed to automatically restore the voting rights of former felons who completed their sentences except for those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense...The Legislature also continued ignoring an amendment passed by voters in 2014 to set aside a third of revenue from a state real-estate tax for land conservation. Lawmakers have instead used the money for other purposes while spending only a small portion on buying environmentally sensitive land...The Legislature’s disregard for popular rule went beyond ballot initiatives. Lawmakers also continued a trend of circumventing home rule, passing preemption measures that include preventing municipalities from banning plastic straws and making it harder for them to require affordable housing in new developments. Frustrated Florida voters must recognize their role in this mess. While they pass ballot initiatives and elect local government officials to act on priorities such as protecting the environment, they keep letting state lawmakers get away with impeding the will of the people. If voters really want positive change, they need to stop electing state lawmakers who are openly hostile to their priorities.” From the Gainesville Sun Editorial Board.
Read Sierra Club: If DeSantis says he is a ‘Teddy Roosevelt’ Republican, he should veto massive toll road scheme- “Gov. Ron DeSantis calls himself a “Teddy Roosevelt Republican” – referring to his professed support for environmental protection. Now, the Florida Chapter of the Sierra Club is using the governor’s words in an advertisement urging DeSantis to veto a multi-billion-dollar plan the Legislature passed for a network of new toll roads throughout Florida. “Governor DeSantis: Teddy stood with the Sierra Club – will you? Veto the toll roads bill” says the ad, which features a historical photo of Roosevelt with Sierra Club founder John Muir. No state study recommended the toll road plan – the largest highway project proposed in Florida since the 1950s. But it popped up this legislative session as a top priority for Republican Florida Senate President Bill Galvano. Only broad corridors, and not specifics, were available for legislators or the public to review. Republicans rejected attempts by Democrats to give locals veto power over where the road corridors would go and resisted attempts to give the broad plan more scrutiny by elected officials. At least 90 Florida conservation organizations, civic groups, and businesses are urging DeSantis to veto the measure…” Julie Hauserman reports for the Florida Phoenix.
Read Second algae meeting scheduled for U.S. Rep. Rooney - “This Friday US Congressman Francis Rooney will host a roundtable discussion at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida on the health impacts of Harmful Algal Blooms. Representatives from Rooney’s office couldn’t confirm whether the media will be able to sit in on this meeting, but did say it will be streamed via Facebook Live. Friday’s meeting will be the congressman’s second meeting on the subject of harmful algal blooms in a week, following the closed-door roundtable scheduled for Tuesday afternoon at Florida Gulf Coast University’s Emergent Technologies Institute. The first meeting includes federal agencies including the Centers for Disease Control, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. City and county leaders from throughout the region were also listed on the congressman's news release announcing the meeting and attendees. According to a draft agenda for the Friday discussion, it will include conservation leaders, scientists, and other local groups advocating for clean water…” Julie Glenn reports for WGCU.
Read Plastic pollution in Gulf of Mexico is target of ‘nurdle patrol’- “Plastic pollution is a growing problem in the world's oceans. A new citizen science initiative, called the Nurdle Patrol, is tracking a danger to marine life that is washing ashore by the millions across the Gulf of Mexico. They're called nurdles. And what's that exactly? "A nurdle is a plastic pellet. It is very small. It is typically used to manufacture larger plastic products," said Maya Burke, science policy coordinator at the Tampa Bay Estuary Program. Each nurdle is about the size of a lady bug. In bulk, they get melted down to form all kinds of plastic products -- from bottles, to traffic cones, to coffee-makers and more...The Nurdle Patrol began after an apparent spill of nurdles on a beach in Corpus Christi, Texas, in September of last year. "I looked down and saw these pellets in the high tide line, and I reached down and picked up. I knew exactly what is was. They were nurdles and there were millions of them," said Jace Tunnell, director of the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve, University of Texas at Austin Marine Science Institute...Often, fish and birds mistake the pellets for food. "If they eat enough of them they end up starving to death because there really is no nutritional value to these things. They also they act like sponges absorbing toxins like DDTs and PCBs, and whenever they eat them you know their guts are warm so the toxins end up getting released, and if they eat enough of those and there is enough toxins, it could be lethal for the animal." Kerry Sheridan reports for WUSF.
Read National Wildlife Federation certifies Pinebrook Park as a wildlife habitat- “The park is home to everything from gopher tortoises and river otters to bobcats, coyotes and snakes — dozens of bird species, including bald eagles and owls — and at least one alligator. The 77-acre park at 1251 Pinebrook Road, north of East Venice Avenue, is the largest of 46 such certified habitats in the Venice area. Chris Simmons, head of Venice Naturally, the local National Wildlife Federation, noted in a prepared statement that the park was always a great habitat because of efforts made by Kargas and the Friends of Pinebrook Park….Also key to the certification are the sustainable practices used by Venice and Sarasota County, with respect to the park’s management. Pinebrook Park’s zoning changed last year from government use to open use/conservation with restrictions. It is the first of several parks within the city that Simmons hopes will become NWF certified. He is working with Kargas — now a member of the city parks and recreation advisory board — to identify other candidates. Partly because of its size, and partly because it is adjacent to Curry Creek Preserve, Pinebrook Park was the perfect start. “You actually have a wildlife corridor going from Curry Creek to the bay,” Simmons said. Forty of the other certified habitats are residential properties, Simmons said, with the remainder common spaces associated with those residences. “We’re still doing a lot of work with homeowners; that’s the building block,” he added. “This is something anybody can do — businesses, churches, everybody has a role in establishing habitats.” Earle Kimel reports for the Herald-Tribune.
Read Conservationists in Florida are making the ultimate effort to protect manatees from tourism - “Florida is the only place in North America that you can legally swim with manatees. To animal lovers, this is an awesome opportunity, but one that can weigh on your conscience. While you many want to swim with manatees, the important question here is, do manatees want to swim with you? Does raising tourists’ awareness help manatees? Biologists and conservationists are studying these questions and devising best practices for manatee tourism. After being placed on the Endangered Species List in 1967, before that they were widely hunted, the manatee population increased. Crystal River is currently the epicenter of manatee tourism. Coast Heritage Museum of Crystal River volunteer Maryann Jarrell, said back in the 1940s the river was extremely clear, giving one entrepreneur the idea to launch glass bottom boat tours. When Jarrell moved to Crystal River in 1971, the water was still stunningly clear and full of wildlife. “You didn’t need a rod and reel,” she told me. “Just put a net out and one of those fish was going to jump in it.” Once people discovered Crystal River, the water stopped being so clear. New residents built septic tanks, landscaped their riverfront houses and fertilized lawns. Runoff turned the water mucky. Despite the decrease in water clarity, the increased number of manatees opened up new tourism opportunities. Boats started taking out paying customers and dropping them in the water with manatees. Tourism became even more important after the Crystal River nuclear power plant shut down permanently in 2013, eliminating hundreds of jobs. “Before anybody could get a handle on it, there was this whole economy in that county based on people being able to swim with the manatees,” explained Katie Tripp, director of science and conservation at Save the Manatee Club. “Then it became a matter of not hurting business and not wanting to take that part of the economy away.” Now there’s a tension between allowing people to see manatees in the wild, but not hampering their reason for being in Citrus County…” Teresa Bergen writes for Inhabitat.
Read One million species face extinction, U.N. report says. And humans will suffer as a result- “One million plant and animal species are on the verge of extinction, with alarming implications for human survival, according to a United Nations report released Monday. The landmark report by seven lead co-authors from universities across the world goes further than previous studies by directly linking the loss of species to human activity. It also shows how those losses are undermining food and water security, as well as human health. More plants and animals are threatened with extinction now than any other period in human history, it concludes. Nature’s current rate of decline is unparalleled, and the accelerating rate of extinctions “means grave impacts on people around the world are now likely," it says...The report emphasizes the effects humans have on animals that are key to their own survival. Pesticides sprayed by farmers kill pollinators such as bees and other insects will likely to have a devastating effect on crops...“The most important thing isn’t necessarily that we’re losing . . . 1 million species — although that’s important, don’t misunderstand me,” Watson said during a teleconference Sunday. “The bigger issue is the way it will affect human well-being, as we’ve said many times — food, water, energy, human health. “We care about nature, but we care about human well-being,” Watson said. “We need to link it to human well-being; that’s the crucial thing. Otherwise we’re going to look like a bunch of tree-huggers.” The report has a positive spin, saying that “it is not too late to make a difference.” But that difference requires more than 100 developing and nondeveloped nations to work together to bring about change…” Darryl Fears reports for the Washington Post.
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events:
May 9th - 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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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