Quote of the Day: “The wilderness holds answers to questions man has not yet learned to ask.” ―Nancy Newhall
Read Last-minute legislative amendment penalizes anyone who challenges Florida development- “A longtime watchdog group is warning that legislation soon heading to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk would gut enforcement of Florida’s 1985 Growth Management Act, a landmark law intended to make sure local governments properly plan for development’s impacts. HB 7103, approved in the closing days of the 2019 legislative session, would ban local governments from requiring developers to include affordable housing within their projects. What most worries 1000 Friends of Florida is an amendment that says anyone who sues to enforce local comprehensive development plans and loses in court has to then cover the winners’ legal fees. “It will end citizen-initiated and landowner-initiated [planning] challenges in the state of Florida. And if we don’t have that challenge, comprehensive plans will not be enforceable. We’ll be back to where we were before 1985,” said Thomas Hawkins, the organization’s planning and policy director. His group, and others, very much would like DeSantis to veto the bill, and is working with other groups to send a letter urging a veto. Hawkins worries that legislators didn’t appreciate what they were doing. “This language showed up at the very last minute. The Senate voted on it just hours after it was proposed. It was never heard in committee. It was never subjected to a staff analysis. It was not discussed on the floor at all. This language had not been vetted by anyone…” Michael Moline reports for the Florida Phoenix.
Read ‘You can call him our water czar’: Nikki Fried names Florida’s new water policy director- “Chris Pettit, who has worked for years in water management districts and county water utilities, will replace Steve Dwinell, who retired as water policy director for the state's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Office of Agricultural Water Policy. Fried said Pettit and his office will work to develop and implement best management practices, known as BMPs, for agriculture. BMPs, which have been criticized in the past for not being enforced, aim at lowering and maintaining nutrient runoff from farming operations. The nutrient runoff is a key source in the development of the red tide and blue-green algae that choked Florida's coasts and waterways last summer. Fried said she is still seeking money for BMP implementation. This year she requested $25 million in the budget to help Florida farmers implement water efficiency improvements and reduce nutrient usage, but only received $4 million — a $1 million reduction from last year's budget. "Addressing our state's water issues was one of my top priorities when I was running for office," Fried said during a press conference at the South Florida Water Management District in West Palm Beach. "Today's appointment is an important step in achieving that goal. Cleaning up our water and keeping it clean for generations to come involves real comprehensive solutions to our water problems." She said Pettit's new role will involve building partnerships to the state's agriculture and environmental community to build a "path forward" to a cleaner Florida…” Samantha J. Gross reports for the Tampa Bay Times.
Read Special interest groups putting the heat on Gov. DeSantis - “Now that the 2019 session is history, interest groups are ratcheting up the pressure on Gov. Ron DeSantis to sign or veto major legislation. They face an uphill battle in fighting bills that drew broad support from Republicans and even some Democrats. But if DeSantis signs them all, as is expected, his honeymoon with Floridians will surely begin to wane and his popularity could quickly erode...A leading environmental group, 1000 Friends of Florida, wants DeSantis to veto the most significant transportation bill to clear the Legislature in decades, a plan for three new toll roads in central and north Florida. The group, in a letter to DeSantis sent Monday, said the projects would waste billions of dollars, harm Florida’s fragile environment and promote sprawl. The plea from 1000 Friends said DeSantis can cement his legacy as an environmentalist by blocking passage of the bill (SB 7068), just as the late Nathaniel (Nat) Reed, the group’s co-founder, did by successfully fighting the Cross-Florida Barge Canal and a jetport in the Everglades. But it’s not likely: the toll roads are the No. 1 priority of Senate President Bill Galvano…” Steve Bousquet reports for the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Read What’s at risk: Study considers environmental impact on NextEra power line project- “A 176-mile powerline project proposed to cut through rural Jefferson and Leon counties may pose a risk to water health and several rare and federally endangered species throughout the ecologically sensitive area. The proposed route could jeopardize the area’s watershed, dotted with pristine springs and underground caverns that serve as the region’s water supply. It could also threaten a number of plants and animals that call it home, according to a study done by the Florida Natural Areas Inventory affiliated with Florida State University... Portions of the project's path lie within conservation lands managed by the city of Tallahassee and the state, state parks and wildlife management areas, federal and state forests and the Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail. The project is also within the Florida Forever land project along the Upper St. Marks River Corridor, which includes the Horn Springs, which was acquired by the state in August, according to the 38-page FNAI report released Thursday. The FNAI report indicates dozens of animal and plant species that call the area home. That includes four – the Eastern indigo snake, two species of freshwater mussels and the red-cockaded woodpecker – which are all federally endangered within a quarter mile of the proposed route…” Karl Etters reports for the Tallahassee Democrat.
Read Blue-green algae suffocating part of Sarasota County’s Lemon Bay- “Blue-green algae, moving in large clumps, is littering the offshore waterways of Sarasota County. It's not the exact type of cyanobacteria algae that bloomed in Lake Okeechobee but this algae comes with its own bad side effects. In Lake O, the blue-green sludge was caused by the microcystis cyanobacteria. At Indian Mound Park in Englewood, in the waters of Lemon Bay, it's a form of cyanobacteria called Lyngbya wollei. Fisherman Terry Kennan says, regardless of the name difference, he is watching where he casts his line. "I wouldn't let any kids or animals near that stuff. I don’t think it’s healthy to be around that particular bloom," he said...The Florida Department of Environmental Protection said cyanobacteria like what's being seen at Indian Mound Park is common in Florida, but Kennan said he's never seen it this bad...As the warning signs continue to present themselves, the DEP said it will continue testing and warn people to stay away from the bloom…” Kimberly Kuizon reports for Fox 13 News.
Read Begin a new focus on water quality - “The Sarasota County Commission will consider today whether to launch a Water Quality Improvement Program. The practices and policies affecting inland, bay and Gulf waters are complicated but the answer to the immediate question — Should the County Commission begin the pursuit of a comprehensive improvement program? — is simple: Yes. A devastating Florida red tide outbreak lingered, often in intense concentrations, off the shores of Sarasota and Manatee counties between 2016 and early 2019. It wasn’t the first long, nasty episode here, but it caused serious economic and environmental damage and was the first to be recorded and widely shared on social media. Concerns about the impacts of red tide were exacerbated by harmful blue-green algae in South Florida’s inland waters and in the Gulf of Mexico south of our region...The county staff cited three main contributors to nitrogen-laden waters: runoff from watersheds; septic systems in areas with high water tables or near waterways; and public wastewater-treatment plants. Each must be part of any comprehensive approach but improvements in sewage treatment should be the short-term priority. The county already faces regulatory actions and a lawsuit over sewage-plant failures and, according to the staff report, upgrades would provide the best combination of return on financial investments and decreases in nitrogen loads...Enough of operating on the cheap. The work needs to be done and during the red tide, the public called upon government to do something. The time has arrived to do it…” Editorial from the Herald-Tribune.
Read Lionfish, bugs and avocado trees: Take a deep dive into Florida’s $91.1 billion budget - “A record $91.1 billion spending plan for next fiscal year will soon be formally transmitted to Gov. Ron DeSantis, starting a 15-day clock for him to wield his line-item veto pen and decide what stays and what goes. On Saturday, shortly after lawmakers passed the new state budget, DeSantis vowed that the overall spending total would come down, to which Senate President Bill Galvano said he hopes DeSantis “really studies and understands what is there and gets to the bottom of it, as opposed to just making a statement in terms of a number to cut.” The 448-page spending package includes more than just big-ticket issues such as education funding, health-care costs and road projects. The budget (SB 2500) and an accompanying bill (SB 2502) are filled with smaller spending decisions. Among them:...The Florida Resilient Coastline Initiative would provide $5.5 million to help local governments brace for rising sea levels, conduct coastal resilience projects and maintain the health of coral reefs….With $1 million set aside for nuisance species control, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission would be able to recruit local dive shops or commercial fishermen to host state-sponsored excursions or dive trips in which anglers would be taught to harvest, safely handle, clean and cook lionfish. Ten percent of the money could be used by the commission to partner with local seafood markets and restaurants to market lionfish as a food...As part of more than $20 million in state-park improvements, $1.5 million would go to the Silver Springs State Park Swimming Area. Marion County is looking to develop a swimming area at the headsprings and down-river docking areas on the Silver River. Another $1 million would be targeted to reduce gridlock at the entrance to Wekiva State Park…” From the News Service of Florida.
Read Interior secretary blames Congress for lack of action on climate change- “He acknowledged climate change is real. He acknowledged that humans are contributing to it. So why, Democratic lawmakers asked David Bernhardt, isn't he doing more to address global warming? Apparently, because Congress hasn't told him to. During his first testimony to Congress since becoming interior secretary, Bernhardt said it is up to lawmakers to direct bureaucrats like himself to address the causes and effects of warming globally. The punt back to lawmakers is likely to frustrate House Democrats who are trying to hold the administration's feet to the fire on climate change, since they know that any significant climate-related legislation to emerge from their chamber is likely to be rejected by either the president or the GOP-controlled Senate. At the same time, Democrats have only passed a single climate bill — one keeping the United States in the Paris climate accord — since taking the the majority...The exchange came when Democrats on the House Appropriations subcommittee overseeing the Interior Department's budget pressed the Trump Cabinet official about why his department isn't doing more to assess and mitigate the effects of warming temperatures, acidifying oceans and other effects of climate change over the vast lands and waters stewarded by the Interior Department. “Isn’t this really your job?” asked Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine). Bernhardt pushed back against the assertion, arguing he has no legal obligation to act in response to climate change. "My perspective on this is probably a little different than yours," he said…” Dino Grandoni 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 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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