Read After Hurricane Michael, a hunt for surviving oysters in Apalachicola - “T.J. Ward’s phone rang. Service had improved in the days since Hurricane Michael. 'Get another scrub brush and a squeegee,'he told his sister. 'The littlest one you can find.' The retail shop of the Ward family’s 13 Mile Seafood Market smelled of bleach, so much it stung your eyes. He knelt in front of the open refrigerator, scooping out the silty marine mud. It was empty, as was the freezer that held crab and gulf shrimp, as was the glass case usually snowy with ice and draped with fresh grouper and snapper. In good times, the market was a gathering place in Florida’s most famous oyster town. In bad times, too. Friends from Pensacola put things back together. Shrimpers gathered outside, wondering when they might go back out on the water. But there was no place to process the shrimp, nowhere to put them on ice. Same for oysters. The oysters. Apalachicola oysters had been T.J.’s whole life. And here he was again, at the point where man meets nature, confronted with the possibility of their ruin. Apalachicola used to account for 90 percent of Florida’s wild oysters, and 10 percent of the nation’s. In the aftermath of the BP Deepwater Horizon spill, the fishery was declared a disaster. And for almost 30 years, a freshwater war has raged with Georgia, resulting in a bay made of too much saltwater. That lets predators sneak in and suck out the oysters’ meat. For the most part, oysters on the bottom of the bay had been destroyed. At the Owl Bar, one of the few restaurants running, state environmental specialist Carrie Jones talked about when the oyster fishery might open back up. There are six regions but one testing lab for the whole state. They look at aerial photos to assess runoff and septic tank damage. They test the water and the meat, popping a dozen oysters into a blender and culturing the puree to check for harmful bacteria. Oyster farmers were digging out. Deborah Keller headed out to her OysterMom leases in Apalachee Bay. She and her husband managed to sink only half of their oysters and equipment before the storm hit, filling the pontoons that keep them afloat with water, hopeful that the bottom would keep everything safe. Their equipment had come through alright, only a few messed-up cages. She had checked six bags of oysters, the young ones faring better. She pulled a cage across the bow of the boat. She dumped the oysters into a bin on a card table. These were big ones, nearly market size. Almost all dead. Oysters gaped open, their meat poached by entrepreneurial sea creatures. She blinked back tears…” Laura Reiley writes for the Tampa Bay Times.
Read Glades residents, Sierra Club challenge industry on burning of sugarcane fields - “Citing health reasons, they want a green approach to harvesting; growers say burning is safe. Shanique Scott grew up in western Palm Beach County’s Glades farming region where 'black snow' fell on cars, seeped into houses and coated hair and clothing. The ash, along with smoke, was blamed for allergies and asthma during sugarcane harvesting season each year. Before the sugarcane is cut, the fields are burned to get rid of weeds, leaves and other unwanted debris. This makes it easier and faster for harvesting machines to cut the cane and results in less tonnage being hauled to the mill...A former South Bay mayor and commissioner who owns a dance studio, Scott said she now endures major sinus and allergy problems when the sugarcane fields are burning. Sugarcane harvesting and with it, hundreds of pre-harvest burns, began Oct 1. Scott and a group of about 30 other residents, joined by The Sierra Club, are pushing for the industry to switch to green harvesting, an alternative that doesn’t involve any burning. Green harvesting would end the smoke and ash they say pollutes the air and has been linked to health issues in studies conducted in Brazil, Louisiana and Hawaii. They also assert the leaves could be utilized to make mulch or another product, a viewpoint the Florida sugar industry disputes.The Stop Sugar Field Burning Campaign (Stopsugarburning.org) was first launched in 2015, and in August the Sierra Club opened an office in Belle Glade to better support the work of local activists, said Patrick Ferguson, a Sierra Club organizer and attorney. The sugar industry is fighting back with a campaign of its own, saying that pre-harvest burns are safe, effective, necessary and globally accepted. The Sustainable Agriculture Fire Education Communities (SAFE) program, formed this year, calls itself a group of farmers, business, community and faith leaders. The battle over the decades-long practice has become contentious. In a brochure published by SAFE, the sugar industry claims that the activists are 'paid operatives' funded by the Sierra Club. Ferguson said, 'Neither the Sierra Club nor anyone else is paying Glades residents to be involved with the Stop the Burn campaign. This campaign is a grassroots movement led by residents who are negatively impacted by pre-harvest sugar field burning year after year. 'But we would like to hire organizers from the Glades and look forward to doing so as the movement grows,' Ferguson said. The sugar industry contends that the Sierra Club’s true motive is to shut down the sugar industry, SAFE says…” Susan Salisbury writes Special to the Palm Beach Post.
Read Environmental issues need higher priority in the election conversation - “Just a few weeks ago the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a grim report indicating that in order to avoid the most serious consequences of climate change, we need bold and immediate action. Later that same week one of the strongest hurricanes ever to make landfall in Florida hit the panhandle in Hurricane Michael. Floridians have seen more that our fair share of environmental disasters this year with blue-green algae slime, Red Tide and record heat all taking a heavy toll. Sea level rise looms and, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, in Clearwater alone there are approximately 18,850 homes at risk of being inundated with flooding by the year 2100. This represents close to $7 billion in property value and more than $100 million in property tax revenue lost. In 2015 the Tampa Bay Science Advisory Panel projected sea level to rise between 6 inches and 3 feet by 2060. With each additional inch comes further storm surge and property damage. These issues are especially important here in Florida because our waterways, beaches and assorted natural assets are the backbone of our economy. We have already seen significant negative impact and it’s not hard to imagine a day soon when these threats will also hurt our property values and tax base — on which our local governments depend to support critical services like fire and police protection, schools and infrastructure — while at the same time the cost of droughts, floods and storm cleanup rises. It’s not surprising that environmental issues are polling higher than they have in previous elections...The upcoming Tidal Town Hall in Clearwater will provide an opportunity for voters to hear directly from candidates and get questions answered. The aim is to provide a platform for voters to gauge candidates’ knowledge of environmental issues — and their commitment to solutions — in a unique format which will include candidates for a variety of offices in and around Pinellas county including Congress, the Florida Senate and House and school board. Candidates from all parties have been invited. Florida is on the front lines of the climate crisis, and we need leaders who are knowledgeable, engaged and thinking long term. A transition to a sustainable economy is possible, but it won’t happen without bold leadership…” David Sillman writes Special to the Tampa Bay Times.
Read Florida panther kitten struck and killed by vehicle - “An endangered Florida panther kitten has been struck and killed by a vehicle, a week after two other kittens were found dead in the same area. It's the 23rd fatal collision this year, out of 25 total panther deaths. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says the remains of the 4-month-old male were collected Tuesday just south of Dinner Island Ranch Wildlife Management Area in Hendry County. Another male kitten and a female kitten around the same age were found dead from apparent vehicle strikes just east of the wildlife management area last week. 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 Study shows how much of an impact red tide had on Sanibel, Captiva Tourism - “Red tide has impacted a lot of Southwest Florida people this year. Businesses. Hotels. Visitors. New numbers from the Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce show just how much of an impact it had. 'I have had three tables today and normally this time of year I’d be 10 plus,' Jay Sommers at The Sanibel Fish House said. Jay Sommers is a manager at The Sanibel Fish House. Their sales over the summer have been down between 40 and 60 percent. 'Hundreds of thousands of dollars for just this business and every other business on Sanibel Island is either a restaurant, real estate, shopping plaza,' Somme's said. 'So it pretty much affected every other building on Sanibel Captiva.' The chamber of commerce recently completed a study that said the island lost almost $27 million in revenue over the summer. Nearly $17 million in losses was at golf courses, marinas, charter fishing guides, photographers and others. Comparatively that’s down almost 70 percent from last year. The study also said the island lost almost $7 million more in hotel cancellations and food sales. But as the water clears, their hope gets brighter. 'As soon as our water has cleared up, and it has started to,' Sommers said. 'The red tide is subsiding from October 12th, our county is red tide free so let’s hope people start coming back.” Bo Evans reports for HelloSWFL.
Read Sentinel Landscapes in Florida - “A new and exciting Defenders of Wildlife project is assisting the US Air Force develop partnerships to support the designation of Northwest Florida as a Sentinel Landscape to protect the mission of Eglin and Tyndall AF Bases, the Naval Air Stations at Pensacola and Whiting Field and NSA Panama City. This federal designation would coordinate federal, state, and local programs to conserve working forests, farms, and ranches and conserve wildlife habitat at the same time. Having the support of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and its conservation programs will be key to successfully realizing the goals of the Northwest Sentinel Landscape. Eglin Air Force Base, as the designated anchor military installation in northwestern Florida, is proposing to nominate the western portion of the Florida panhandle for federal designation as the Northwest Florida Sentinel Landscape. The goal of this proposal is to create an innovative partnership for collaboration and coordination among private landowners, conservationists, military installations, government agencies and others. This landscape-scale partnership will help ensure sustainability of agriculture and forestry, maintain our national defense capabilities and conserve Northwest Florida’s natural resources. A Sentinel Landscape designation will provide greater access to funding and assistance from federal, state and local government and private sector programs to better address the complex and often conflicting demands of population growth, economic development, rural vitality, military readiness, and natural resource protection in Northwest Florida…” Kent Wimmer writes for Defenders of Wildlife.
Read Gainesville becomes fifth city in Florida to commit to 100 percent clean, renewable electricity - “On Thursday, October 18, the City Commission of Gainesville unanimously passed a resolution committing the city to be powered by 100 percent renewable electricity and net zero greenhouse gas emissions community-wide by 2045. Other Florida cities that have committed to 100 percent renewable energy include Largo, Orlando, Sarasota, and St. Petersburg. 'By passing this resolution, the City is declaring its intention to move away from a dirty fossil fuel economy to one based on clean energy innovation. We are excited by the opportunity to work with Gainesville’s excellent Utility Advisory Board to ensure all residents will benefit from this transition, which will provide a healthier, more equitable, and more resilient community,' said Roberta Gastmeyer, member of the Suwannee-St. Johns Group of the Sierra Club Executive Committee and Chair of the Gainesville Ready for 100 Action Coalition. 'This is the most important decision that you will make during your tenure as City Commissioners. All current city residents and those to come thank you,' said Julia Reiskind, of the Alachua County League of Women Voters. The resolution states that 'the City Commission also recognizes that emission reductions accomplished sooner are more important and valuable for our city’s climate protection efforts.' Gainesville’s commitment to 100 percent renewable energy comes one week after Hurricane Michael devastated the Florida Panhandle, leaving more than 1 million households without electricity. The International Panel on Climate Change recently released a report pointing to the relationship between stronger storms and climate disruption, signaled by warmer ocean temperatures and sea level rise. 'Thanks for your leadership that’s absolutely necessary in doing right by the Planet,' said Nkwanda Jah, Chair of the Alachua County branch of the NAACP Environmental & Climate Justice Committee. 'Thank you to the City Commissioners for listening to our concerns and encourage Gainesville residents to be involved in the planning process as we determine our energy future,' Bob Tancig, Gainesville resident and member of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Gainesville is the 90th city across the United States to commit to transitioning to 100 percent clean, renewable energy.” From Sierra Club and Ready for 100 press release.
Read We don’t have to choose between the environment and human development - “Climate change, declining air and water quality, rapid population growth—it can seem overwhelming to even contemplate solutions to such global challenges, let alone what it would take to actually implement those solutions. How will a world already under intense environmental stress be able to feed and shelter an expected 10 billion people by the year 2050? We started with a simple question: Can we meet the basic needs—food, water, and energy—of a growing population and a growing economy and do better for biodiversity by 2050? Then, we took a deep dive into the science. Using global system models, we compared the status quo—the business-as-usual path we expect in the next 30 years—against a vision of a more sustainable world rooted in realistic-but-achievable changes in our energy, land and water use...There are many paths to the kinds of changes we suggest in agriculture, energy production, fishing, and resource management. Making any of the necessary changes will require leaders across sectors—public, private and nonprofit, and especially in conservation, health and development—to shed the long-held notions and rigid identities that so often restrict our thinking and our willingness to work together. What sort of steps will it take? As expected, it will require an aggressive effort to reduce fossil fuel use and the greenhouse gases that follow, but we can do this with a smart and sensible combination of solar, wind, hydropower and nuclear energy—so long as they are properly sited to protect habitat and use already converted lands. Other studies have shown that we can ease the necessary fuels transition through investments in natural climate solutions—conservation and land management strategies that maximize the carbon storage potential of our landscapes and coasts. To achieve this plausible, more sustainable world, we need to make aggressive changes soon. Several of these shifts we describe must be under way within the next 10 years if they are to succeed by mid-century. Without these changes, we will not achieve the goals nations around the world have set for themselves—stabilizing the climate, protecting nature, sustaining food from the oceans, and securing food, water, and energy supplies. Ours is not the first analysis to address these issues, but often, previous studies looked at different sectors or geographies in isolation. Our study attempts to consider human development and global conservation needs together, more holistically, with the most recent projections of population growth and climate goals…” Heather Tallis and Stephen Polasky write for EAT
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events:
October 12-November 16 - Save our Springs & Rivers Academy (Volusia County)- Want to become a Blue Spring advocate and help spread the word about solutions to water pollution? Attend this FREE adult education courses that includes classroom and field trip experiences, guest speakers, hands-on, feet-wet learning to provide the ultimate citizen engagement experience. Those participating in the six-week course will gain valuable knowledge and will pledge to educate others on behalf of Volusia Blue Spring. For more information or to register, visit www.greenvolusia.org or call 386-736-5927. View course dates and locations here.
October 23, 5:15pm - 8:30pm - Big Bend Environmental Forum (Tallahassee) - The Big Bend Environmental Forum, is hosting a candidates' forum for local candidates, including the US Congress, Leon County Commission, Tallahassee City Commission, and Soil and Water Commission. Candidates for Governor and Agriculture Commission have been invited to the reception. The Candidate Forum will begin a 6:00 pm. Citizens will be able to suggest questions covering environmental, energy, sustainability, and growth management issues. At 5:15 the building will be opened up as an open house which will include displays by candidates and BBEF member organizations, and will provide an opportunity for voters to meet the candidates in person. The Big Bend Environmental Forum is coalition of 15 conservation, community, smart growth and sustainable organizations working to to protect and improve the communities in the Big Bend Region. More information here.
October 26, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. - Water Symposium: The State of our Water (DeLand): The Volusia Water Alliance hosts a series of short presentations on the water problems we face and possible solutions by leaders and experts, focused on Volusia County and applicable statewide. This free event features keynote speaker Dr. Jason Evans, Faculty Director of the Institute for Water & Environmental Resilience, Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Studies at Stetson University, and Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Environmental Management. His topic is "Reclaiming the Future: Science, Engagement, and Hope in Our State of Watery Peril.” Seating is limited; please register online at VolusiaWater.org. Optional catered lunch from DeLand Natural Market (wrap, chips, water, and a brownie) is available for $12 with registration. Visit VolusiaWater.org for more information. Sponsorships are available. Wayne G. Sanborn Activity Center - 815 S. Alabama Ave., DeLand, FL 32724.
November 1, 12:00 noon to 1:30 p.m. -- FREE Sustainable Landscaping Principles and Practices Webinar: This free webinar will explore best practices, trends and market opportunities for sustainable landscaping in the State of Florida. Sustainable Landscaping is a set of landscaping principles and practices which minimize environmental degradation and make more efficient use of energy, water and other natural resources. This course will review the latest research and present current best practices for designing, building and maintaining sustainable landscapes. Project case studies will be used to discuss a framework for how to promote sustainable landscaping on large scale commercial projects working with multiple stakeholders through conceptual planning through implementation and long-term maintenance. The instructors are Pierce Jones, Ph.D., the University of Florida Extension Program Leader for Energy Programs, and Timothee Sallin, president of Cherrylake, an integrated landscape company. This event has been approved for credits for planners, Certified Floodplain Manger and Florida Environmental Health Professionals and are being sought for Florida attorneys and others. Register at www.1000friendsofflorida.org/webinar.
November 1-4 - The Florida Springs Restoration Summit (Ocala) - Join the Florida Springs Council in Ocala to learn from state leaders and experts on how we can make meaningful springs restoration a reality. The Florida Springs Restoration Summit brings together scientists, academics, advocates, reporters, policy makers, and other citizens to discuss the status of springs health and steps needed for meaningful springs restoration and long-term protection. The cost to attend the Springs Summit is kept low to encourage participation by members of the public and nonprofit organizations. To learn more about the 2018 Springs Restoration Summit and register, see the Summit website.
November 17 - 9:00am-4:00pm - Highlands County Master Gardeners Festival (Sebring) - Join the Highlands County Master Gardeners for the inaugural Garden Festival. Kicked off at 9:00am by Shannon Reed singing the National Anthem, there will be live music, vendors, food, a kids zone, and plant classes. Where: Bert J Harris Agricultural Civic Center in Sebring: 4509 George Blvd.
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About the FCC: The Florida Conservation Coalition (FCC) is composed of over 80 conservation-minded organizations and over two thousand individuals devoted to protecting and conserving Florida’s land, fish and wildlife, and water resources.
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