The Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board writes - “The Senate unanimously voted more than a month ago for legislation that would ensure the Florida Forever land conservation program would annually receive $100 million a year. The House has not brought the bill up for a vote, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran could leave a lasting environmental legacy by making that happen today… Permanently setting aside $100 million a year for Florida Forever is a modest request. The Legislature funded the conservation program at $300 million a year for decades… [to] help ensure our drinking water remains lean and available, our wildlife is protected and our best wilderness areas are preserved for future generations. Yet even though there are more than 2 million acres on a priority list to be purchased or preserved through long-term easements, the Legislature has largely gutted the program for eight years. To their credit, lawmakers have agreed this session to spent $100.8 million on Florida Forever in 2018-19. It’s not too much to ask Corcoran to pass the legislation today that was approved weeks ago by the Senate, SB 370, and ensure there is a commitment to spend at least that much in future years.” Read Legislature should guarantee money for Florida Forever
Scott Powers reports for Florida Politics – “[T]he Central Florida Expressway Authority… moved ahead with a study of how best to push a new road through or around the state’s Split Oak Forest Wildlife and Environmental Area…[T]he Osceola Parkway extension has a limited corridor and difficult options. They could require it to either go through Split Oak, a nature preserve created under Florida’s Preservation 2000 program of the 1990s, or through existing neighborhoods, forcing eminent domain takings of mostly large, estate-style exurban homes… Valerie Anderson, president of Friends of Split Oak Forest, Inc. and Chuck O’Neal, president of Speak Up Wekiva, Inc., said… they intend to sue. They hope and intend to pursue the action all the way to the Florida Supreme Court to answer the question of whether state preservation covenants are in perpetuity, or can be, as O’Neal derided, tossed aside anytime a local government wants to build a new road. ‘If you can put roads through the most protected conservation lands that there are in the state of Florida, those conservations mean nothing,’ Anderson said… Charles Lee, director of advocacy for the Audubon Florida’s Central Florida Policy Office, urged the board to aggressively pursue options to get Tavistock and others to piece together 1,500 acres of mitigation land… to swap for the affected portion of Split Oak… Gretchn Robinson… [said, ‘]… As Split Oak Forest goes, so go all conservation lands in Florida, and so goes the public trust. The public trust works like this: we the public entrust you a governing entity with taking care of something precious and vulnerable and irreplaceable.’” Read Central Florida Expressway Authority moves ahead with study of contentious Split Oak road
Barbara Behrendt and Craig Pittman report for the Tampa Bay Times – “If you have never seen a stately whooping crane in the wild in Florida, better hurry. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to transplant a bunch of them to Louisiana… The flock the federal agency is targeting lives in the Kissimmee Prairie area of Central Florida… It numbers only 14… The Kissimmee whoopers are part of a long-term experiment to spread the 5-foot-tall endangered birds into habitat they occupied decades ago. The cranes… once filled the skies from Florida to the Rockies. By 1941, though, their numbers had dwindled to only 21 birds. The cause: decades of unregulated hunting and the destruction of their marshy nesting grounds… The ones in Kissimmee sprang from a flock that was raised in captivity in Wisconsin, then turned loose in Central Florida in the hope of reviving Florida’s non-migratory whooping flocks. But out of 289 whooping cranes that were released there from 1993 to 2004, federal officials said just above a dozen birds remain... The Kissimmee whoopers have ‘experienced a high rate of mortality and low reproductive success related to habitat conditions, predation, and power line strikes,’ according to the Fish and Wildlife Service… Unless they’re moved to join a flock in Louisiana that now numbers about 60, experts say those Florida cranes would likely just die out.” Read Whooping cranes didn’t do so well in Florida. Next stop: Louisiana
Jim Waymer reports for Florida Today – “Oil drilling along Florida’s coast could put at risk almost 610,000 jobs and $37.4 billion in economic activity, according to a new report by an ocean advocacy group. Nationally, the nonprofit Oceana’s new economic analysis found that the Trump administration’s offshore drilling plan would threaten more than 2.6 million jobs and almost $180 billion in Gross Domestic Product for only two years’-worth of oil and just over one year’s-worth of gas at current consumption rates. ‘From ocean views scattered with drilling platforms, to the industrialization of our coastal communities, to the unacceptable risk of more BP Deepwater Horizon-like disasters – expanding offshore drilling to new areas threatens thriving coastal economies and booming industries like tourism, recreation and fishing that rely on oil-free beaches and healthy oceans,’ Diane Hoskins, campaign director at Oceana, said… Oil industry officials disputed the findings, saying their industry has operated safely alongside commercial fishing, tourism and other industries for decades.” Read Report suggests offshore drilling is a ‘bad deal’ for Florida
Jenny Staletovich reports for the Miami Herald – “While the state’s major environmental players have rallied around the (reservoir) plan, the yearlong effort was often tense, and still has doubters. The Sierra Club and Bullsugar… fear reducing the pollution to the coastal estuaries of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers could come at the expense of Florida Bay. And until this month, the Everglades Foundation argued that the project would fail to deliver clean water and needed to double the size of the proposed artificial marshes that will treat water going into the reservoir. In a February report, the foundation also said the project might jeopardize the success of an existing network of treatment marshes by adding more water than they were designed to clean. This week, Eikenberg said those concerns were eased when the Florida Department of Environmental Protection… issued an order spelling out the need to meet strict standards for phosphorus… or add more treatment… District planners… were less emphatic in a February report, since removed from the district web site, that raised questions about levels of phosphorus in some parts of the system. While district scientists felt confident water entering conservation areas could largely be cleaned, they were less certain about water in Shark River Slough. Shark River runs through Everglades National Park and into the Gulf and marshes around Florida Bay, so water flowing must meet strict criteria… The report found that the ways they predict how the system will work once huge volumes of water begin flowing south are too limited. They also lacked historical data. They concluded the project ‘presents some risk of future non-compliance.’” Read $1.4 billion Everglades reservoir clears key hurdle. Is it enough to save the Glades?
Paul Brinkmann reports for the Orlando Sentinel – “Disney World will soon be connected to a new solar farm… 10 times larger than the existing Hidden Mickey solar farm near Epcot.” Read Disney adding solar farm: Reedy Creek signs easement for 50MW facility
Ali Schmitz reports for the TC Palm – “Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, will not run for higher office in 2018 and may even resign before his term ends in November 2020… His term was supposed to end in 2018, but redistricting required him to run again in 2016, giving him an unplanned extra two years in the Senate. ‘Term limits are there for a reason,’ Negron said. If Negron resigns early, a special election would be held to replace him for the remainder of his term. Two people have announced a bid for Negron’s seat in the 2020 election: Rep. Gayle Harrel, R-Stuart, and Robert Levy, a doctor based in Martin County. Both have said they’re ready to run in 2018 if Negron steps down.” Read Senate President Joe Negron will not run for office in 2018, may resign before term ends
Kimberly Cannizzaro writes for The Gainesville Sun – “Reading our president’s new budget proposal saddens me… With the administration’s continual propositions to cut the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior, it is clear that our president feels that our environment doesn’t hold much importance. Growing up in Florida I have so many fond memories of our beautiful coastlines, springs and the many other natural beauties of which Florida boasts. Knowing that this proposed budget cut will jeopardize our waterways, air and coastline is so heart-wrenching… Luckily, I can count on Sen. Bill Nelson to keep advocating for the protection of our environment and hope that Sen. Marco Rubio will follow Nelson’s lead in recognizing how important a healthy environment is to Florida.” Read Protect our environment
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
March 13 – April 17 – Solar United Neighbors is hosting several solar co-op information sessions around Florida throughout the next few months. Attendees will learn about solar equipment, financing, and the benefits of joining a solar co-op. For a complete list of sessions, click here.
March 13, 7:00 pm – Attend Get the Green Out: Algal Bloom Presentation in Orange Park. St. Johns Riverkeeper will explain what causes blue-green algal blooms and why they may be toxic for you and the St. Johns River. Then, learn how you can take action to reduce algal bloom occurrences. For more information and to register, click here.
March 14-16, 8:30 am – Attend The Endangered Apalachicola Conference in Tallahassee. The Apalachicola ecosystem has incredible biodiversity and once provided for a booming oyster industry. Unfortunately, this ecosystem is now struggling to survive due to a lack of fresh water. The problem is so dire, Florida is suing Georgia over its water use! The Florida Conservation Coalition invites you to come learn more about this endangered ecosystem. After Thursday’s overview of challenges facing the Apalachicola, FCC Chair and former Florida Governor, Bob Graham, will host a special keynote dinner. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.
March 14, 12:45 pm – Attend the Villages Environmental Discussion Group at the Belvedere Library (325 Belvedere Blvd.) in The Villages. Speakers include Chris Mericle, talking about citizen protests against phosphate mining in Union and Bradford Counties, and Hunter Miller, discussing current threats to our oceans and action steps the group can take. For more information and to RSVP, contact Mary Hampton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 17, 9:00 am – Participate in St. Johns River Clean Up & Celebration: Goodbys Creek Paddle & Clean Up in Jacksonville. For more information, click here.
March 24, 8:30 pm – Participate in Earth Hour 2018. Each year, millions of people, businesses, and landmarks set aside an hour to host events, switch off their lights, and generally make noise to shine a light on the need for climate action. For more information, click here or contact Mary Gutierrez at email@example.com.
March 26, 6:00 pm – Attend a talk by Maya van Rossum, Delaware Riverkeeper, on The Green Amendment: Our Right to a Healthy Environment at the Working Food Community Center (219 NW 10th Avenue) in Gainesville. Doors open at 5:30 PM.
April 14, 11:00 am – Attend the Last Straw Campaign Kickoff in Pensacola. Learn how you can modify your lifestyle to say no to straws and what you can do to get others on board. For more information, click here or contact Mary Gutierrez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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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