Zac Anderson reports for the Herald Tribune – “While praising lawmakers for making a major investment in conservation this year, environmental leaders across Florida argue much more is needed to tackle the big backlog of projects that build up during lean funding years… The Legislature set aside $101 million for Florida Forever… in the 2018-19 state budget approved last week. The money is significant – the largest amount Florida Forever has received since the Great Recession… But there are 118 land acquisition projects on the Florida Forever priority list… that total nearly 2.2 million acres… $101 million is less than 1 percent of the money needed to completely buy down the Florida Forever list if the state bought all the land outright, although a large portion of the properties on the list are targeted for conservation easements, which cost less… The state’s population is projected to increase by somewhere between 2.8 million and 5.6 million people in the next 12 years… The same lands being targeted for protection are coming under increasing development pressure. ‘The people of Florida decided they wanted to spend some of their tax money to protect the remaining wild lands in Florida,’ Jackalone (of Sierra Club Florida) said. ‘So it’s not a matter of should you do this or not?... It’s the public’s policy and the Legislature should not thumb their noses at the public.’” Read More money for Florida Forever, but environmentalists still suing
Bruce Ritchie reports for Politico Florida – “(Senator) Graham… said the Apalachicola River needs to become a statewide and national issue on par with Everglades restoration… During the conference…, scientists made presentations on studies of the Apalachicola River floodplain, threatened and endangered species in the river, oysters in Apalachicola Bay and the effects of river flow on gag grouper and other sport-fishing species in the broader Gulf of Mexico. Helen Light, a former U.S. Geological Survey wetlands scientist, said swamp tree species along 36,000 acres of Apalachicola River floodplain are affected by lack of water flow. She said between 1976 and 2004 there were 44 percent fewer Ogeechee tupelo trees, a swamp species that produces the prized tupelo honey. David Kimbro, an ecologist at Northeastern University who studied Apalachicola Bay oysters, said upstream water use – not oyster over-harvesting in response to the 2010 Gulf oil spill – contributes to the continued decline of oyster reefs and prevented recovery after the 2012 drought. Disease and predators that thrive in saltwater moved into Apalachicola Bay during low river flows and decimated oyster reefs, he said… The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has reduced the daily oyster harvesting limit from 20 bags per day in 2010 to two now – but harvesters are lucky to catch one bag per day, said Jim Estes, deputy director of FWC’s Division of Marine Fisheries Management. ‘We are to the point now where we need to consider or at least have a discussion about closing the bay,’ Estes said… Graham… said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must change its focus for managing upstream reservoirs from water use to considering the needs of Apalachicola Bay and the broader Gulf of Mexico. He indicated that could require reauthorization by Congress – though Georgia’s congressional delegation has blocked such proposed changes in the past.” Read Graham urges Florida cooperate with Georgia in water dispute
The Tallahassee Democrat reports – “An additional 65 acres was added to Torreya State Park… The park… is adjacent to the Apalachicola River Florida Forever project and the Nature Conservancy’s Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve.” Read 65 acres added to Torreya State Park
Jenny Staletovich reports for the Miami Herald – “A Miami federal judge has lifted a temporary stop to construction on a Walmart-anchored shopping center on rare pine rockland and hinted that environmentalists are unlikely to win their battle in court… But environmentalists, armed with additional information released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since the case was argued, said they plan to keep fighting a project that could pave over one of the largest remaining tracts of pineland outside Everglades National Park.” Read Judge clears way for Walmart in rare Miami forest, but legal battle continues
Dale White reports for the Herald Tribune – “In a 4-3 decision… the Manatee County Commission authorized acquisition of land for the proposed Braden River Preserve but struck a compromise that spreads the cost beyond the selected neighborhoods of a previously proposed special tax district. Commissioner Betsey Benac made a motion for the county to use property taxes from the entire unincorporated area to buy nearly 33 acres from homebuilder Pat Neal and his business partner sons for $3 million. That approach means the county will not establish a special tax district, in which 1,440 households in the area of Braden Woods and River Club would have assumed a 30-year debt to finance the purchase… The commissioners accepted an agreement in which the [Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast] transfers [their option to buy the land] to the county. The foundation also will provide more than $1 million in donations collected so far to reduce that cost for the county to below $2 million.” Read Braden River Preserve purchase proceeds without tax district
Tyler Treadway reports for the TC Palm – “The proposed design for a reservoir to help cut Lake Okeechobee discharges and send clean water to the Everglades will work, according to an independent external peer review… However, the report also tells the South Florida Water Management District to ‘conduct and document an objective evaluation’ of an alternative to the proposed design suggested by the public. At several public hearings during the project’s planning phase, environmental groups asked the district to conduct modeling studies to see if the project would perform significantly better if it was significantly bigger. District officials declined, saying the project couldn’t be any bigger because no property owners in the area were willing to sell their land or swap it for state-owned land elsewhere.” Read Proposed Lake Okeechobee reservoir project will cut discharges, clean water: peer review
Carl Hiaasen writes for the Miami Herald – “If you care about what’s left of the Everglades, here’s what passes for a victory these days: The state is moving ahead with plans for a reservoir and a cleansing marsh to handle some of the fertilizer-tainted, algae-spawning deluge that gets dumped from Lake Okeechobee to both coasts every rainy season… Take a moment to celebrate, but don’t go wild.” Read Nobody ever said that saving the Everglades would be easy. Or quick.
Richard Gonzales reports for NPR – “The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the federal government’s first responder to floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters, has eliminated references to climate change from its strategic planning document for the next four years.” Read FEMA Drops ‘Climate Change’ From its Strategic Plan
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
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 – 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 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 5, 6:30 pm – Attend the Sierra Club Adventure Coast Committee’s meeting at the Harvey Martin Democratic Center (3432 Deltona Boulevard) in Spring Hill. The meeting will feature the founder and national president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, Lynn Ringenberg. Social begins at 6:30, followed by the meeting at 7. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (352) 277 – 3330.
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 email@example.com.
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