Bruce Ritchie reports for Politico Pro – “The likelihood of an agreement on future funding for conservation land spending appears unlikely, say key legislators… That means land-buying supporters will have to start the legislative session again next year facing an uphill political fight to secure funding for the program. ‘I don’t see us passing a bill this year,’ state Sen. Rob Bradley…, the Senate’s budget chief, told POLITICO. ‘That being said, this year was a home run for the environment.’… Bradley sponsored SB 370 providing $100 million annually toward Florida Forever, but the bill hasn’t been taken up in the House. The bill passed the Senate 37-0 on Jan. 31… Caldwell… said Bradley and state Rep. Carlos Trujillo (R-Miami), the House budget chief, were far apart on the issue… [Caldwell’s] bill cleared its last committee stop on Feb. 22 and hasn’t been placed on the House calendar for second reading. ‘As with any bill, by the time we get to week nine [of the nine-week legislative session] the prospects diminish by the minute,’ Caldwell said.” Read Future conservation spending uncertain as session winds down
Ali Schmitz reports for the TC Palm – “Florida Forever likely will receive more than $100 million this year… Here’s how the funding would be divvied up: - $77 million would go directly to state land-buying and management. -$10 million would go to the Florida Communities Trust, which provides money for local governments to purchase their own conservation parcels. – Nearly $6 million would go to the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, which pays farm owners to not develop their land. The funding was a major priority for Senate Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley… Bradley sponsored a bill, SB 370, that would require legislators to appropriate at least $100 million each year to the program. While the bill unanimously passed the Senate, the House never heard a companion bill in committees… While environmentalists applauded the funding, they said there’s still more to be done to make sure environmental funding doesn’t end up in jeopardy in the future. ‘We need a stable source of secure, dedicated funding so we can plan for the future,’ said Aliki Moncrief, executive director of Florida Conservation Voters. Florida Forever used to receive about $300 million a year when it was established in 1999, but legislators have gutted it since the 2008 recession. Florida Forever received no funding last year, taking a back seat to the $800 million Senate President Joe Negron… wanted for a reservoir… Moncrief said permanent funding could easily come up if Senate leadership, especially Negron, pushed House leadership to take up the bill by the end of session.” Read Florida Forever likely to get $100 million, but environmentalists want permanent fund
Bruce Ritchie reports for Politico Pro – “A House bill that Seminole County commissioners last week described as an ‘attack’ on local control of growth management would be made worse by a floor amendment filed Monday, critics say. HB 883… would require voters to approval local urban and rural services boundaries. Seminole County commissioners Bob Dallari and Lee Constantine said the measure was an attack on their county’s designated rural boundary. The amendment filed Monday would exclude parcels within three miles of a state university campus from being classified as rural land… Charles Lee, director of advocacy at Audubon Florida… said the proposed language is ‘nightmarishly open’ and could prohibit local development control throughout counties with scattered university parcels… Lee said the amendment filed Monday appears aimed at backing a development in neighboring Orange County that is on the Cabinet agenda for March 7. An administrative law judge sided with local environmentalists challenging Orange county’s decision to allow a 2,000-home development in an area previously classified as rural… ” Read Critics say bill requiring rural boundary approval made worse with floor amendment
Kevin Spear reports for the Orlando Sentinel – “Central Florida’s Indian River Lagoon, North Florida’s Apalachicola Bay and a trio of coastal estuaries in South Florida are in the throes of ecosystem collapses that threaten sea grass, fisheries, recreation and local economies.” Read Florida coastal environments are collapsing
Edward O. Wilson writes for The New York Times – “The extinction of species by human activity continues to accelerate, fast enough to eliminate more than half of all species by the end of this century… Once species are gone, they’re gone forever. Even if the climate is stabilized, the extinction of species will remove Earth’s foundational, billion-year-old environmental support system. A growing number of researchers, myself included, believe that the only way to reverse the extinction crisis is through a conservation moonshot: We have to enlarge the area of Earth devoted to the natural world enough to save the variety of life within it. The formula widely agreed upon by conservation scientists is to keep half the land and half the sea of the planet as wild and protected from human intervention or activity as possible… The most striking fact about the living environment may be how little we know about it… With only about 20 percent of [the world’s] species known and 80 percent undiscovered, it is fair to call Earth a little-known planet. Paleontologists estimate that before the global spread of humankind the average rate of species extinction was one species per million in each one-to 10-million-year interval. Human activity has driven up the average global rate of extinction to 100 to 1,000 times that baseline rate. What ensues is a tragedy upon a tragedy: Most species still alive will disappear without ever having been recorded.” Read The 8 Million Species We Don’t Know
Tyler Treadway reports for the TC Palm – “The state Department of Environmental Protection gave its blessing Monday to the reservoir project designed to cut Lake Okeechobee discharges. In a 12-page order, DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein said the project submitted by the South Florida Water Management District will meet criteria for ‘water supply, water quality, flood protection, threatened and endangered species and other natural system and habitat needs.’” Read Reservoir project plan to cut Lake Okeechobee discharges gets DEP’s approval
Karl Wickstrom writes for the TC Palm – “[T]he (reservoir) plan is not what was envisioned. In February, Everglades Foundation scientists published an evaluation of the South Florida Water Management District proposal for the EAA Reservoir that echoed what the Department of Interior suggested on an official agency call last fall: The reservoir needs more land for treatment to deliver the benefits promised by the district… With another 6,500 acres of filter marshes, scientists say the plan could work. We have that. The state of Florida owns enough land to make the difference, but our elected officials allowed – or even encouraged – the plan’s authors to hamstring it. Why would Florida pass up a chance to restore these world-class inshore waters, the heart of our $9.7 billion fishing industry? The same reason as last time and all the others before: politics. Our water system is working exactly the way the sugar industry wants it, and as the biggest political influence in Florida, sugar gets what sugar wants. Once again our politicians played on our hopes, pledged to bring back our estuaries and protect them, and then offered us another weak, sugar-approved compromise with the usual ‘take it or leave it.’… Now we’re all expected to support the reservoir, just like we were expected to support the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and Central Everglades Planning Project and Acceler8 and all the other compromises that ended up failing us. Once again, the people we elected are making excuses, assuring us it’s the best deal we can get. What would happen if we stood up to them and demanded a real solution? Like a plan that doesn’t leave waterside communities exposed to higher risks of cancer and liver failure and neurological disease, or waste nearly $2 billion of taxpayers’ money doing as little as possible to defend public resources.” Read Watered-down Everglades reservoir is politics as usual in Florida
Jim Waymer reports for Florida Today – “In the largest migration in United States coastal waters, blacktip sharks are headed south in the thousands for their yearly migration off Florida’s southeast coast. But that migration to South Florida has shrunken drastically in recent years, according to research by Florida Atlantic University. Warmer coastal waters have resulted in more sharks lingering in Central Florida, North Florida and as far north as the Carolinas… ‘We want to make sure that these snowbirds come back to South Florida, because if they don’t, it will have a huge ecological impact in this region,’ Kajiura said… Blacktips sweep through coastal waters and “spring clean” as they weed out weak and sick fish, which helps preserve coral reefs and seagrasses… ‘… You might have an abundance of sick or diseased fish here that are not being cleaned out.’ When that happens, certain species sharks usually keep in check can dominate at the expense of others, creating ill effects that cascade throughout coral reefs and elsewhere in the ecosystem.” Read Blacktip shark migration plummets in Florida
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
March 8, 6:30 pm – Attend Newts of the Apalachicola National Forest in Tallahassee. Rebecca and Ryan Means will discuss the plight of the endangered newts of the Apalachicola Forest. For more information, click here.
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 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 13, 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 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 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 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.
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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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