FCC News Brief - April 18, 2018

Gray Rohrer reports for the Orlando Sentinel – “Florida voters will get the chance to ban offshore drilling when they head to the ballot booth this November. But in order to do it, they’ll also have to vote to ban vaping in indoor workplaces. The coupled issues’ proposal was among several issues lumped together and passed Monday by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, a panel of 37 members that convenes every 20 years to propose changes to the state constitution. Some commissioners, though, objected to a series of proposals that were joined with other issues in one amendment, preventing voters from voting solely on a particular issue. ‘I think people are going to get the idea that we’re trying to pull a fast one on them,’ said Commissioner Roberto Martinez, a Coral Gables lawyer. His amendment to decouple some of the issues was defeated.” Read Voters to get say on slew of amendments

The Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board writes – “The Florida Constitution Revision Commission… added amendments to the November ballot that will force voters to accept unconnected or unpopular changes with ones they support – or reject the entire amendment. It’s a cynical attempt to sneak through a conservative agenda that otherwise never would be approved, and voters should send a clear message they refuse to be manipulated… This has been such a squandered opportunity that won’t come around again until 2038… There’s no review of the language by the Florida Supreme Court, which is required for citizen initiatives. There’s not requirement that individual amendments be limited to a single subject, and that’s where this commission went off the rails… This has been a rigged process from the very beginning, when the governor appointed that noted constitutional scholar Carlos Beruff, a Bradenton developer and a Scott favorite, as chair of the commission. The rules were in constant flux, the commitment to openness was flexible and even commission members were confused by the process and had difficulty getting information.” Read Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s Tricks

Tyler Treadway reports for the TC Palm – “The residents had requested public records from several closed-door meetings the water district board had with its lawyers about Lake Point Restoration suing the district. The residents’ public records requests were similar to those filed earlier by the Everglades Law Center and former Martin County Commissioner Maggy Hurchalla. The district eventually gave all parties the records from all but one meeting – the pivotal Aug. 23 meeting when the board decided to settle Lake Point’s lawsuit out of court. Rather than approve or deny requests for the Aug. 23 meeting records, the district sued the law center and Hurchalla.  That’s unusual and disturbing, said Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation… ‘The way it’s supposed to work is: Someone makes a records request and the water management district has to say yes or no,’ Peterson said. ‘If they so no, they have to say, ‘Here’s why.’ Then it’s up to the person who made the request to decide if they want to pursue the matter in court or not.’ For the district to be ‘fighting so hard to keep from releasing records of that meeting,’ said Hurchalla’s attorney, Virginia “Ginny” Sherlock, ‘there must be something in the discussion that they don’t want us to know.’… On March 20, Martin County Circuit Court Judge William L. Roby ruled in the district’s favor, saying the Aug. 23 meeting records are exempt from disclosure. The law center plans to appeal, said attorney Marcy La Hart. ‘For citizens not to get to know what happened at a meeting where the district board committed to spending taxpayer money is patently ridiculous,’ La Hart said. Despite the court ruling, the district sought the residents’ personal records because the spate of ‘suspiciously identical’ requests suggested an ‘orchestrated campaign’ to harass the district, attorney Tracy M. White stated… Open government advocates such as Petersen say the district has an obligation to provide public records without asking for people’s affiliations or motivations. The subpoena threat was meant to ‘intimidate people…’ It is just flat-out wrong for a government agency to do that to citizens for pursuing their constitutional right,’ Petersen said, calling the district’s actions ‘unconscionable.’ ‘For the water management district to be using its deep pockets of tax dollars to sue a small nonprofit just because they made a public records request,’ she said, ‘it burns me up, frankly.’” Read South Florida Water Management District threatens to subpoena records-seekers

Alex Harris reports for the Miami Herald – “Eight young Florida residents… are the named plaintiffs in a lawsuit that seeks to force a state extremely vulnerable to climate-driven sea rise to start work on a court-ordered, science-based “Climate Recovery Plan.” The group is represented by Our Children’s Trust, an Oregon-based organization sponsoring similar suits from children around the country at the state and federal level. The original case based on the same arguments, Juliana vs. United States, was filed in 2015 against the federal government. It might sound like a legal stunt, but a federal judge found the argument sound enough to send the case to trial in October.” Read Kids are suing Gov. Rick Scott to force Florida to take action on climate change

Greg Stanley reports for the Naples Daily News – “During the necropsies, it’s clear that the pythons… are the top predator in the Everglades. From their stomachs, biologists have pulled bobcat claws, deer hooves, birds, rabbits, opossums and raccoons. The Conservancy estimates that 61 percent of the diet of pythons found in Collier County are small mammals such as rabbits, opossums and raccoons. Another 29 percent are rodents and birds. ‘But if you go to the east coast, you’ll see those percentages flipped,’ Bartoszek said. ‘There they’re eating almost all birds and rodents, because the rest are gone. You’d be very hard pressed to find a rabbit now in the east.’ Different agencies are taking different approaches to removing the python… The most successful, in terms of number of pythons removed, has been the South Florida Water Management District’s hunting program. The district has hired 25 python hunters over the past year in Broward, Miami-Dade and Collier counties. Since March of 2017, those hunters have removed 922 invasive pythons…” Read Conservancy python trackers find Collier County’s largest breeding group

Darryl Fears and Dino Grandoni report for The Washington Post – “The Trump administration… [issued] guidance that the [Migratory Bird Treaty Act] would not be used as it has been to hold people or companies accountable for killing the animals. In an opinion… to federal wildlife police who enforce the rule, the Interior Department said ‘the take [killing] of birds resulting from an activity is not prohibited by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act when the underlying purpose of that activity is not to take birds.’ For example, the guidance said, a person who destroys a structure such as a barn knowing that it is full of baby owls in nests is not liable for killing them. ‘All that is relevant is that the landowner undertook an action that did not have the killing of barn owls as its purpose,’ the opinion said… Oil companies are the greatest beneficiaries of the new interpretation, according to an analysis by the Audubon Society. They were responsible for 90 percent of incidental takes prosecuted under the act… Two disastrous oil spills, the Deepwater Horizon… and the Exxon Valdez… accounted for 97 percent of the fines. Oil waste pits that birds mistake for ponds are also responsible for a significant number of bird deaths… The act ‘has been the tool the Fish and Wildlife Service has used to work with industry to implement basic management practices,’ said Sarah Greenberger, vice president of conservation for the Audubon Society… Seventeen former Interior officials, including U.S. Fish and Wildlife directors under presidents Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, repudiated the reinterpretation when it was first announced in December… If an activity that results in the death of birds is illegal, the guidance tells polices, it ‘does not affect the determination of whether it results in an MBTA violation.’ If, for example, a landowner used illegal pesticides expressly to kill birds, the law applies. ‘However, if the landowner used a pesticide to purposely kill something other than migratory birds, it would not be a violation if birds die…’” Read The Trump administration has officially clipped the wings of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Congressman Darren Soto shares – “After decades of restoration and spending nearly $1 billion for the Kissimmee River Restoration Project, the River has significantly improved over 53,000 acres of wetlands within the watershed and reestablished an environment suitable for fish, wildlife, and the wetland plants. H.R. 3961 protects this investment by starting the study that would include the river in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act designation – a fitting tribute to the hard restoration work of the Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District. H.R. 3961 passed the House on April 16, 2018 by unanimous consent.” Read Soto’s Kissimmee River Bill Passes House by Unanimous Consent

Sara Ganim reports for CNN – “Since becoming leader of the 70,000-employee agency, Zinke has suggested that he was a geologist or former geologist at least 40 times in public settings, including many under oath before Congress… He uses it as a credential booster, saying things such as… ‘Florida is different in the currents – I’m a geologist – it’s different in geology,’ in an interview with Bretibart News, defending his decision to exempt Florida from offshore drilling… Zinke, however, has never held a job as a geologist.” Read Ryan Zinke refers to himself as a geologist. That’s a job he’s never held.




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Another Gulf is Possible

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Upcoming Environmental Events    


April 18, 6:45 pm – Come learn about the Florida panther in Orlando. Dr. Jen Korn, a panther specialist with Defenders of Wildlife, will be speaking. For more information, click here.

April 19 – June 23 – 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.

April 19, 6:30 pm – Attend the Gubernatorial Candidates Town Hall Series at the First Unitarian Church of Orlando (1901 E. Robinson St.) in Orlando. The April 19 candidate represented will be Congresswoman Gwen Graham. Refreshments begin at 6:30 pm and the program starts at 7:00 pm.

April 19, 7:00 pm – Attend “Garden for Wildlife with Native Plants” in Tallahassee. David Mizejewski will focus on restoring wildlife habitat in our cities, towns and neighborhoods through the use of native plants. For more information, click here.

April 21, 10:00 am – Participate in March for Science – Orlando. For more information, click here.

April 21, 10:00 am – Attend Central Florida Earth Day in Orlando. The event will include healthy living and eco-friendly exhibitors, speakers, and presentations; fun and games for kids; dog and cat adoptions; artist and craft corners, and live music and entertainment. For more information, click here.

April 21, 4:00 pm – Participate in Hike for the Corridor 2018 in Gainesville. Participants will hike to show they want Florida’s land conservation programs fully funded and the Florida Wildlife Corridor protected. For more information, click here.

April 22, 10:00 am – Attend Altamonte Spring’s Earth Day Celebration. Event activities include live music, guest speakers, crafts, plant & tree giveaways, butterfly gardening & release, live bat exhibition, mineral & gem sluicing, food vendors, a Gator Walk, and a Survivalist Walk. For more information, click here.

April 22, 2:00 pm – Participate in ELAPP’s Florida Wildlife Corridor Connection 9-Mile Hike in Plant City. For more information, click here.

April 23, 4:00 pm – Attend a viewing of An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power at the Mary Esther Public Library (100 W Hollywood Blvd) in Mary Esther. For more information, click here.

April 27-28 – Attend the Florida Wildflower Symposium in Orlando. For more information, click here.

May 1, 12:00 pm – Join the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute at the North Florida Springs Environmental Center in High Springs for Springs Academy Tuesdays; a lunchtime lecture series on Florida’s springs. May’s lecture is on “Springs Hydrogeology: Floridan Aquifer, Groundwater Recharge, Spring Flows” with FSI Executive Director, Dr. Robert Knight. All lecture are free and open to the public. A recommended donation of $5 is appreciated. For more information, click here or call (386) 454 – 9369.

May 3, 6:30 pm – Watch Mac Stone’s TED talk on “the Amazing Everglades” at the Harvey Martin Democratic Center (3432 Deltona Boulevard) in Spring Hill. After the TED Talk, Dr. Tom St. Clair will comment on Everglades ecology and restoration. For more information, email sierraadventurecoastcc@gmail.com or call (352) 277 – 3330.

May 9, 12:44 pm – Attend the Villages Environmental Discussion Group at the Belvedere Library Community Room (325 Belvedere Blvd.) in The Villages. Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, Sierra Club Organizing Rep., will make a presentation entitled “Urban Fertilizers… Connections to Our Lawns, Landscape, and Florida’s Waters”. Shari Blissett-Clark, Pres. Of the FL Bat Conservancy, will make a presentation entitled “Bats in Florida’s Backyards.” For more information and to RSVP, email resourcewisdom@gmail.com.

May 17-20 – Attend The Florida Native Plant Society’s 38th Annual Conference in Miami. For more information, click here.


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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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