Mallory Lykes Dimmitt, Carlton Ward Jr. and Joseph Guthrie write for the Tampa Bay Times – “Here at the outskirts of Orlando, one can watch the land disappearing, and along with it the last threads of natural land west of Orlando that keep the Everglades connected to the rest of America. At times in the first few days the corridor narrowed to only a quarter mile wide, and we could feel the squeeze of development. One day a strange voice called to us from the east… It came from a Lowe’s store just 150 yards away… The green ribbon of Reedy Creek that had become our refuge quickly gave way to the most dangerous highway in America… Beneath I-4, we met up with panther biologist Jennifer Korn. She showed us a photo of a bobcat that had safely crossed beneath the highway the previous night… It was easy to imagine that by adding a mile of fencing to funnel wildlife toward the creek,… panthers may have found safe passage like the bobcat. There are plans to add flat ledges to the sloped sides of the bridge span so wildlife can more easily walk beneath, elevated on a catwalk above water during the wet season… We left I-4 feeling hopeful about a future redesign of the bridge to improve permeability to wildlife, but concerned about where the next Florida panther might go once it reached the north side of the interstate… It’s only seven miles from Reedy Lake to Lake Louisa State Park and the 500,000 acres of the Green Swamp beyond to the west. Yet we were unable to traverse a green path from Reedy Lake west toward the highlands of the Lake Wales Ridge, where its water originates. This chink in our transect occurs between two highways (U.S. 27 and the Western Beltway) that speed the conversion from agricultural to urban development… It’s possible that by combining agricultural easements and multi-county coordinated development designs that a minimally functional green corridor could be designated, restored where necessary, and protected between the upper reaches of Reedy Creek and the eastern edge of the Green Swamp… The fate of this corridor depends on decisions Orange and Lake counties make between Reedy Creek from Disney property west to Lake Louisa. Currently there are no plans by either county to protect such a corridor, and if that doesn’t change, its fate will be sealed in the next few years and the bottlenecks we passed through during our journey will become dead ends. The opinion among our team is clear: Florida needs to invest $500 million each year in land conservation – just 5 percent of the state road budget – in order to keep pace with more than 100,000 acres of habitat lost to development annually… [I]t is our finding that the connection between [the Everglades and the Green Swamp] is incomplete, and at risk.” Read At the Interstate 4 chokepoint, the path ahead for creating a Florida Wildlife Corridor is narrow indeed
Commissioner Constantine writes for the Orlando Sentinel – “The fight over the future of the eastern area of Seminole and Orange counties has already spread from county-commission chambers to the courts to the Legislature, and back again… Now, another megaproject in Seminole County’s rural boundary has reared its ugly head. Whatever fancy name the project is called, it’s “Sprawl’s Delight.” In 2004, Seminole County residents voted to preserve this land as rural homesteads. Any further intrusion without a joint planning agreement between Seminole and Orange would begin a domino effect that would be disastrous for the region. Strap it on, folks. The war is just beginning.” Read War Over “Sprawl’s Delight.”
Peter Haden reports for WUSF – “There will be no harvesting of Goliath Grouper in Florida, for now. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rejected a proposal for a limited harvest of 100 grouper per year…, citing uncertain data about the true health and numbers of the fish… Commissioners asked staff scientists to dig deeper and come back with another report by the end of the year. If it shows the fish have recovered sufficiently, FWC will again consider a limited harvest.” Read Florida’s Goliath Groups is As Big as a Grizzly Bear. And Officials Say It’s Still Off Limits.
Ashley Collins reports for the Naples Daily News – “[Mayans] [are] found in the warm tropical waters of Florida, but they are native to South and Central America. This species was just one of many exotics reeled in by local fishermen and women during the annual non-native fish roundup… On Friday and Saturday, three teams and one individual reeled in hundreds of pounds of non-native fish from their favorite freshwater spots across Collier County… Most of the collected fish… will be taken to the Naples Zoo to feed animals.” Read Family competes in annual roundup of non-native fish in Collier waterways
Dale White reports for the Herald Tribune – “If Floridians residing in coastal communities presume sea level rise is a turn-of-the-century problem for future generations, a group of scientists is delivering a weather forecast they may consider unsettling. Five Florida communities – Cape Sable…, Key Biscayne, Key West, the Lower Keys and the Middle Keys – could experience recurring tidal flooding unrelated to any storm events by 2035, according to their study. Three of those locations – Cape Sable, the Lower Keys and Middle Keys – already find themselves partially submerged at times but the forecast says their frequently inundated areas will roughly double in size within the next 17 years. Under the Union of Concerned Scientists’ fastest sea level rise scenario, 13 more communities could be added to that list by 2045 – including Merritt Island, Miami Beach, Ponte Vedra and St. Pete Beach.” Read Climate researchers estimate sea level rise impacts on Florida
Colin Wolf writes for Orlando Weekly – “A recent study published in Nature highlighted a sobering fact: The least amount of impact from climate change our planet can possibly hope for at this point is our oceans only warming 2 degrees, an increase that would raise overall sea levels by roughly 20 feet… It’s impossible to accurately predict when this would happen…, but the study suggests that if we continue on our current fossil fuel-use trajectory, ocean levels will likely reach these levels by 2100… And besides rising sea levels, Florida will also bear the brunt of intensified storms from warmer oceans and dry seasons with never-ending wildfires. With this in mind, a study published last year in Science Magazine says that Florida will most likely suffer the biggest financial fallout from climate change, at $100.9 billion.” Read Florida will experience the country’s largest economic impact from climate change
Mary Ellen Klas reports for the Miami Herald – “[Volkswagon] has agreed to pay up to $2.7 billion to states as part of its settlement agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, including $166 million to Florida over 10 years, to compensate for the environmental harm it caused when its diesel vehicles emitted more nitrogen oxide than the EPA compliance level allowed… Up to 15 percent of it, or $25 million, can be used for electric vehicle charging stations and infrastructure, and the rest of the money can be provided to state and local governments to replace aging diesel equipment… Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to installing cheating computer systems in nearly 500,000 vehicles… The emissions controls ran only during testing, not during normal operation, allowing vehicles to emit nitrogen oxide at high levels. The pollutant is a key contributor to lung disease and smog, which contributes to climate change… Fewer than 1 percent of all cars in Florida are electric vehicles, and the infusion of money comes at a time when clean vehicle technology has struggled to gain a foothold in Tallahassee. Legislation proposed last legislative session by state Sen. Jeff Brandes… and Rep. Jason Fischer… would have established a Smart City Challenge Grant program… to fund local innovation related to shared, electric or autonomous vehicles, but it didn’t pass. The Legislature put $325,000 into the budget in 2017 to fund the program, but Gov. Rick Scott vetoed it. Another bill, SB 852 by Brandes, would have required the Florida Transportation Commission to study the impact that the move to electric vehicles will have on Florida’s gas tax revenue and plan for it… The measure died in the final days of the session… Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava passed a resolution in March urging DEP to allocate the full 15 percent of the settlement funds for electric vehicle charging infrastructure and steer the rest of the money into projects to help local governments convert their transit fleets to electric vehicles.” Read VW has to pay Florida $166M after emissions scandal. How should we spend the money?
Commissioner Lee Constantine writes for the Orlando Sentinel – “We cannot be the No-No Party rejecting technology and science. Embracing the future would bring millions of youthful voters who recognize that shifting from a carbon-based to a climate-resilient economy would provide enormous job growth and create a new generation of billionaires. In my political career, I have always been guided by the three E’s: education, economy and the environment… The environment is a catch-all for a more peaceful, less stressful lifestyle that provides the necessities of life. As Ronald Reagan emphasized, to be a conservative you must be a conservationist. These principles have been the past and should be the future of the Republican Part.” Read Republicans have lost their way but not their firm foundation
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
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 – 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com.
May 11, 8:30 am – Attend the Save Our Water 2018 summit in Bonita Springs. For more information, click here.
May 17-20 – Attend The Florida Native Plant Society’s 38th Annual Conference in Miami. For more information, click here.
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We hope you enjoy this service and find it valuable. Our goal is to provide you with the latest and most relevant environmental news for Floridians. Our hope is that you will use this information to more effectively and frequently contact your elected representatives, and add your voice to the growing chorus of Floridians concerned about the condition of our environment and the recent direction of environmental policies.
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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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