Rick Dantzler reports for the Sun Sentinel – “I sat through an entire day of presentations by Florida farmers and ranchers looking to sell a conservation easement (essentially, the development rights) to the state through the Rural and Family Lands Program, one of the primary land conservation programs in our state. Speaker after speaker – several moved to tears – spoke of their desire to keep their land in agriculture for the rest of time. By selling the development rights, these property owners wouldn’t have to sell their land to developers in lieu of going out of business or when the price got too high to be ignored. I couldn’t help but think that, as compelling as the presentations were, what a fool’s errand it was since the Legislature put only $5.8 million dollars into the program this year, hardly enough to pay for even one of the 144 projects on the list… Most people aren’t from Florida, including many legislators and our governor, so when they arrive here they can’t believe how nice it is but they have no idea how much better it used to be, so they wonder what all the fuss is about… The story of Florida has been one of ever-expanding asphalt and concrete… [I]t’s easy to presume that this is our state’s preordained destiny, but it doesn’t have to be this way… Our legislators could recreate a state agency like the Department of Community Affairs to oversee development that affects more than one city or county, but… it was just a few years ago that the Legislature abolished it… [O]ur state will continue to be a net gainer of people so the only choice we have is to force growth to go up, not out. How would we do it? By charging a Cabinet-level elected official – the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture – with preserving as much of what remains of rural Florida as possible… Changes in land use that gobble up undeveloped land of more than a certain size would go to the Department of Agriculture for review and comment… Put a statewide elected official on the hook for keeping Florida green and you’ll have a much better chance of seeing it happen. It would be the commissioner’s legal charge to see that statutory conservation goals were achieved. With this responsibility would come the authority to implement full funding for Amendment 1…” Read Save rural Florida. Here’s how to do it.
Gary White reports for the LakeLand Ledger – “Helen Morrison, a respected conservationist and environmental educator, died in her sleep… Morrison and her late husband, Ken Morrison, were active with state conservation efforts and founders of such local groups as Ridge Audubon Society, Defenders of Crooked Lake and Green Horizon Land Trust… For about a decade, Morrison served as an environmental educator, using grant money to make presentations at schools in the Lake Wales area.” Read Florida environmentalist Helen Morrison dies
The Citrus County Chronicle Editorial Board writes – “A bill aptly named “Toilet to Tap” by its critics sits on Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s desk waiting for his signature. If Scott decides not to sign, the bill becomes law April 10. To stop the bill, Scott must veto it. The bill would allow utilities to use reclaimed water for drinking purposes by recharging the aquifer with treated effluent. Supporters of the bill point out this process is already being used in many other countries and they feel the water is cleaner than water already being consumed in some parts of the state… What they don’t tell you is the process is expensive. Additionally, Florida is one of the worst in America in water conservation. With over 60 inches annual rainfall, Florida receives enough precipitation to naturally recharge the aquifer. The problem is… Floridians waste it without a second thought. States like Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona don’t have that luxury and do a lot more to conserve the minimal rainfall they get annually. It is time Florida gets serious about water conservation… 1. Maximize the use of reclaimed water to heavy water-use businesses… 2. Continue statewide efforts to educate and incentivize best water conservation practices at the residential and commercial levels. 3. Reverse the manmade damage we’ve created when we dammed the natural waterflows across the state… In the meantime, Scott should do the right thing and veto this bill.” Read Gov. Scott must veto reclaimed water legislation
The Hernando Sun reports – “The main pollutant of concern for the Weeki Wachee Springshed is nitrates and one of the major sources they found to contribute to groundwater nitrates is septic systems… District A and B septic to sewer conversions from the conversion study have made it onto the preliminary BMAP. Districts A and B are located just north of Weeki Wachee Springs. The price for completing both conversions is $48 million. There are 900 septic systems to convert in District A and 1,310 septic systems to convert in District B… District A Phase 1 of septic to sewer conversion was on the Application for Southwest Florida Water Management District Cooperative Funding Initiative and Priority Ranking Letter for 2019. The BOCC approved that in Sept. 2017 – if funding is available they will match the cost with the… District ($5 million match)… Rep. Blaise Ingoglia has expressed concern… ‘… The (springs) law is effectively a huge billion dollar mandate with no dedicated funding source to pay for it. My fear is it will fall on the backs of unsuspecting homeowners in the form of huge tax increases…’ He questions the science behind the TMDL reduction requirements, explaining, ‘There was a study done by the University of Florida (IFAS) in conjunction with the St. Johns Water Management District… [T]here was no scientific evidence that a reduction of nitrates would restore the springs and springs water clarity and quality…’” Read Septic to sewer conversions will be expensive. Who will pay for it and will it work?
Meryl Kornfield reports for WUFT – “Senator Keith Perry co-sponsored Senate Bill 370… ‘Anytime you have more money in the pot, the state of Florida benefits,’ he said. ‘I think you are going to see a lot of money spent, and when I say spent, I mean invested.’ Houder (director of Alachua County Parks and Conservation Lands) said acquiring the land can aid in improving water quality and ecology, providing a corridor for wildlife and offering a recreational space…. In addition, the projects Florida Forever supports could have historic value… Carr Farm, which is in Alachua and Marion counties, was placed on the priority list in 2001, and so far, the government has bought 962 acres for $1,975,000… Florida Forever’s latest funding could provide the necessary money to pay for the last 305 acres of the property owned by the family of late Florida naturalist and pioneering conservationist Archie Carr… The Carr property sits between public lands, the Barr Hammock and Price’s Scrub, but is considered a low priority by Florida Forever. ‘The land is very important for connecting larger tracts so plants and animals can move through them,’ Carr said. ‘We will try to increase its ranking and work to see it protected.’ She said she expects there will be more acquisitions from the increased funding and that will benefit the state’s conservation efforts…. ‘We think it’s a move in the right direction, not just because of our project, but the importance of conservation statewide.’” Read How will $100 Million a Year in New State Funding for Land Conservation Affect Alachua County?
Amy Green reports for WUSF – “A new study suggests climate change is transforming the forests of the eastern United States… Senior author Jeremy Lichstein says in the Southeast drier conditions are encouraging slower-growing drought-tolerant species that can store less carbon. ‘As the climate gets hotter and drier in the Southeast we will likely see a shift toward forests that store less biomass, which means there is more carbon in the atmosphere, which would just accelerate the changes in climate that are already happening.’” Read Study Suggests Link Between Climate change, Changing Forests
David Smiley reports for the Miami Herald – “Miami Congressman Carlos Curbelo says it’s time for Scott Pruitt, the embattled head of the Environmental Protection Agency, to step down… Pruitt is reportedly under White House review and at risk of being fired, although Trump is said to have offered his support. Curbelo… was later joined by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who told the Huffington Post that ‘when scandals and distractions overtake a public servant’s ability to function effectively, another person should fill that role.’” Read Curbelo, Ros-Lehntinen say it’s time for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to resign
Carolyn Kormann reports for The New Yorker – “[T]hirteen defendants… had been arrested, in 2016, while protesting the construction of a high-pressure natural-gas pipeline in the neighborhood of West Roxbury, and claimed that their acts of civil disobedience – trespassing, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest – were necessary to forestall both local and global threats. In their testimony to Dirscoll, some of the defendants focused on community safety. The pipeline route, they noted, went through densely populated streets, past an active quarry where bedrock is regularly blasted…. Others discussed rising greenhouse-gas emissions and the harm that climate change is inflicting on people around the world. Driscoll listened… and… announced that she found them not guilty – that their actions were justified by reason of necessity. She acquitted them without so much as an administrative fee.” Read Sometimes Fighting Climate Change Means Breaking the Law
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
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 email@example.com or call (352) 277 – 3330.
April 7 – 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.
April 7, 1:00 pm – Attend EarthFest at the Sustainable Living Center (10665 SW 89th Ave.) in Hampton. There will be Auntie Sage Eco Story Telling for Kids, Paul’s Amazing Eco Trail Hikes, Eco Arts & Crafts, and more. For more information, email Earthman.Ty@gmail.com or call (352) 231 – 1648.
April 11, 12:45 pm – Attend the Villages Environmental Discussion Group at the Belvedere Library Community Room (325 Belvedere Blvd.) in The Villages. Grant Wilson, J.D., Directing Attorney of Earth Law Center, will make a presentation via Skype on the rights of Nature and rivers. For more information and to RSVP, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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 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 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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