Read Groups seek to lift stay in conservation money case - “Arguing that time ‘is of the essence,’ environmental groups Wednesday requested that a judge lift a stay of a ruling that found state lawmakers did not properly carry out a 2014 constitutional amendment that requires spending on land and water conservation. Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson in July ruled in favor of groups such as the Florida Wildlife Federation and the Florida Defenders of the Environment, which filed a lawsuit arguing that lawmakers had improperly diverted money to purposes other than conservation. But the state quickly appealed, a move that led to an automatic stay of Dodson’s ruling. The environmental groups said they filed a motion Wednesday in Leon County circuit court arguing that the automatic stay should be vacated and pointed to issues such as an outbreak of toxic algae in waterways in Southeast and Southwest Florida. ‘If the stay is not lifted, the Legislature can continue to spend Land Acquisition Trust Fund moneys on agency operations and for other purposes instead of buying land to address the toxic algae emergency,’ the motion said. ‘Failure to vacate the automatic stay threatens irreparable harm to the citizens and the economy of Florida.’ The 2014 voter-approved constitutional amendment was designed to require the state to use money from a real-estate tax to bolster land and water conservation. Lawmakers and attorneys for the state have disputed that the money was improperly shifted to other uses. After the appeal was filed, attorneys for the environmental groups requested that the 1st District Court of Appeal quickly pass the case along to the Florida Supreme Court, rather than going through the regular appellate process. But the appeals court rejected that request Aug. 29. ‘This litigation began in 2015 and involves appropriations that expired two years ago,’ the appeals court said. ‘No immediacy exists, and the normal appellate process is adequate; to the extent a true exigency arises, the appellate process in this (1st District) Court can be expedited upon a proper showing.” From the News Service of Florida.
Read What candidates aren’t saying about Lake Okeechobee crisis- “As candidates try to blame someone else for the Lake Okeechobee algae crisis, here are two truths: Florida can’t fix this recurring problem without a massive public investment, and Gov. Rick Scott’s solution is the worst idea. Decades of abuse turned Lake Okeechobee into a cesspool, a reality that presented itself in the early 1970s. Audubon of Florida’s Charles Lee recalls the ‘Special Project to Prevent the Eutrophication of Lake Okeechobee’ when Reuben Askew was governor. Eutrophication is excessive growth of plants and algae. It deprives the lake of oxygen. The causes are pollutants rich in nutrients, notably nitrogen and phosphorus. Phosphorus comes from fertilizer. For years, the state regularly allowed farms south of the lake to pump runoff into the lake so fields didn’t flood. Nitrogen comes from cow manure. For years, dairy farms north of the lake sent it through their runoff. Fifty years ago, there was no Disney World. Since 1971, when the park opened, Central Florida growth has sent pollution-laden suburban runoff into the lake...To understand the challenge, you need to understand that Lake Okeechobee is the midpoint of a hydrological system. It starts south of Orlando, at the headwaters of the Kissimmee River, and ends in the Keys, at Florida Bay. Before the settlement of South Florida, water overflowed from the lake and trickled south, creating the Everglades. Civilization disrupted that cycle. The St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, through which those discharges flow, originally didn’t connect to the lake. The state dug canals to them from the lake, to allow farming in what is now the 700,000-acre Everglades Agricultural Area. At that point, the priority became sending water east and west, not south. Despite many state and federal projects to make the lake cleaner, that fundamental problem remains. Re-engineering the system to restore that historic southward flow could require at least $10 billion and perhaps much more. That’s in addition to the $1 billion-plus from the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. To succeed, such re-engineering also would have to overcome opposition from farmers who don’t want to sell their land. When the Legislature finally approved money for a southern reservoir last year, sugar growers successfully lobbied to make it smaller. Money for the reservoir is in the House and Senate water bills…” Randy Schultz writes Opinion for the Sun Sentinel.
Read Gulf of Mexico oil spill much worse than thought, federal lawyers say - “Federal government lawyers say a 14-year-old leak is releasing much more oil each day into the Gulf of Mexico than officials previously claimed, and it may be getting worse. A Friday court filing in a case involving Taylor Energy Co. says 10,000 to 30,000 gallons daily is leaking from multiple wells around a drilling platform toppled by 2004's Hurricane Ivan. That estimate is far above the 16,000 gallons of oil that the U.S. Coast Guard estimated in 2015 had been spotted in slicks over seven months. The government cites a report it commissioned from a scientist who has studied satellite images of persistent oil slicks and sampled floating oil at the site about 10 miles offshore. That report also suggests that while the amount of leaking oil decreased after some wells were plugged in 2011, the leak may be getting bigger again. ‘There has been an uptrend of the areas of the slick during the last two years,’ wrote Oscar Pineda-Garcia, who runs a company that maps oil spills and is an adjunct professor at Florida State University. New Orleans-based Taylor said only 2 to 3 gallons was leaking daily out of mud on the seafloor. Spokesman Todd Ragusa said the company disputes the government's new estimate and will respond in court. Friday's court filing also says Taylor and the Coast Guard met in August and discussed plugging more wells as part of an effort to eliminate the persistent oil sheen seen at the site. The wellheads are more than 400 feet underwater and buried under 60 to 100 feet of mud. Taylor sued the government in January 2016 to recover millions of dollars it set aside for work to end the leak. The suit claims regulators violated a 2008 agreement requiring the company to deposit approximately $666 million in a trust to pay for leak response work. The company argued the government must return the remaining $423 million. The government's lawyers disagree, though, saying no change to the agreement has been made and the money should remain on deposit until the work is done…” Jeff Amy, Michael Kunzelman report for the Orlando Sentinel.
Read Following fertilizer leads to farms, golf courses, landscaping amid algae blooms - “Follow the fertilizer. One of the suspected culprits of the toxic algae blooms that have plagued south Florida waterways since June can be traced to farms and groves, lawns and golf courses, landscaping and Orlando theme parks. Even local governments may be feeding the blooms. Septic tank leakage has factored as well. And, environmental experts said, climate change behind fiercer storms and increased heat can bear some blame. But the trail to the truth, like the polluted water itself, appears murky...Following the fertilizer leads to asking: What’s the line between having healthy farms and grass with having healthy waterways?... ‘The answer to that is you get phosphorous in the soil down to moderate amounts that are adequate for crops but not so high that they pollute the water,” said Steve Carpenter, who studies soil at the University of Wisconsin. He’s a lake ecologist who analyzes the over-enrichment of soil and lake ecosystems that lead to toxic algae blooms and fish kills. ‘Farmers are not necessarily against that,’...Following the fertilizer goes beyond farms. A 2009 ordinance in Lee County prohibits the residential use of phosphorous and nitrogen between June 1 and Sept. 30, during the rainy season. But the ordinance exempts public property and golf courses in addition to farmlands. The City of Fort Myers used 9.5 tons of nitrogen and 1,628 pounds of phosphorous, spread this year over the combined 188 acres of golf courses at Eastwood and Fort Myers country clubs. The City of Cape Coral parks and recreation department spends about $38,560 a year on fertilizing its 86 acres of city lands and does not use nitrogen or phosphorous during the residential ban. 150 miles from Lee County, fertilizer runoff from Clermont, Disney World and other developments west of Orlando, ends up in the headwaters of the Kissimmee River, experts said. This creates a flow of nutrient runoff into Lake Okeechobee….Following the algae blooms means more than following the fertilizer, Carpenter said from Wisconsin. He said it meant acknowledging the higher temperatures and heavier rain in 2017 and early 2018 were part of a changing climate caused by mankind’s extensive use of fossil fuels. ‘There’s no organized plan to address climate change,’ Carpenter said. ‘But the one thing that we could do is figure out where these highly-polluted soils are and stabilize them so they stay out of streams....” David Dorsey reports for the Fort Myers News-Press.
Read Florida legislators, step up and save the Land and Water Conservation Fund - “President Theodore Roosevelt once wrote, ‘There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm.” For more than 30 years, I woke up every day and went to my job at the National Parks Service, and found a new reason to believe those words. During my tenure at NPS, I bore witness to natural wonders, the beauty of which is impossible to describe in words. How do you describe watching the sunrise deep in the Everglades, or watching it set in the most remote corners of the Arctic Circle? I am deeply proud of my service as park superintendent of Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks in Florida, Gates of the Arctic in Alaska, and Delaware Water Gap in Pennsylvania. I feel that as Americans, it is our duty to protect our wild places so that future generations can look upon them in wonder, too. That’s why I am increasingly troubled by reports that Congress may not act to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a vital conservation program which is set to expire on Sept. 30. Since 1966, LWCF dollars have helped protect and enhance important places in every state in our great nation, from wildlife refuges to local ballfields, and everything in between. That’s why it should come as no surprise that LWCF has enjoyed wide bipartisan support for decades — especially since the program draws absolutely no tax dollars from our pockets. Instead, LWCF invests earnings from offshore oil and gas leasing into communities across the country….Since its inception, LWCF has invested more than $1 billion to protect the Everglades, Biscayne National Park, Osceola National Forest, and countless other unique places. The St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, for instance, has received more than $11 million dollars in LWCF funding. It’s not just the flora and the fauna that depend on LWCF. People come from all over to snorkel off our coasts, hike through our forests, and create one-of-a-kind memories of the Sunshine State wildlife with their families. Florida is home to a booming $58.6 billion outdoor recreation industry, which supports nearly half a million jobs. The Everglades alone bring in more than a hundred million dollars a year for the surrounding communities. Losing LWCF is a direct threat to Florida’s economy, and the Floridians that depend on it…” Richard Ring writes Opinion for the Sun Sentinel.
Read State red tide funding soars to $13 million- “Gov. Rick Scott is putting another $4 million toward red tide funding for local communities impacted by the outbreak. The Tuesday announcement brings the total Florida Department of Environmental Protection funding available so far to $13 million...The DEP has already awarded $1.3 million to Pinellas County and more than $1.5 million to Sarasota County and last month declared a state of emergency. “‘In Florida, we know that when red tide makes it to our shores, as it has for generations, this naturally-occurring algae can have unexpected and prolonged impacts on our Gulf Coast,’ Scott said in a statement. Red tide has become an issue in Scott’s campaign against Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. An angry crowd of Scott critics booed him from a Cuban restaurant in Venice this week with signs emblazoned with criticisms including those calling him “Red Tide Rick.” Those critics blame Scott’s environmental policies for polluted water in Lake Okeechobee that has been making its way into the Gulf. Scott and his supporters contend red tide is naturally occurring and has been since at least the 1800s. In addition to Pinellas and Sarasota funding, the state has also allocated $750,000 for Manatee County, $190,000 for Collier County, $3.9 million for Lee County and $700,000 for Martin County. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced this week it was providing $1.2 million to enhance research and production of redfish at the FWC’s Stock Enhancement Research Facility at Port Manatee. Crews along affected beaches continue to use private vessels including shrimping boats to scoop dead fish from the water before they reach the shoreline. They are also working to treat larger marine animals like dolphins and manatees sickened by the bacteria as well as infected fish.” Janelle Irwin Taylor reports for Florida Politics.
Read Nelson, Rubio file bill to rename wildlife refuge for late environmentalist Nathaniel Reed- “ Florida's U.S. senators Tuesday introduced legislation to rename the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge after renowned environmentalist Nathaniel “Nat” Reed. Reed, who died in July at 84 years old, grew up and lived in Jupiter Island near the 1,035-acre refuge in southern Martin County. He was known throughout the state and the country for his efforts to restore Florida’s Everglades. Reed’s legacy also includes helping protect Big Cypress Swamp and, as assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, guiding the Endangered Species Act of 1973 through Congress and into law. Reed's father, Joseph Reed, gave Florida Audubon land in 1969 that is now the Jupiter Island portion of the refuge, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson noted in a news release. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said it was a fitting tribute that the land where Reed's ‘passion for nature was first inspired’ be named in his honor.” Staff report from the TC Palm.
Read Our better nature: How the great outdoors can improve your life- “If you live in a big city, you may have noticed new buildings popping up — a high-rise here, a skyscraper there. The concrete jungles that we've built over the past century have allowed millions of us to live in close proximity, and modern economies to flourish. But in this shift to an increasingly urbanized society, are we missing something important? For more than 30 years, psychologist Ming Kuo has studied the effects of nature on humans. She came to this field of research not from an interest in greenery, but from a fascination with crowding and noise — the negative impacts of urban environments. ‘I was interested in the dark side of the environment,’ she says. ‘I was interested in how violent or dangerous or you know bad urban environments had detrimental effects on people.’ Kuo says she eventually became intrigued by the positive effects of nature after she started to dig into the data…’It's only when you look at the patterns of what people are like with more and less access to nature that you start to see this pattern,’ she says….” Shankar Vedantam, Thomas Lu, and Tara Boyle for NPR Hidden Brain.
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
September 19, 12:00 noon – 1:30 p.m. – FREE Trouble in Paradise Webinar: This project was spearheaded by the late Nathaniel Pryor Reed to educate candidates for office and citizens on key environmental issues facing our state and strategies to address them. Attend this free webinar to learn more and gain insights on how to advocate for change. Trouble in Paradise was produced by 1000 Friends of Florida, Apalachicola Riverkeeper, Defenders of Wildlife, Florida Defenders of the Environment, Florida Springs Council, Florida Springs Institute, Florida Wildlife Corridor, Florida Wildlife Federation and League of Women Voters of Florida. The webinar has been approved for professional certification credits for planners, Florida attorneys, and certified environmental health professionals. The full report and registration information are available at http://www.1000friendsofflorida.org/webinar/.
September 24, 7:00-9:00 pm - Water Voices Program: Clear Choices for Clean Water (High Springs): The Ichetucknee Alliance resumes its popular Water Voices speaker series this fall with a program designed to inspire people to take action to solve the problems that plague the Ichetucknee River and its associated springs. This free event will feature a talk by Dr. Robert L. Knight, Executive Director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute (FSI), and the premiere of three new videos, Ichetucknee: Yesterday – Today – Tomorrow, edited by award-winning documentary filmmaker Eric Flagg. Knight will also describe FSI’s newest project, a Blue Water Audit, as well as his idea for an Aquifer Protection Fee. See this press release for more information. High Springs New Century Woman’s Club, 23674 U.S. Highway 27, High Springs, FL 32643.
September 25, 6:00 PM - Free showing of the Sierra Club film 'Reinventing Power' (Destin) - Sierra Club Emerald Coast, League of Women Voters of Okaloosa & Walton County, and Earth Ethics, Inc. present Reinventing Power: America’s Renewal Energy Boom. The movie takes us across the country to hear directly from the people making our clean energy future achievable. These individuals are working to rebuild what’s broken, rethink what’s possible, and revitalize communities. These stories are proof that America does not need to choose between keeping our lights on and protecting our communities. Critically, Reinventing Power underscores the notion that we don’t have to sacrifice jobs for a clean environment. Over the film’s 50 minutes, you’ll meet people in eight states whose lives were changed by the renewable energy industry while exploring various aspects of the clean energy industry from innovation to installation. Register with EventBrite here
September 26, 6:00-8:00 pm – Environmental Center Night: Owls of North Florida (High Springs): Join the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute and Sunrise Wildlife Rehabilitation for a fun evening learning about “Owls of North Florida” at the North Florida Springs Environmental Center. Sunrise Wildlife Rehabilitation (SWR) will introduce three owl species individually enlightening visitors with a bit of natural history on each owl. Then, SWR wildlife ambassadors and their handlers will spread out-to stations in the various area of North Florida Springs Environmental Center garden to display each owl and allow up close/safe viewing. Learn more here: https://floridaspringsinstitute.org/event/owlsofnf/. Address North Florida Springs Environmental Center, 99 NW 1st Avenue, High Springs, FL 32643.
October 2, 6:30-8:30 pm - Water Voices Program: Clear Choices for Clean Water (Lake City): The Ichetucknee Alliance resumes its popular Water Voices speaker series this fall with a program designed to inspire people to take action to solve the problems that plague the Ichetucknee River and its associated springs. This free event will feature a talk by Dr. Robert L. Knight, Executive Director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute (FSI), and the premiere of three new videos, Ichetucknee: Yesterday – Today – Tomorrow, edited by award-winning documentary filmmaker Eric Flagg. Knight will also describe FSI’s newest project, a Blue Water Audit, as well as his idea for an Aquifer Protection Fee. See this press release for more information. Columbia County Public Library – Main, 308 NW Columbia Ave., Lake City, FL 32055
October 2, 12:00 pm - Free showing of the Sierra Club film 'Reinventing Power' (Pensacola) - Sierra Club Emerald Coast, League of Women Voters of the Pensacola Bay Area, and Earth Ethics, Inc. present Reinventing Power: America’s Renewal Energy Boom. The movie takes us across the country to hear directly from the people making our clean energy future achievable. These individuals are working to rebuild what’s broken, rethink what’s possible, and revitalize communities. These stories are proof that America does not need to choose between keeping our lights on and protecting our communities. Critically, Reinventing Power underscores the notion that we don’t have to sacrifice jobs for a clean environment. Over the film’s 50 minutes, you’ll meet people in eight states whose lives were changed by the renewable energy industry while exploring various aspects of the clean energy industry from innovation to installation. Register with EventBrite here.
October 2, 12:00-1:00 pm – Springs Academy Tuesday: Springs Overview (High Springs): Join the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute for an hour-long presentation with Florida Springs Institute Executive Director, Dr. Robert Knight. During this class, Dr. Knight will be presenting an in-depth overview of springs and how they support our land and our daily lives! After each class, students get a chance to sit down for lunch with Dr. Knight and Florida Springs Institute staff to ask questions and find out more about how they can get involved in protecting these important natural resources. Registration for each class is not required; however, there is a $5 suggested donation for each class. Address: North Florida Springs Environmental Center, 99 NW 1st Avenue, High Springs, FL 32643.
October 5, 9:00 a.m.-4:45 p.m. - Palm Beach County 2070 Workshop: What does the future hold for Palm Beach County? Can the county accommodate the more than 750,000 new residents anticipated by 2070 and still maintain its quality of life and natural lands? Join 1000 Friends of Florida in exploring how Palm Beach County should grow with experts on conservation, planning, urban development, economic development and citizen engagement. What can we do today to plan for a better tomorrow in Palm Beach County? This day-long workshop is being hosted by 1000 Friends of Florida at the Vista Center in West Palm Beach. The cost is $20 per attendee and professional certification credits have been approved for planners (7 AICP CM #221015), Certified Foodplain Managers, and Florida Environmental Health Professionals and are being sought for Florida attorneys and others. Find out more and register at www.1000friendsofflorida.org/pbco2070.
October 12, 9 a.m. – 4:15 p.m. – Martin County 2070 Workshop: Martin County is expected to grow by about 30% by 2070. How can the County accommodate new residents and still maintain its quality of life and natural areas? A team of conservationists, planners, developers and others will explore how to lay the foundation now for a more sustainable future for Martin County. This day-long workshop is being hosted by 1000 Friends of Florida and The Guardians of Martin County and is being held in Stuart. Registration is $20 per attendee and includes lunch. Professional certification credits have been approved for planners (5.75 AICP CM) and are being sought for Florida attorneys and others. We hope you’ll join us! Find out more and register at /www.1000friendsofflorida.org/martin-county-2070/.
October 13, 9:00am-3:00pm - Fall Wildflower Festival & Native Plant Sale (Parrish): The Serenoa Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society and the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program present the Fall Wildflower Festival and Native Plant Sale at Sweetbay Nursery, 10824 Erie Road, Parrish. Get all the latest information from conservation groups such as Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, Audubon Society, Tampa Bay Watch, and more. Ray’s Vegan Soul food available for purchase. For more information, call 941-776-0501.
October 20-21 – Into the Springs Music Festival (Alachua): Join the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute for its second annual Into the Springs Music Festival at Deep Spring Farm. Enjoy a weekend full of live music, camping, organic farming workshops, yoga, and community in support of Florida springs! To learn more and purchase tickets, visit https://floridaspringsinstitute.org/event/intothesprings/. Funding for this event was provided in part by Visit Gainesville/Alachua County. Address: Deep Springs Farm, 16419 W County Rd 1491, Alachua, FL 32615.
October 26, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. - Water Symposium: The State of our Water (DeLand): The Volusia Water Alliance hosts a series of short presentations on the water problems we face and possible solutions by leaders and experts, focused on Volusia County and applicable statewide. This free event features keynote speaker Dr. Jason Evans, Faculty Director of the Institute for Water & Environmental Resilience, Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Studies at Stetson University, and Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Environmental Management. His topic is "Reclaiming the Future: Science, Engagement, and Hope in Our State of Watery Peril.” Seating is limited; please register online at VolusiaWater.org. Optional catered lunch from DeLand Natural Market (wrap, chips, water, and a brownie) is available for $12 with registration. Visit VolusiaWater.org for more information. Sponsorships are available. Wayne G. Sanborn Activity Center - 815 S. Alabama Ave., DeLand, FL 32724.
November 1, 12:00 noon to 1:30 p.m. -- FREE Sustainable Landscaping Principles and Practices Webinar: This free webinar will explore best practices, trends and market opportunities for sustainable landscaping in the State of Florida. Sustainable Landscaping is a set of landscaping principles and practices which minimize environmental degradation and make more efficient use of energy, water and other natural resources. This course will review the latest research and present current best practices for designing, building and maintaining sustainable landscapes. Project case studies will be used to discuss a framework for how to promote sustainable landscaping on large scale commercial projects working with multiple stakeholders through conceptual planning through implementation and long-term maintenance. The instructors are Pierce Jones, Ph.D., the University of Florida Extension Program Leader for Energy Programs, and Timothee Sallin, president of Cherrylake, an integrated landscape company. This event has been approved for credits for planners, Certified Floodplain Manger and Florida Environmental Health Professionals and are being sought for Florida attorneys and others. Register at www.1000friendsofflorida.org/webinar.
November 1-4 - The Florida Springs Restoration Summit (Ocala) - Join the Florida Springs Council in Ocala to learn from state leaders and experts on how we can make meaningful springs restoration a reality. The Florida Springs Restoration Summit brings together scientists, academics, advocates, reporters, policy makers, and other citizens to discuss the status of springs health and steps needed for meaningful springs restoration and long-term protection. The cost to attend the Springs Summit is kept low to encourage participation by members of the public and nonprofit organizations. To learn more about the 2018 Springs Restoration Summit and register, see the Summit website.
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