FCC News Brief - May 14, 2019

Quote of the Day: “You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand that these resources are their own, that they must protect them.”  - Wangari Maathai  

Read DeSantis should veto Florida lawmakers’ ‘sneak attack’ on sane development, growth management- “On the next-to-last day of the just-ended session of the Florida Legislature, a senator from St. Petersburg slipped a little amendment into a bill about affordable housing that was destined for passage the next day. The amendment received no scrutiny in committee hearings. It was approved by a voice vote in the rush of activity as the session was hurtling to a close. And it could sound the death knell for growth management in the state of Florida. It’s “maybe the worst bill you never heard of,” says Paul Owens, president of 1000 Friends of Florida, the statewide nonprofit dedicated to building sustainable communities. He also calls it “one of the most pernicious pieces of legislation for Florida’s future to emerge from the 2019 session.” Thanks to the amendment from Sen. Jeff Brandes, a Republican whose arms must be sore from carrying all that water for development interests, House Bill 7103 would make it much harder for any citizen who wants to challenge a local government’s development decision in court -- if they lose the case, they’d now have to pay the government’s legal fees. Basically, that avenue of protest will be closed to all but the wealthiest of citizens. As of this writing, Gov. Ron DeSantis has not yet signed the bill, which was passed by both the House and Senate by wide margins on May 3, the session’s last day. If he truly means to be the “Teddy Roosevelt conservationist” he says he wants to be, he must veto this sneak attack on rational development…” From the Palm Beach Post Editorial Board.

Read Environmentalists to stage protests against toll road expansion - “ The Sierra Club will stage three major protests this week, in an effort to convince Gov. Ron DeSantis to nix a toll road expansion. A news conference in Hollywood, rally in St. Petersburg and a flash mob in Gainesville will each aim to increase skepticism. But a veto by the first-term governor also runs the risk of making an enemy of Senate President Bill Galvano. The Bradenton Republican made the roadways his top priority of this Legislative Session. It’s no shock the Sierra Club holds a distaste for the roadway. The group delivered sharp rebukes over several months against the plan. Earlier this month, state leaders for the environmental lobby called approval of the project a “declaration of war.” “It is the worst bill for Florida’s environment we have seen in more than 20 years,” said Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club Florida director, and Timothy Martin, Sierra Club Florida conservation chair. Galvano, of course, characterizes the plan differently. The “Multi-Use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance” proposal (SB 7068) authorizes an ambitious plan to pave new traffic corridors. That includes extending the Suncoast Parkway north to the Georgia line and paving the Florida Turnpike west to connect with the Suncoast Parkway. It also proposes a new toll road, reminiscent of the once-planned Heartland Parkway, running from Polk to Collier County...The Sierra Club will hold a news conference on Tuesday at 11 a.m. in Hollywood. There, several experts will explain why improvements in state transit make more sense than new toll roads...Later that same day, several environmental groups will band together at a protest at Williams Park in St. Petersburg. Organizers for the 5 p.m. event encouraged costumed protesters and concerned citizens to attend. Things cap off Wednesday with a flash mob at Bo Diddley Plaza in Gainesville. The choreographed 4 p.m. event will include activists and officials from Center for Biological Diversity, Florida Springs Council and Rum 138…” Jacob Ogles reports for Florida Politics.

Read Fertilizer regulations take effect in Brevard County, those include mandatory signs in stores- “Brevard County stores are putting up signs explaining the best ways to fertilize along the ailing Indian River Lagoon. That’s in response to a new county ordinance. The signs explain county rules around fertilizer use. County spokesman Don Walker says that includes avoiding fertilizer use during the rainy season and using fertilizers during the dry season that minimize nutrient pollution in the lagoon. “And again, we can’t tell people what they can and can’t put on their shelves at home nor their pantries. Nor can we tell them what they can put in their garage or on their yard. But we can at least try to educate them in the types of fertilizers they should be buying and using and how not to overuse it.” Walker says businesses that don’t comply with this new rule will receive citations and fines of up to $500 dollars. He says these rules will help curb the nutrient pollution from fertilizers.  Bryan White of Brevard Farm and Ranch Supply owns a store that sells fertilizer. He say he doesn’t mind hanging a sign but: “I believe people are going to do what they’re going to do anyway. But I do believe that people over fertilize. I do definitely believe that. So I just think they need to educate people a little bit better.” While Leesa Souto of the Marine Resources Council says the reminders should change consumer buying behaviors. “The point of sale is the most important place to educate people about the fertilizer ordinances. Any information you can get at the point of sale where the consumer is making a choice about the product is going to be helpful.” The county says reducing nitrogen and phosphorus in waterways is a step toward preventing toxic algal blooms.” Danielle Prieur reports for WMFE.

Read Rooney gathers high-powered panel for second roundtable on toxic algae, but this time, it was open to all- “U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney opened the second meeting in a week on harmful algal blooms by promising a "robust, free and honest exchange of information." After drawing ire and a smattering of praise for gathering some 20 federal, state and local officials to discuss toxic algae in a closed meeting Tuesday, Rooney, R-Naples, invited nonprofits, community leaders and citizens to this Friday event, hosted by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. As promised, panelists didn’t soft-pedal their pleas for action on the red tide and cyanobacteria crises that devastated South Florida’s economy and wildlife last year. Their messages to the congressman included: Connect scientists to citizens and policymakers, Put teeth into pollution regulations instead of trusting agriculture to voluntarily meet water standards, Protect wetlands, Communicate clearly about health risks to humans and wildlife, Rein in the phosphate mining industry, Keep fisheries healthy...The Conservancy’s Rob Moher asked Rooney not to transfer federal wetland permitting responsibilities to an already overburdened Florida Department of Environmental Protection. “We are the epicenter of wetland loss in the United States. We lost more wetlands in the last two decades than any place in the country. We know that one acre of wetlands stores and purifies 1600 gallons of wetlands and purifies it,” Moher said. “If we destroy wetlands, we’re taking out the infrastructure that protects this community … We have to save what’s left.” Amy Bennett Williams reports for the Fort Myers News-Press.

Read Everyone talks about the water, but is anyone doing anything about it?- “Water, water everywhere. With apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, his ancient mariner could hardly have been surrounded more by water than we are here in Southwest Florida. Both literally, in the way the Gulf, rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, canals and swales dominate the topography but also figuratively, in the way water commands our attention, especially these days. As summer arrives, we wait with trepidation to see whether it brings a repeat of last year’s waterborne calamities of red tide and blue-green algae. We’re helpless, in the short term, to do much about it. Heavy rains will necessitate the release of large volumes of water from Lake Okeechobee down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, creating the freshwater mix that encourages algae blooms. Warm temperatures and fertilizer runoff add to the recipe. Potential solutions involving billions of dollars in investments to store and treat even more billions of gallons of water will take years to complete. So, the best we can do right now is talk about things. That’s exactly what’s been happening. U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney convened a meeting of government scientists, health experts and local officials last week to talk about ways to better communicate and respond to the next crisis...On Friday, Rooney convened another meeting, one open to the press and public. About 20 panelists gathered at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. The size of the panel is indicative of the scope of the problem. Participants brought up manifestations of the crisis ranging from the obvious —environmental damage to fisheries and wetlands, economic harm through lost tourism, health concerns from the toxic nature of the blooms — to the less obvious, like a potential drop in charitable giving if recurring blooms cause donors to move elsewhere...What it all amounts to is an ocean of words meant to better prepare us for, but not prevent, another bout with toxic waters this year. Like the ancient mariner, we’re faced with the figurative prospect of water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink…” Brent Batten writes for the News Press.

Read State cuts $500k for bear-resistant trash cans: Will it halt progress in curbing conflicts between humans and bears?- “A program to help local communities reduce run-ins between people and bears failed to make it into next year’s state budget, disappointing wildlife advocates. Lawmakers had considered earmarking $500,000 to help local governments provide bear-resistant, lock-top garbage cans, a strategy that has proved successful in curbing dangerous human-bear conflicts in Central Florida’s wildlife corridor. But they trimmed the money from the final $91.1 billion budget. “I am afraid that the loss of state appropriations to assist communities and local governments in obtaining ‘BearWise’ cans is going to significantly reduce the number of communities that become ‘bear-wise,’ effectively halting the progress that has been made,” said Gary Kaleita, who drafted the policy used in the Wingfield North community in Seminole County where he resides. BearWise trash containers have a locking lid to keep bears out...FWC has provided more than $2 million to date to help Florida communities co-exist with bears, including $1.26 million to Seminole, Lake and Orange combined. Those funds have helped pay for nearly 10,000 lock-top trash bins in those counties as well as electric fencing systems and other measures to help residents lock up garbage. Those three counties typically rank near the top of the state list for most complaints to the FWC’s nuisance-bear hotline...Grant money has been instrumental in helping less affluent communities. “I think some County Commissions and City Councils in bear-prone areas will have to make some tough choices,” Kaleita said. The grant program was created after FWC staged a bear hunt in 2015 — the first in two decades — that killed 304 bears. Jay Exum, a Longwood resident who serves as chairman of the Florida Wildlife Federation, said lock-top trash bins made a difference in his neighborhood, which also borders a wildlife corridor. He said government funding subsidies helped pay for the bins…” Stephen Hudak reports for the Orlando Sentinel.

Read 180 countries-not including US- agree to restrict global plastic waste trade - “The governments of 187 countries have agreed to control the movement of plastic waste between national borders, in an effort to curb the world's plastic crisis -- but the United States was not among them. Nations agreed to add plastic to the Basel Convention, a treaty that regulates movement of hazardous materials from one country to another, in order to combat the dangerous effects of plastic pollution around the world. The pact was approved at the end of a two-week meeting of UN-backed conventions in Geneva, Switzerland. But the US was not involved in the decision-making process, as it is one of just two countries that have not ratified the agreement. The resolution means contaminated and most mixes of plastic wastes will require prior consent from receiving countries before they are traded, with the exceptions of mixes of PE, PP and PET, according to WWF. Although it sat out of the decision, the ruling will still apply to the United States when it tries to trade plastic waste to virtually any country in the world. The US has been sending its plastic waste to various countries around the world, including China and Malaysia, but has recently faced crackdowns in those countries as they attempt to cope with the amounts of plastic flooding through their borders…” Rob Picheta and Sarah Dean report for CNN.

Read Mariana Trench: Deepest-ever sub dive finds plastic bag bag - “An American explorer has found plastic waste on the seafloor while breaking the record for the deepest ever dive. Victor Vescovo descended nearly 11km (seven miles) to the deepest place in the ocean - the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench. He spent four hours exploring the bottom of the trench in his submersible, built to withstand the immense pressure of the deep. He found sea creatures, but also found a plastic bag and sweet wrappers. It is the third time humans have reached the ocean's extreme depths...The team believes it has discovered four new species of prawn-like crustaceans called amphipods, saw a creature called a spoon worm 7,000m-down and a pink snailfish at 8,000m. They also discovered brightly coloured rocky outcrops, possibly created by microbes on the seabed, and collected samples of rock from the seafloor.Humanity's impact on the planet was also evident with the discovery of plastic pollution. It's something that other expeditions using landers have seen before. Millions of tonnes of plastic enter the oceans each year, but little is known about where a lot of it ends up…” Rebecca Morelle reports for BBC News.

From Our Readers

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Job Openings:

Sustainability Administrator - City of Fort Lauderdale

Marine Science Faculty Position- Florida Keys Community College

Executive Director - Friends of Gumbo Limbo

Upcoming Environmental Events:

May 16th - Clean Water Paddle Series - (Pensacola Beach) - Join the Healthy Gulf for the Clean Water Paddle Series every Thursday at 6 pm. Paddleboards, kayaks, canoes—all paddlecraft are welcome. Paddleboards will be available for rental. We’ll paddle around Little Sabine Bay for up to one hour, then enjoy the sunset from The Shaka Bar. Environmental education will be provided before, during, and after the paddle by Healthy Gulf and others. Learn about seagrass, clean water, marine life, and how you can help to protect it all. For more information about the Clean Water Paddle Series please visit Healthy Gulf on Facebook or call 850-687-9968 or christian@healthygulf.org. Meet at Aloha Wine and Liquor, 649 Pensacola Beach Blvd, Pensacola Beach.

May 16-19 - 39th Annual Florida Native Plant Society Conference - (Crystal River)- Our theme this year "Transitions" is pertinent to the Nature Coast region of Florida in a number of ways - sea level rise, migrations of ecosystems due to climate change, and the transition zone between north and south Florida.  You will be delighted by mind-expanding experiences, tempted by sumptuous meals (including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free) and amazed by the networking and social opportunities. As always, we will offer an abundance of presentations and workshops. 9301 West Fort Island Trail, Crystal River, FL 34429 . Click here for attendee and vendor registration.

June 10-14, June 24-28, 2019 - Camp Kids in the Woods at the Austin Cary Forest - (Gainesville) - Is your 6th-9th grade child looking for fun adventure this summer?  Consider Camp Kids in the Woods! Campers will conduct various field explorations led by local scientists from forestry, wildlife, and water resources. Highlights include: fishing, handling wildlife, exploring local ecosystems, a trip to a local spring, camping out one night at the Austin Cary Forest, building wildlife nesting boxes, and participating in games and scavenger hunts. After a week of fun in the forest, campers gain a better understanding and deeper appreciation of their natural world and what is required to be a good steward of the environment. Camp Kids in the Woods summer program is a collaborative effort between the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation and the USDA Forest Service. Session 1: June 10-14, 2019; Session 2: June 24-28, 2019. For more information and to register visit: www.campkidsinthewoods.org , or contact the Camp Director, Molly Disabb at kidsinthewoods@ifas.ufl.edu

Do you know of an upcoming environmental event or meeting you would like to include in the FCC News Brief? Send us a quick e-mail and we will include it for you.


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Save the Heritage Trees at Martin Luther King Jr. Park - Winter Park

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End collection & removal of tropical marine life from Phil Foster Park

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Another Gulf is Possible

Save the Serenova Tract in Pasco – Say NO to the Ridge Road Extension

Florida Solar Bill of Rights

Protect Florida’s Gulf Coast from Offshore Drilling

Protect Weeki Wachee Springs; Stop the 7 Diamonds Mine in Pasco County

Stop New Phosphate Strip Mining in Florida

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