Environment

Local scientists are studying the long-term effects of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s part of an international research project. It’s been six years since more than three-million barrels of oil poured into the gulf.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission has completed a years-long count of the state’s black bear population. Director of Habitat and Species Conservation, Thomas Eason says the population has grown by about 60-percent state-wide since the agency’s last estimates.

  Thawing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba is allowing researchers with Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota to expand their coral research and possibly improve the health of Florida’s coral reef tract. 

Steve Newborn / WUSF News

Melanie White is on a mission to help save the elusive - and endangered - North Atlantic Right Whale.

"They have been here longer than we have, and there's no reason they shouldn't be able to survive and co-exist with humans," she says.

One of the most controversial bills in the 2016 legislative session was put on life support Thursday in Senate Appropriations.  Hanging in the balance could be the future of the oil and gas industry in Florida, and, critics insist, Florida’s environment.

Wikipedia.org

The number of manatees in Florida seems to be steady, according to a study released by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Honey, Who Shrank The Alligators?

Feb 20, 2016

In the Florida Everglades, the alligators are in trouble.

The reptiles are scrawny, weighing 80 percent of what they should. The alligators grow more slowly, reproduce less and die younger. Researchers are trying to figure out why this iconic species is in decline — and what it means for the Everglades.

When people talk about Florida's Everglades, they often use superlatives: It's the largest protected wilderness east of the Mississippi River, and it's the biggest subtropical wetland in North America.

But it is also the site of a joint federal-state plan that is the largest ecosystem restoration effort ever attempted — one that is beginning to pay off after decades of work.

Environmentalists are breathing a sigh of relief after a powerful House Republican agreed to back down from his controversial “use it or lose it,” approach to state land.

Steve Newborn / WUSF News

Environmental groups contend that the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature is again snubbing voters who want the state to purchase conservation land.

They contend the budget proposals the Legislature is now developing violate Amendment 1, passed overwhelmingly in 2014, directing that a third of the revenue from documentary stamp taxes on real estate transactions go to buy land.

Florida Governor Rick Scott is calling on the US Army Corps of Engineers to push more excess water south toward the Everglades.  The action is aimed at alleviating pressure on coastal estuaries and the Everglades' wildlife after the winter's record rainfall.

It’s been a rainy winter and excess water at Lake Okeechobee had been pushed east and west into delicate estuaries. When that was done back in 2013, it caused toxic algae blooms. But if the Corp of Engineers follow the governor’s request for Lake Okeechobee and other places, the water will flow south toward the Everglades.

Oysters are the sea's version of fine wine: Their taste varies with the water they grow in. And slow-growing oysters from northern waters — like the briny Wellfleets of Massachusetts and the sweet, mild Kumamotos of the Pacific Northwest — are among the most coveted.

That may be changing now. An oyster renaissance in the Southeastern U.S. is underway — from Virginia all the way down to Florida's Apalachicola Bay. The region is adopting the aquaculture that restored a decimated oyster industry in the north, and it has led to a huge boost in oyster production.

Researchers are concerned about another nonnative species moving into Florida waters. Schools of the regal damselfish now live in coral reefs on the western side of the Gulf of Mexico. The fish are not harmful, but they could be a nuisance.

The Florida League of Cities is dropping its opposition to a highly controversial fracking bill after Republican sponsors and their industry allies agreed to give local officials some say over where oil and gas drilling could occur.

Elevated Tornado Risk With Approaching Storm

Jan 21, 2016
FPREN

While the Mid-Atlantic states prepare for what could me a historic snowfall, we're watching the cold front associated with this storm that could bring severe weather, including tornadoes, to the Tampa Bay area.

In only eight days earlier this month, three strong tornadoes touched down in Florida. Prior to that, only three had been recorded since 2008, a span of over seven years. Chances of another tornado event are growing Friday, and similar to last weekend’s storms, it could hit before dawn in some areas.

Timing the Tornado Risk on Friday

In the Florida Everglades alligators are in trouble. The reptiles are scrawny, weighing 80 percent of what they should. The alligators grow slower, reproduce less and die younger.

Researchers are trying to understand why the Everglades' iconic species is in decline and what it means for the ailing river of grass.

Water Policy Bill Ready for Gov. Scott's Signature

Jan 16, 2016

A statewide water-policy bill that is a top priority of House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam was overwhelmingly approved Thursday by the Florida House.

Feds Seek to Change Manatee Status to 'Threatened'

Jan 8, 2016

Pointing to increased numbers of manatees and improved habitat, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday it wants to change the status of the sea cows from endangered to threatened.

Rainbow Springs
Steve Newborn / WUSF News

A massive bill to protect Florida's springs, waterways and groundwater appears headed for passage at the start of the coming legislative session, despite objections from environmentalists who say it's been weakened by the influence of industry and agriculture interests.

They say they still hope floor amendments will close loopholes in Senate and House companion bills SB 552 and HB 7005, and are trying to pressure legislators.

Steve Newborn / WUSF News

One of the most contentious environmental issues facing state lawmakers in the upcoming session is what to do with Amendment 1. That mandated a large pot of tax money be used to buy and protect environmentally-sensitive land. But just how that money should be used is muddying the political waters.

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