Environment

Another Proposal Heats Up Solar Energy Ballot Fight

Jul 16, 2015

A new "pro solar-energy" coalition will push for its own ballot initiative as a way to counter a separate group's proposed constitutional amendment to expand the use of solar energy in Florida.

Consumers for Smart Solar, a group whose leadership includes two former state lawmakers, a Jacksonville tea-party founder and a former chairman of the Florida Public Service Commission, announced Wednesday that it will race to collect signatures to get on the 2016 ballot alongside the ongoing effort by a group known as Floridians for Solar Choice.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection

A Miami company is bracing for a likely battle with environmentalists after applying to drill for oil in the Everglades.

Kanter Real Estate LLC, which owns 20,000 undeveloped acres of the Everglades in southwestern Broward County, filed applications with the state to drill an exploratory well to assess the feasibility of extracting oil.

The news hasn’t set well with environmental advocates, who say drilling would threaten the water supply, destroy wildlife habitat and complicate the restoration of the delicate Everglades ecosystem.

An annual report by an government watchdog group said the state’s environmental regulatory agency is doing very little when it comes to regulating.

The group said there’s a dramatic shift in how the Florida Department of Environmental Protection operates under Gov. Rick Scott.

Daylina Miller/WUSF News

“Oooooh, a shark! Look! That's the one that ate Nemo!"

Keriann Roque ran up to the glass where she pointed out a shark swimming in the tank a few feet above her head. She gasped as it circled around to swim closer. The 12 year old was at the Florida Aquarium for a summer camp field trip.

She said learning more about sharks has made her less afraid of them.

U.S. Representatives from Florida are pushing to extend a ban on oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The new restriction was added to a Department of the Interior appropriations bill this week. That bill is pending in the House.

The current ban is set to expire in 2022, but this move would block drilling in that area four more years.

Note: Audio to come.

Update:

WGCU asked for comment about how enforceable the present moratorium on saw palmetto berry picking might be in light of the black market that exists around the berry. A spokesperson with the Florida Department of Agriculture wrote in an email "The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is partnering with our department to help enforce the moratorium on palmetto berry harvests on state forest land." 

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The Florida Department of Agriculture recently put a moratorium on picking saw palmetto berries in state forests. The berries are a major part of the state’s black bear diet. They’re also collected and sold for medicines.

Environmental groups said the lack of available berries for bears is one of the likely causes behind the recent incidents between humans and bears.

Now that berry pickers are being put on hold, they want the state to also hold off on its recently approved bear hunt.

DEP

UPDATE: The URL for the Beach Access Map has been shortened to fdep.maps.arcgis.com.

Florida has 825 miles of sandy coastline, but it may not feel that way if you don't know where to find public access in between the privately-owned properties.

Florida will receive at least $3.2 billion  from an $18.7 billion settlement with BP over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

BP and five Gulf states announced the massive settlement Thursday, resolving years of legal fighting over the environmental and economic damage done by the energy giant's oil spill in 2010.

Associated Press

   While many people anticipate lighting fuses on the 4th of July, some people are encouraging the use of caution.

Ann Paul, of the Audubon Society--an organization that aims to conserve ecosystems, said that birds are often unintentional casualties of the bombs bursting in air. 

She said that baby birds can be separated from their family  while trying to flee the sound of fireworks.

Paul also said that protecting American wildlife is one of the most patriotic things a person can do. 

USF Students Help Rescue Boater

Jun 22, 2015
Andrew Warren & Eric Rabinowits

Students aboard the Florida Insitute of Oceanography's Weatherbird II research vessel helped rescue a distressed boater near Egmont Key on Saturday night.

Those on the vessel heard an emergency call at around 9 p.m. from the U.S Coast Guard about three boaters in the water two miles away from where their craft was. The Coast Guard managed to rescue two men but a third was still missing in the water.

In ‘Climate Change’ Controversy, A Tale of Two Agencies

Jun 19, 2015
Tim Donovan / Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Two state agencies -- one independent, the other under the governor -- take very different approaches to climate change, demonstrating how politics can trump science in Florida. The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting filed this report. 

Steve Newborn / WUSF News

Lawmakers agreed on hundreds of millions of dollars in environmental spending during a meeting Sunday night, but disappointed supporters of a land and water conservation amendment overwhelmingly approved by voters last fall.

Steve Newborn / WUSF News

Amid an ongoing legal fight the governors of Florida and Georgia met behind closed doors on Tuesday to try to resolve a long-running water dispute.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott met for an hour Tuesday with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal at the governor's mansion located about a mile north of the state Capitol.

The meeting comes as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear a challenge from Florida seeking to limit Georgia's withdrawals from the Chattahoochee River.

Deal requested the meeting with Scott.

Land, Water Funding Differences Move To Budget Chiefs

Jun 10, 2015

House and Senate negotiators have been unable to bridge key differences in their competing proposals to fund the environmental portions of the state budget.

Now, decisions about how to spread an increased pool of money, which is expected to be used for buying and protecting environmental lands and helping restore the state's natural springs and the Everglades, will be up to the House and Senate budget chairmen starting Wednesday.

It’s common to see dolphins come up to a tour boat and jump in its wake. But there’s a growing campaign that wants ecotours to keep their distance. Across the country, there are 18 of these tours certified “Dolphin SMART." The program’s mission is to prevent boats from interrupting the natural behavior of wild dolphins. 

After less than a week of sometimes angry budget negotiations, environmentalists are optimistic the Legislature will buy tens of thousands of acres of agricultural land for Everglades restoration.

Steve Newborn / WUSF News

Most Floridians see manatees as cute, roly-poly animals that hang out in crowded springs and get too close to boats. Travel south a bit - to Cuba - and their plight is very different. There, the animals often end up as somebody's dinner. WUSF recently traveled with a Sarasota-based conservation group  to the island, where their groundbreaking trip tried to find ways to save this iconic creature.

Amendment 1 Backers Rally for Land Buying

May 29, 2015

Environmentalists plan to hold rallies across Florida this weekend, again calling on lawmakers to boost the amount of money for land acquisition, Everglades restoration and natural-springs protection.

Supporters of the 2014 ballot initiative known as "Amendment 1" have announced 10 locations --- Bradenton, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Melbourne, Miami, Ocala, Orlando, Sarasota County, Stuart and Tampa --- where they intend to hold rallies Saturday. That is two days before lawmakers start a special legislative session to negotiate a budget.

Environmentalists Continue Push for Everglades Reservoir

May 28, 2015

Environmentalists are optimistic they can get money from Florida lawmakers for a reservoir in the Everglades during the upcoming special legislative session, something they couldn't do during the 60-day regular session.

But so far, only a handful of legislative leaders have proposed such funding as they prepare to return to Tallahassee on Monday to work on the state budget.

The Obama administration announced new clean water rules Wednesday that it says will protect sources of drinking water for 117 million Americans, rules welcomed by environmental groups, but bitterly opposed by congressional Republicans and farm state democrats.

The rules clarify which waterways fall under the Clean Water Act.

President Obama, in a statement released by the White House, said that in recent years:

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