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4/18/2014

Register now for "Ag Module 2014: Innovation in the Water Space"

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On April 24 and 25, Florida Earth, in partnership with Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD), University of Florida IFAS, Florida Farm Bureau and Crystal Springs Preserve, will host the SWFWMD Edition of the Ag Module Series.

​What: The Ag Module: SWFWMD Edition
When: April 24 & 25, 2014, 8:30 AM to 4 PM each day
Where: Crystal Springs Preserve, Crystal Springs, Florida
Cost: $95 for the first day, $195 for both days

The first day of the two-day forum will be held at beautiful Crystal Springs Preserve just south of Zephyrhills, northeast of Tampa, and will feature speakers addressing agriculture's interaction with water and programs designed to enhance stewardship in this space. The second day will be in the field visiting sites talked about on the first day including a tour of the UF IFAS Gulf Coast Research & Education Center and SMR Farms. For agenda and registration, visit the link below.

Featured Speakers:
• Craig Stanley (UF/IFAS)
• Ernie Cox: Family Lands
• Mac Carraway: SMR Farms
• Eric DeHaven: SWFWMD
• Michelle Hopkins: SWFWMD
• Robert Thomas: Two Rivers Ranch

Draft agenda and online registration

4/15/2014

Do you know what to do if you hook a pelican?

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Photo by C. Frank Starmer

Catch fish, not pelicans! With just a little extra attention to your surroundings, you and your pelican friends can both have a great day out on the water.

The brown pelican is now a common sight on the coasts. Pelicans eat smaller fish that are not preferred by recreational fishermen and that are not commercially important. Pelicans are protected by federal and state laws.

A brown pelican’s keen eyesight allows it to spot fish from high in the air. Plunge-diving for fish is their specialty. After surfacing and draining water from its pouch, the pelican swallows its well-deserved catch. Even though pelicans are large birds with broad wingspans, their feathers and hollow bones are very light, exquisitely designed for agile and expert flight.

Entanglement in fishing gear may be their number one enemy, leading to slow death from dehydration and starvation. Bony fish scraps are also a killer, tearing the pouch or lodging in the throat. Feeding pelicans draws them to fishing areas and puts them in danger. Shorebirds, storks, herons, terns and gulls are also casualties. We can all help keep pelicans alive and healthy.

Audubon Florida has produced a handy brochure that gives step-by-step instructions for safely removing a fishing hook from a pelican or other shore bird. Print it out and keep one in your tackle box… Just in case!

"What to do if you hook a pelican" brochure

4/7/2014

Senate committee approves estuary reauthorization bill

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Legislation Would Reauthorize Program First Established by Sen. John Chafee

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee today approved the Clean Estuaries Act of 2014, introduced by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), to reauthorize the National Estuary Program (NEP). The legislation, crafted with Committee Ranking Member David Vitter (R-LA), was approved with bipartisan support. The program was first established in 1987 by the late Republican Senator John Chafee to protect and restore estuarine habitats threatened by pollution and overdevelopment. Authorization for this important program expired in 2010.

“Estuaries are important for fisheries and wildlife, for tourism and recreation, and they are disappearing,” Whitehouse said. “Estuaries also provide buffers against dangerous winds and storm surges, protecting homes and critical infrastructure in our coastal communities. Protecting and strengthening our estuaries is our defense against these threats, and our way of protecting the economic and social value they provide.”

Although the program expired in 2010, it has continued to receive funding through the congressional appropriations process. Reauthorizing the law, however, provides an opportunity to make needed improvements to the program. Whitehouse’s legislation would maintain the funding authorization for the NEP at $35 million per year while also limiting the amount of the funding that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – which administers the program – can use for overhead. This change will help ensure that more funds are directed straight to the field programs.

Source: News release from Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

4/3/2014

Environmentalists fight proposed bill that reduces local control of water resources

By Jessie Van Berkel

TALLAHASSEE — Environmentalists across Florida are on edge as a bill that would reduce local control over environmental protection moves through the state Legislature.

The House bill would limit counties’ ability to enforce regulations on springs, stormwater and wetlands adopted after July 2003, and allow local government officials to change their long-range growth plans with a simple majority vote. Currently, if Sarasota County and other communities change their plans, by increasing density in a certain area, for example, a supermajority — four of the five commissioners — must support the move.

The bill would also allow for decades-long water use permits to be granted to major developments on rural land.

“This bill not only wreaks havoc with the environment, it hits at our ability to have local control,” said Gerry Swormstedt, a conservation chairwoman for the Manatee-Sarasota Group of the Sierra Club.

Continued in the News-Journal Online...

4/3/2014

Charlotte Harbor Coastal Awareness Day event promotes community resilience

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The Nature Conservancy in Florida is hosting Charlotte Harbor Coastal Awareness Day on Saturday, April 26 from 10 am – 3 pm at Laishley Park Municipal Marina. This family-friendly event highlights Punta Gorda’s efforts to become a more resilient coastal community. Learn about the Conservancy’s work in Punta Gorda to restore oyster reefs, volunteer to make oyster mats, and meet leaders in the city who are planning ahead for sea level rise.

Coastal Awareness Day highlights the Conservancy’s efforts to develop natural solutions to help coastal communities weather the impacts of storms and prepare for sea level rise in Florida. The Nature Conservancy is collaborating with the Florida DEP-Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves, Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, and the City of Punta Gorda to create oyster reef habitat adjacent to Trabue Harborwalk – and you can help!

Join us on April 26 at Laishley Park Municipal Marina to get your hands dirty and experience first-hand the power of communities working together to return critical oyster reef habitat to Charlotte Harbor. Volunteers will help prepare oyster mats for deployment in Charlotte Harbor and learn how Punta Gorda is leading the way in buffering its coast against storms and sea-level rise.

Charlotte Harbor Coastal Awareness Day is hosted by The Nature Conservancy and the City of Punta Gorda, with support from Florida Weekly and WCGU – Southwest Florida Public Broadcasting. For details, visit www.nature.org/coastalawarenessday.

WHAT: Charlotte Harbor Coastal Awareness Day
WHEN: Saturday, April 26, 2014, 10 am – 3 pm
WHERE: Laishley Park Municipal Marina, 120 Laishley Ct., Punta Gorda, FL 33950

A Family Friendly Event — No RSVP Necessary

Schedule of Activities:
  • Oyster Mat Making: 10 am–3 pm
  • Kid’s Craft Station: 10 am–3 pm
  • Nature Can Help! Panel Discussion hosted by John Davis of WGCU: 11 am–noon
    • Christine Shepard – Director of Science, Gulf of Mexico Program, The Nature Conservancy
    • Laura Geselbracht – Senior Marine Scientist, Florida Chapter, The Nature Conservancy
    • Joan LeBeau – Chief Planner, City of Punta Gorda
    • Lisa Beever – Director, Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program
  • Coastal Resilience 2.0 (There’s an app for that): 1:30 pm–2 pm

Contact Information
Rocio Johnson, Marketing Manager, The Nature Conservancy, rocio_johnson@tnc.org
phone: (305) 432-2440.
http://www.nature.org/florida/
3/31/2014

Federal judge rules Okeechobee pumping illegal

TALLAHASSEE – A federal judge says pumping water from farmlands into public water supplies such as Florida's Lake Okeechobee violates the Clean Water Act.

Environmental groups say Friday's ruling by U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas in New York's Southern District was "long overdue."

The nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice first filed its case in 2002 over polluted water from sugar cane and vegetable fields pumped into Lake Okeechobee. Earthjustice argued that the South Florida Water Management District violated federal law by allowing agricultural companies to send polluted water into southern Florida's water supply without decontaminating it first.

The Florida case was bundled with similar claims from several other states and heard in New York federal court.

Environmental groups say stopping pollution at its source is key to fixing South Florida's water problems.

Source: Associated Press

3/26/2014

Opinions sought on new Watershed Stewards Academy program

A team of faculty from the University of Florida (UF) is working on the development of a new educational program. They are reaching out to environmental organizations to get input about the level of interest and curriculum content.

The proposed program is called the Watershed Stewards Academy and it will be offered through UF/IFAS Extension. The program will be modeled after many of the other “Master” programs the University of Florida offers (like Master Gardener, Master Naturalist, etc.) with 7 to 12 sessions over a period of time. It will focus on enhancing Floridians’ connection to water; relationships with the watershed in which they live, work and play; and the dynamic interaction of water quality, quantity and their associated policies and regulations. It could include potential action projects and lead to volunteer service in local communities.

The Watershed Stewards Academy team has developed a state-wide needs assessment to aid in the development of this program and they want to hear from you! Your responses to this survey will help them design the program to best meet the needs of potential participants like you. Based on this brief description, they would very much appreciate your time in completing this survey. Approximate survey time: 10 minutes.

Take the survey

Contact Information
Lara Miller, Natural Resources Agent, Pinellas County Extension, lmiller@pinellascounty.org, 12520 Ulmerton Road, Largo, FL. 33774
phone: (727) 453-6905.
http://pinellas.ifas.ufl.edu/
3/26/2014

House, Senate differ sharply over agricultural water spending in their budget proposals

The proposed House and Senate fiscal year 2014-15 budgets are close on several key programs within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services budget but are far apart on the department's water programs.

The House budget would provide $47.7 million for agricultural water policy programs including $34.3 million from general revenue. The Senate budget includes $20.5 million for those programs including $7.1 million from general revenue.

The House water programs proposal provides $24.5 million for agricultural nonpoint source best management practices including $5 million for springs, $3 million for the Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and $1.5 million for the Bessey Creek hybrid wetland treatment system.

The Senate proposal provides $16.5 million for those programs with the only specified spending being $3 million for the Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.

In addition, the House provides $9 million for hybrid wetlands treatment projects in the Everglades region and $10 million for Okeechobee restoration and agricultural projects.

Continued in The Florida Current...

3/24/2014

Modeling study adds evidence that oil compounds traveled to West Florida Shelf

Scientists from the University of South Florida used circulation models to conduct a tracer simulation and compared output patterns with ecological analyses to determine the possibility that hydrocarbons from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill could have moved onto the West Florida Shelf (WFS).

They found “plausible and consistent” evidence that currents caused by “an anomalously strong and persistent upwelling circulation” drove oil compounds through subsurface waters to the WFS. The researchers published their findings in the February 2014 edition of Deep-Sea Research II Topical Studies in Oceanography: Did Deepwater Horizon hydrocarbons transit to the West Florida Continental Shelf?

The coastal ocean region known as the WFS includes waters east of the DeSoto Canyon and south to the Florida Straits. Oil from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead landed on northwestern Florida panhandle beaches in June of 2010. For three weeks, satellite and aerial images with accompanying model simulations showed oil moving on surface waters further east, close to Cape San Blas, then it receded and was no longer visible in that area. However, public and scientist findings were emerging that indicated compounds from this oil – though no longer visible – continued to impact the WFS marine environment.

Continued on the Gulf Research Initiative''s website...

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