Welcome to the Sunshine State Sampler, the Marjorie’s monthly roundup of Florida’s environmental news in bite-sized bits. Check out the links to learn more about what’s going on in your region!
- In an effort to restore the northern bobwhite quail populations in Florida, landowners who spot the bird are encouraged by the FWC to report their sightings on its new quail sightings webpage.
- Recreational harvest of gray triggerfish is closed in Gulf waters and will reopen on March 1, 2018. The season will close again from June 1- July 31. When the season is open, the limit is one fish per person (down from two fish) and the minimum size limit is 15 inches in fork length (increased from 14 inches). The limit has been lowered in order to maintain future fishing opportunities.
- Want to know what the weather patterns were this year and what kind of phenomena they resulted in? Florida Sea Grant agent Rick O’ Connor has it broken down for us in this blog post.
- Santa Rosa county leaders are attempting to change a complicated beach leasing system that dates back to1946 stating that beach property cannot be outright sold and must be used to benefit county residents. Santa Rosa county officials decided that leasing the land to developers to prompt tourism was in the best interest of the residents. The leaders want to change the lease laws because beach leaseholders are required to pay both leasing fees and property taxes. Opponents say this change would result in the giving away of public lands. Leaders approached Bill Nelson asking to approve the changes in exchange for permanent conservation/preservation status of some county-owned beach property. At the same time, Santa Rosa leaders have been pushing to cut a pass to allow boaters easy access to the Gulf. Nelson and military leaders at Eglin Air Force base say this pass will interfere with military training operations. Environmentalists say the boat traffic will lead to land loss and erosion. Nelson says he will not consider approving the change for the land leases unless it includes a stop to cutting the pass.
- A new fish hatchery originally slated to be built at Bruce Beach in downtown Pensacola may now move to Navarre Beach after a snag in development prompted by a lawsuit filed by two homeowners. The homeowners say the lease is no longer valid because of a missed construction deadline by the FWC, though the FWC denies the claims. Rob Williamson, a representative in Navarre, says his county’s beachfront property is a better fit given its conservation status and location near a marine science center.
- In an effort to keep the road from falling in on Walton County Highway 30A, an emergency restoration project at the Oyster Lake outfall was approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The project should be completed within 90 days.
- A homeowner in Panama City set up a wildlife camera to see who –or what– was stealing her lightbulbs. And wouldn’t you know, a band of raccoons was caught red-handed.
- In Milton, county commissioners rejected a developers proposal for a 48-lot single home subdivision citing concerns about inadequate stormwater infrastructure and already crowded schools.
- States along the Gulf of Mexico are plying to take control from the federal government over the highly-debated red snapper season, something anglers have been rooting for after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration set a historically short three-day season. FWC says its still to early to know what state control would meant for catch limits and season length since there currently two stock assessments that are ongoing that will be used to determine this.
- Florida voters may be asked to place a permanent ban on offshore drilling, a move one commission member says is needed because lawmakers cannot be trusted to keep the ban in place.
- Next year’s scallop season may vary regionally in order to provide a better scalloping experience for the public as well as maximize the benefits to the specific regions. And, Pasco county will be getting an experimental nine-day recreational season.
- A new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts shows maintenance of our national parks could create or support more than 2,467 jobs in Florida and 110,169 jobs across the country. According to the analysis, Florida’s eleven national parks suffer from “crumbling roads, deteriorating historic buildings, impassable trails, and outdated utility systems,” which limit visitor access and engagement. Florida faces a maintenance backlog of more than $253 million.
- Governor Rick Scott recently approved the purchase of a conservation easement on hundreds of acres of wetlands in southern St. Johns and northern Flagler counties. The purchase was made through the state’s Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, which supports legacy farming families and best agricultural practices.
- According to WUFT, lower income residents were disproportionately impacted by Hurricane Irma in Alachua County.
- Coastal northeast Floridians can expect to see North Atlantic right whales heading south from now until April. The waters off Georgia and Florida are the only known calving areas for these rare giants, whose numbers hover close to 500. Whale researchers say the future looks bleak for these creatures, and estimate they could be extinct within 20 years without “bold efforts.”
- Governor Scott and his Cabinet have agreed to purchase land contributing to a bicycle and pedestrian trail connecting Florida’s Atlantic coast to the Gulf of Mexico. The project is slated for completion in 2021.
- Wildlife researchers in north Florida are hoping to learn more about the elusive Eastern spotted skunk, about which little is known. The team is heading into Camp Blanding Joint Training Center—armed with $200 in sardines—to determine whether the skunk is rarely seen or if its numbers are in decline.
- The University of Florida has partnered with orange juice giant Tropicana to test a new potentially greening-resistant citrus variety. Citrus greening, a disease caused by bacteria, has decimated many of Florida’s groves.
- Florida Senate President Joe Negron is asking the South Florida Water Management District to consider allocating more land toward a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee that is aimed toward improving water quality in the Everglades.
- A proposal to ask Florida voters to add language explicitly banning oil and gas drilling in Florida-owned waters to the state constitution has been approved by a Constitution Revision Commission Panel with little opposition.
- FIU professor Arindam Gan Chowdhury has patented a concrete roofing system that aims to decrease roof damage from hurricanes. The system tries to simplify roof construction with a series of connected concrete panels, measuring 4 feet wide and up to 30 feet long.
- A new model from FIU hydrologist Michael Sukop focuses on South Florida’s groundwater as a cause of flooding.
- A report from the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute shows losses in seagrasses across Florida overall, though Tampa Bay shows success in recovering seagrass acreage.
- Senator Bill Nelson called upon Congress to pass legislation to block the expansion of offshore drilling. Nelson’s call is a response to a directive from the Trump administration to review an Obama-era plan that limited drilling in the Arctic and southeast Atlantic between 2017 and 2022.
- The South Florida Water Management District claims that water running from conservation areas into the Everglades has reached the lowest levels of phosphorus, from fertilizers and urban runoff, since clean-up efforts began.
- State wildlife officials are relieved that arrests from shark dragging case off of Egmont Key in late June resulted in criminal charges.
- As federal funding for beach renourishment becomes more difficult to acquire, beach communities urge residents to look for alternative sources.
- A full-grown humpback whale was spotted near the Eight Mile Reef off of Port Salerno earlier this month.
- A 12-acre piece of property near the Braden Woods subdivision in Manatee County was transferred to the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, a nonprofit organization, earlier this month.
- A team of researchers from universities and organizations across the Gulf Coast will embark on a $10 million study to count the number of red snapper currently swimming in the Gulf.
- State fishery managers may extend the no-take season for shallow-water game fish and may move toward limiting overall harvest of red grouper.
- Mosaic Fertilizer won a court battle with environmental groups to expand the South Pasture Extension mine near the Peace River and three new mines in Central Florida.
- Recreational snook season closed on December 15 in the Atlantic state and federal waters, including Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River and will reopen the harvest on February 1, 2018. Catch and release of snook is still permitted during the closed season.
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The Sunshine State Sampler: December 2017