Audubon Florida News

Topic: North Everglades,Online Advocacy,State Government



Help Support Habitat Conservation in the Northern Everglades

posted on December 8, 2014 in North Everglades,Online Advocacy,State Government

Northern_Everglades_LandscapeGovernor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet will consider two significant conservation easement purchases in the Headwaters of the Everglades on December 9.

A 1,536 acre Conservation Easement is proposed for purchase from Adams Ranch, and a 322 acre Conservation Easement is proposed for purchase from Camp Lonesome Ranch. Both of these ranch properties contain an assemblage of important and biologically diverse imperiled wildlife, rare native Florida prairie and range lands, and a landscape-sized wildlife corridor connecting other managed lands. These easement tracts contain wetlands and sloughs that drain into Lake Marion and eventually the Kissimmee River System and intact dry prairie/pine flatwoods habitats.

The purchases are possible due to the Rural and Family Lands program in the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Audubon originally proposed this program in 2001, and has been campaigning to increase funding for the program over the past three years. Rural and Family Lands easements contemplate allowing compatible ranching activities to continue on properties, while assuring wildlife habitat protection by removing rights for other kinds of development. An advantage of the easements is lower initial purchase cost, minimal ongoing public management expenses, and working ranches will remain on the property tax rolls while the natural assets of the easement areas are protected.

The easement areas are both inside the boundary of the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge, and established Florida Forever project boundaries for Adams Ranch and the Big Bend Swamp/Holopaw Ranch Florida Forever Project.

In addition to support for the easement purchases on the agenda, Audubon Florida is asking the Governor and Cabinet to support increased funding for the Rural and Family Lands Program and other programs that specifically benefit the Northern Everglades. See the letter from Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper here.

Please contact the Governor and Cabinet Members to support the easement purchases, and additional funding for the Rural and Family Lands program and related Northern Everglades efforts.

2014 Legislative Session Report

posted on May 6, 2014 in Online Advocacy,State Government

Old Florida CapitolThe 2014 Florida Legislative Session has come and gone and will be scored as a major success for Audubon Advocates. Every time you raised your voice in opposition, bad bills died.

You signed a petition in opposition to hydraulic fracturing and the two bills relating to that came to a screeching halt. You let everyone know you were fed up with bills that weakened or destroyed environmental protection and bills ceased to move through committees.

From the beginning of session and all throughout, we heard that next year will be the year for water policy issues as the incoming leadership prefers to address those important topics at the 2015 Session. If this year was any kind of dress rehearsal, then no doubt we are ready. And fired up.

The 2014 Legislative Session brought out many new supporters as Senators and Representatives alike began to understand the need to address some of the state’s critical water quality problems. Senator Joe Negron (R-Palm City) led the way with the creation of the Senate Select Committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin last summer which resulted in record funding for this area and many Everglades projects as well.

Also in the Senate, an impressive “Gang of Five” consisting of Senator David Simmons, Senator Charlie Dean, Senator Wilton Simpson, Senator Bill Montford and Senator Alan Hays put their best effort into launching a Springs bill, only to have it refused in the House. The good news here is that Senate President Elect Andy Gardiner has stated that he intends to see this through next year when he becomes President of the Senate. Here’s hoping Speaker Designate Steve Crisafulli is more receptive to the need for this bill next year as well.

The 2014 session was marked by a budget surplus and the ever present awareness of upcoming elections in the fall. While we had some disappointments such as the decreased funding for Florida Forever, all in all it was a good session for Florida’s environment. Thank you for your continued support.

Next year will be the year of water policy.With your help, we will be ready.

See Audubon Florida’s full legislative report by clicking here.

**For a list of additions and corrections, please click here.

#CEPP #WeCantWait

posted on April 30, 2014 in Everglades,Online Advocacy

Thank You for Defending Florida’s Water

posted on March 27, 2014 in Online Advocacy,State Government,Water Issues

Black-crowned Night-HeronSB 1464 passes in committee, but late filed amendments improve bill

A sense of urgency was felt leading up to yesterday’s meeting of the Senate Environmental Protection & Conservation Committee, as Audubon Advocates like you and other environmental groups worked to inform committee members about the serious problems in SB 1464 – Environmental Regulation.

Your emails and phone calls were crucial in reminding legislators how damaging this environmental permitting bill would be. In less than 24 hours, over 1,100 people contacted committee members about this bill.

As the clock dwindled down in the committee meeting, amendments starting flying as SB 1464 came up for discussion. Senator Thad Altman (R-Melbourne) emerged as a hero with a series of late-filed amendments that vastly improved this controversial bill.

One amendment from Senator Altman addressed Section 4, one of Audubon’s largest concerns. The amendment removed the section of the bill that prohibits local governments from protecting wetlands in certain drainage districts. Senator Altman also filed numerous other amendments that restored power to local governments in permitting and water supply planning.

Not to be outdone, Senator Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) removed Section 1 of the bill, a provision that would have prevented counties from enforcing wetlands and springs regulations if they were modified or readopted since 2003.

Thank you for defending Florida’s water. There is still a long way to go as we battle this bill, but know that your efforts yesterday made a tremendous difference in addressing the most harmful sections.

Take Action: Defend Central Florida’s Water Resources

posted on February 15, 2014 in Online Advocacy,Water Issues

Send a letter right now to protect our precious rivers, lakes, and springs.

Residents and visitors from all over the world come to Central Florida to canoe, kayak, and explore our region’s remarkable waterways. Now, a plan is in the works that will harm our water resources.

The Central Florida Water Initiative (CFWI) is a regional planning committee comprised of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, three separate Water Management Districts, and numerous local utilities.  The CFWI has produced anew draft Regional Water Supply plan that includes projects that suck up to 225 million gallons a day (mgd) from our precious rivers and lakes. This includes projects that put the health of the St. Johns River and Kissimmee River basin at risk. And, costs for the projects could skyrocket to as high as $2 billion.

But you can make a difference. Until February 20, citizens have an opportunity to comment on this plan. This is a key chance for Floridians to promote a water ethic using conservation, instead continuing on our path of over-consumption. Click here to read Audubon Florida’s official comment letter on the CFWI plan.

Florida’s incredible waterways deserve protection. We cannot allow a plan that sucks precious water from our rivers, lakes, and springs for inefficient uses – like watering needy St. Augustine Grass. Water planners are already projecting a deficit of groundwater supplies in the region by 2035. Increased withdrawals will only further impact our treasured water resources.

Take action right now, click here to tell the CFWI to modernize the way Florida uses water. Urge decision-makers to support measurable and mandatory water conservation goals and sustainable water resource development projects.

Fracking Petition Arrives at Capitol

Eric Draper delivers the petition.Eric Draper, Audubon Florida Executive Director, hand delivered a copy of the “Stop Fracking in Florida petition to Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-Ft. Myers) on Wednesday, February 5, 2014. As sponsor of two bills (HB 71 & HB 157) dealing with the disclosure of information associated with the hydraulic fracturing process, it is important for Rep. Rodrigues to know that close to 2000 Audubon members have concerns about this drilling technique and the full disclosure of chemicals used in the process.

When asked about the motivation for filing these bills, Rep. Rodrigues told a compelling story about reading several articles in the Ft. Myers News Press in October 2012 about impending fracking projects coming to that area of the state. Recognizing that Florida was indeed drawing the attention of the fracking industry, the Representative wanted a registry in place to track where the wells were located and what chemicals would be in use to conduct the fracking process. Coupled with that effort was a public records exemption that would grant the industry protection when trade secrets were at risk. And that’s where the problems started.

takeaction_stopfrackinginfloridaIn a state known for “Sunshine Laws” it seems contrary to exempt the oil and gas industry from disclosing what chemicals they are pumping into the ground. Proponents of HB 71 and HB 157 believe the two bills must be linked to sustain any legal challenges from the industry. Audubon questions how broad that exemption might be and whether the registry is left with any credible information when all is said and done.

Audubon opposes fracking in our state and particularly in Southwest Florida which is under consideration now.

We do believe in full and complete disclosure of information though and support the idea of having Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) maintain a  valid registry of fracking wells. The problem with HB 71 at this point is that any such registry created will not contain the concentrations of chemicals used in a given well and in fact, DEP is prohibited from even asking the question.

Rep. Rodrigues is willing to discuss amending this year’s bill to include chemical concentrations but the main battleground will be HB 157, which grants the public records exemption for industry trade secrets. These are the issues your policy team will be working on as Rep. Rodrigues clearly left the door open for further discussion. His bills do not allow or enable fracking to take place in Florida but he knows now that Audubon opposes fracking and will not hesitate to challenge a fracking permit should Collier County explorations lead to further exploitation of our resources.

Audubon Advocates are leading the fight to stop fracking from happening in Florida. If you have not added your name, please do so now  – and share the link with your friends, family, and co-workers.

Two Opportunities to Make Your Voice Heard for Florida’s Beach Birds

posted on January 27, 2014 in Coastal Conservation,Gulf Oil Spill,Online Advocacy

Black Skimmers and chicks at the successful Indian Shores colony.Audubon staff have finished reviewing the oil spill restoration projects recently proposed for funding through Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Early Restoration Round 3.

We have grave concerns that Florida projects intended to help restore the Gulf will in fact harm imperiled birds and their habitat.

Projects that qualify as “restoration” under NRDA do not just remedy harm done to the Gulf’s ecology—they may also address harm done to the Gulf economy and recreational use of the Gulf’s natural resources. Projects proposed in this round are incredibly diverse, including fishing piers, dune crossovers and parking lots, artificial reefs, a sport fish hatchery, seagrass, oyster and scallop restorations, and more.

Some Gulf “Restoration” Projects Will Harm Wildlife and Habitat as Proposed

Economic and recreational access “restoration” are both worthy goals, however, it’s easy to imagine some projects in these sectors could be incompatible with ecological restoration—and run counter to some of our state’s highest conservation priorities. Unfortunately, this has come to pass in this round of projects.

One example of a proposed project that will impact imperiled species:

Least Terns by RJ WileyThe Navarre Beach Park Gulfside Walkover Complex project proposes to build a parking lot and dune crossover on top of the last part of the beach at this park where state Threatened Least Terns and Snowy Plovers nest.

  1. This small park already has ample parking, two dune crossovers, and is immediately adjacent to another major public beach access.
  2. This kind of destruction of imperiled species habitat will likely require a state Incidental Take Permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission—something we never thought would be requested for a “restoration project.”
  3. This project funding (NRDA Round 3) would pay to destroy habitat at this site. NRDA Round 2 is currently funding Audubon to improve the nesting success of these rare and declining birds at this very site.

No Staffing, Law Enforcement or Maintenance Support Included to Protect Resource and Public Safety

Further, many of the projects intended to radically increase public use at coastal sites do not have commensurate funding for increased park staffing, law enforcement, or maintenance to ensure that the resource and public safety are protected and the public’s investment in this new infrastructure will be maintained. While NRDA may not be able to fund this kind of staffing, there has been no commitment to fund it from other state sources either. This will come at the expense of resources and public safety.

Your Voice Is Needed: Attend a Public Hearing in Pensacola and/or Panama City:

January 28, 6PM
Pensacola Bay Center
201 E. Gregory St.
Pensacola, FL 32502

January 29, 6PM
Hilton Garden Inn
1101 US Highway 231
Panama City, FL 32405

Can’t make the hearing in person? Email your comments to the Trustees: 

  1. Projects like the Navarre Beach Gulfside Walkover Complex cannot go forward as proposed. No Gulf Restoration project should be allowed to destroy habitat. First the spill harmed the birds, then the spill response. Restoration should help the birds, not harm them yet again.
  2. Projects designed to increase public use must have additional staffing, law enforcement and maintenance, or result in unintended impacts to natural resources and public safety.
  3. For truly meaningful public comment, Florida should have a fact sheet for each project to help citizens review project locations, scopes, and scales.

CLICK HERE TO EMAIL YOUR COMMENTS.

If you plan to join Audubon at one of the public hearings, please send us an email to let us know you will be attending: flconservation@audubon.org.

Take Action: Stop Fracking in Florida

posted on January 17, 2014 in Oil Drilling,Online Advocacy,Water Issues

takeaction_stopfrackinginflorida Add your name to Audubon’s petition to protect Florida’s water right now.

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracking, is the use of sand, water, and chemicals, injected at incredibly high pressures, to blast open rock deep beneath the surface of the earth to release trapped oil and gas.

Unfortunately, Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-Ft. Myers) has introduced two bills this session that would make it easier for this controversial oil and gas extraction process to take place in Florida.

While there are no planned fracking projects in Florida as of yet, the two bills below will cut off the public’s right to know the details of the chemical mix that is pumped into the ground during the fracking process.

Join thousands of others in opposition to fracking in Florida. Click here to add your name to this petition right now so we can show the oil and gas industry that Floridians stand united to protect Florida’s incredible water resources.

Click here to learn more about these bills and how you can take action.

Comment Period for Third Phase of NRDA Early Restoration Projects Likely in January 2014

posted on November 15, 2013 in Gulf Oil Spill,Online Advocacy

Public comment sessions on the third phase of the proposed NRDA Early Restoration projects will likely be held in January 2014.

Fourteen of the proposed projects, if approved, will be in Florida with a total dollar amount estimated to be $73 million. A brief description of the 14 Florida projects can be viewed at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection NRDA Projects website.

Audubon’s Boots on the Ground Campaign for Conservation

posted on June 3, 2013 in Online Advocacy

Audubon_bootsontheground_logoThe time has come to get your boots on for conservation!

For this limited-time webathon, we are asking for your help in 7 critical grassroots conservation areas located across our remarkable state.

Florida’s iconic birds and native wildlife need people like you to join together to back Audubon’s Boots on the Ground team of compassionate conservationists. Thousands of caring nature-lovers statewide are doing impactful work – coastal bird stewarding, Bald Eagle and Scrub-Jay watching, restoration work, teaching students at our centers and sanctuaries, and advocacy work with state and local decision-makers.

This campaign is your chance to get involved and take grassroots conservation work in Florida to the next level of effectiveness. Pick a project (or two or three!) and send a clear message to Audubon staff and volunteers that you believe in their hard work to protect Florida for the next generation.

Visit http://www.AudubonBootsOn.org for more information.

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