Audubon Florida News

Topic: Online Advocacy,State Government,Water Issues

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: Protect Florida’s Water – Say NO to HB 703

posted on March 18, 2014 in State Government,Water Issues


HB 703 will hurt our springs, wetlands, and water resources.

For the fourth year in a row, Rep. Jimmy Patronis (R-Panama City) has filed a damaging environmental permitting bill. Enough is enough.

This year’s wide-ranging bill, HB 703prohibits local governments from enforcing wetlands regulations and springs protections. It also grants up to 50-year consumptive use permits for dispersed water storage projects and 30-year consumptive use permits for water projects associated with Development of Regional Impacts.

Issuing 50-year permits means the public will have no say in how that water is used for half of a century. Other worthwhile projects, such as Everglades restoration, may then have to take a back seat.

At a time when there is finally strong consensus at the Capitol for protecting and restoring Florida’s springs and doing proper water supply planning, why should citizens put up with this backwards bill?

This petition is our chance to show developers and special interests that our conservation voices matter.

Click here to add your name.

Audubon Florida Joins Florida Cattlemen’s Association for Tallahassee “Lobby Day”

Commissioner Adam PutnamAudubon Florida joined with the Florida Cattlemen’s Association in their “Lobby Day” effort in Tallahassee on March 12th. Audubon and Florida Cattlemen’s Association are working together in support of a $25 million appropriation to fund the Rural and Family Lands Program, which purchases conservation easements from willing farm and ranch owners. These easements are a major tool in preservation and restoration of Northern Everglades Habitat.

LeeAnn Adams SimmonsMatt Smith from the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey was present with Paige, the educational Bald Eagle. The visit by Paige reminded public officials and others at the Tallahassee reception held by the Cattlemen’s Association that Audubon and Florida ranchers partnered successfully, beginning in 1962, to establish voluntary Bald Eagle sanctuaries on the Kissimmee Prairie, an important stronghold for Bald Eagle populations. It is widely believed that the Kissimmee Prairie population of the Bald Eagle helped the species rebound from near extinction caused by DDT and other persistent pesticides during the 1960’s.

Wes WilliamsonToday, Audubon and ranchers in the Northern Everglades are working toward habitat and water resource conservation and restoration through the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge, the Rural and Family Lands Act, the Dispersed Water Management program of the South Florida Water Management District, and the United States Department Of Agriculture Wetland Reserve Program.

Audubon’s Eric Draper: “Something incredible happened”

posted on February 27, 2014 in Everglades,State Government,Water Issues

rainbowspringsDid you see the following message from Audubon’s Eric Draper:

It’s been a difficult year. Last summer’s shocking images from our waterways are not easy to forget. Dead and dying pelicans, manatees, and dolphins. Florida’s once pristine springs covered in algae. Local fisherman and eco-tourism businesses struggling to stay open. For anyone who loves natural Florida, the crisis in our waterways has been a tragedy.

But something incredible happened. People took matters into their own hands. They demanded that their legislators fix the problems and clean up our water. Thousands of people like you wrote letters, attended rallies, signed petitions, and contacted media. For the first time in years our public officials started to pay attention to Florida’s water.

Unfortunately, some legislators have different ideas. It was disappointing to see Speaker of the House Will Weatherford say that there will be no major water policy this year.

Can you believe it? Does he know what has happened to Florida’s water?

As environmental advocates, we must make it loud and clear that “no” is simply not good enough.

The 2014 Florida Legislative Session starts next week. Will you help us defend Florida’s rivers, lakes, and springs?

Thanks to people like you, Florida’s water is at the forefront of state politics. But how far we make it during the legislative session is yet to be determined. Every legislator needs to hear that you care before they cast a vote that affects our incredible water resources.

Make no mistake, your efforts matter. But it takes a serious commitment to compete with well-funded industry lobbyists who want nothing more than for us to be quiet and stop speaking up for our natural resources.

This is the most critical Legislative Session for Florida’s water in years. Don’t let the momentum we’ve built go to waste.

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.

Audubon Celebrates Groundbreaking for Everglades Water Quality Project

posted on January 21, 2014 in Everglades,State Government,Water Issues

Eric at A1 FEB groundbreakingLast week, Audubon Florida celebrated the groundbreaking of the A-1 Flow Equalization Basin – the first in a suite of projects in Gov. Scott’s $880 million Restoration Strategies plan to store and cleanse water before it flows south to the Everglades.

Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper addressed the audience at the groundbreaking ceremony, emphasizing the importance of the federal and state partnership to advance Everglades restoration and water quality improvements.

“The A-1 Flow Equalization Basin project is a major step toward implementing the Restoration Strategies plan to help ensure clean water flows into the Everglades. Audubon Florida has long advocated for the next wave of action to restore our treasured wetlands. The A-1 FEB project is a good example of the type of water cleansing project needed to protect our beautiful River of Grass, ” said Eric Draper.
men and their shovels a1feb groudnbreakingGov. Scott’s Everglades water quality plan will build and enhance the performance of treatment areas that clean up water before it enters the Everglades. The A-1 FEB project will temporarily store up to 60,000 acre feet of water flowing off of agricultural lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area to attenuate peak stormwater flows and deliver them at a steady rate to water treatment areas (STA-2 and STA-3/4 ) to improve their performance. As Sec. Vinyard stated at the ceremony, 60,000 acre feet equals “30,000 Olympic sized swimming pools  of clean water going to the Everglades.”

After the ceremony, Eric Draper joined representatives from the state of Florida and federal agencies  with a shovel to break ground on this project!

It was freezing and windy outside during the ceremony, but any day an Everglades project  begins construction is a good day for Everglades water quality!

Audubon Florida Receives Important Coastal Bird Restoration Grant

posted on November 14, 2013 in Coastal Conservation,State Government,Wildlife

Snowy Plover and Newborn Chick by Jim UrbachThis afternoon, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and the State of Florida announced that Audubon Florida will be receiving a grant under NFWF’s new Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund (GEBF) to help restore coastal bird populations in the Florida Panhandle.

This funding will complement our existing coastal bird management in the region, allowing us to:

  • post, monitor, manage and steward more beach-nesting bird sites;
  • monitor passage and wintering birds to inform new protections;
  • undertake a major restoration of the Panhandle’s largest seabird rookery island;
  • install road mortality abatement measures at key nesting sites adjacent to busy surface roads;
  • implement a monitoring and management program for rooftop nesting terns;
  • team up with Florida Park Service researchers on a banding study of beach-nesting bird use and best management practices at District 1 parks;
  • support SUNY research modeling Snowy Plover survival at Gulf Islands National Seashore as well as assessing roadkill mortality at the seashore; and
  • provide critical education and outreach to boaters, law enforcement, beach professionals and others enlisting their help in protecting birds and their habitat.

Florida projects supported with this first round of GEBF funding are focused primarily on the Panhandle whose beaches were oiled during the Deepwater Horizon disaster. We are hopeful that success in these Panhandle projects will demonstrate what Audubon Florida has asserted in our vision for Gulf-wide restoration: This level of support for coastal bird management is effective, warranted, and should be funded perpetually, Gulf-wide from restoration dollars.  

Click here to read the official announcement from NFWF.

BREAKING: Recommendations for Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin Released

posted on November 4, 2013 in Lake Okeechobee,State Government,Water Issues

tall capitolTomorrow, State Senators will convene at the Capitol in Tallahassee for the final meeting of the Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and the Lake Okeechobee Basin. The goal of tomorrow’s meeting is to formalize the committee’s final recommendations.

Click here for the draft report from the Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Okeechobee Basin.

“The report is a good starting point for major projects to reduce the flow of water into and out of Lake Okeechobee,” said Eric Draper, Audubon Florida’s executive director. “We are recommending a stronger program to reduce pollution and meet water quality standards. And we recommend that the committee give a full endorsement to the Central Everglades Plan as a way to move more water from the Lake south into the Everglades.” 

In August 2013, thousands of Audubon Advocates added their name to our recommendation letter to Senator Joe Negron (R-Palm City), Chair of the Senate Select Committee. Thanks to the voices of dedicated nature-lovers like you, many of Audubon’s recommendations have been followed.

For a more comprehensive look at Audubon’s recommendations, please see the following documents:

Thank You Rep. Holly Raschein for Standing Up for the Florida Keys

posted on September 26, 2013 in Land Conservation,State Government,Wildlife

Rep. RascheinThank you to State Representative Holly Raschein for helping to remove 17 important Florida Keys parcels from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s proposal to surplus public lands.

Remnant parcels in the Keys provide critical migratory bird stopover habitat and help keep the area from being overdeveloped.

Audubon greatly appreciates her leadership.

Speak Up for Florida’s Conservation Lands at an Upcoming Public Hearing

posted on September 25, 2013 in Land Conservation,State Government

wekivariverMake your voice heard at an upcoming land surplus hearing! Everyone who has responded to our recent alerts on the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Land Assessment process can be proud that their efforts have had big results.

The original surplus list containing 169 sites and roughly 5,300 acres has been reduced to 90 sites and 3,500 acres. Thanks to Audubon Advocates like you expressing your concerns to DEP, a lot of important wetlands, submerged lands and open water, and good wildlife habitat have come off the surplus list.

However, among the 90 sites and 3,500 acres remaining, there are still ecologically important lands – lands vital to the protection of water resources that need to be removed from the list. There is no way that many of these sites can be determined to be “no longer needed for conservation”, as required by the Florida Constitution and statutes.

Audubon Florida staff have identified 29 remaining sites which (at minimum) need to come of the list to protect important habitat, water resources, and natural areas. You can see Audubon Florida’s formal comments to DEP by clicking here. Of the tracts listed in our comments, only the Florida Keys tracts, John C. and Mariana Jones Wildlife Management Area, and Blue Springs State Park tracts have so far been removed.

In addition to the comments provided by Audubon Florida staff, you may be able to identify important natural resources on the other sites listed. To see the whole list, please click here.

GreenSwamp_pdIt’s time to turn up the heat and turn out a crowd!

Public hearings will be held beginning September 30 in Pensacola. Additional hearings will be held in Ft. Myers on October 3, Viera in Brevard County on October 8, and Orlando on October 9. The times and address for each hearing are listed below.

You will make the difference whether critically important tracts of land, such as 2,600 acres of the Green Swamp Area of Critical Concern (Hilochee Wildlife Management Area), the Wekiva springshed, and Cayo Costa and North Captiva Islands are preserved or put on the “auction block” for developers to buy.

Please make plans to attend one of these hearings, and let your voice be heard! If you plan on attending, let us know. Send an email to

Public Hearing Schedule

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