Audubon Florida News

Topic: Climate Change,Online Advocacy,State Government,Water Issues

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.

Second Saltmarsh Sparrow Banded in New England Resighted in Florida

Pat and Doris Leary are avid birdwatchers and citizen scientists from Fernandina Beach, FL, who volunteer their time and substantial skills to survey coastal waterbirds in Northeast Florida, coastal Georgia and Florida’s Big Bend. This is the fourth of several blogs in which they share their experiences and sightings, as well as the challenges these increasingly imperiled birds face.  

Saltmarsh Sparrow Photo: Patrick LearyA Saltmarsh Sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus) banded as a nestling in the coastal marshes of far-distant New England was recently resighted in Nassau County’s marshes.  Scouting local marshes in preparation for a spring study of resident marsh breeding birds, Amy Schwarzer and Erin Ragheb of the FWC Wildlife Research Lab and I visited a number of sites.  Large numbers of several bird species were found at most locations and such was the case at a small marsh island where we stopped for lunch. Erin searched with camera in hand and was able to photograph a briefly-sighted sparrow with a bright orange band. On a hunch, Erin later contacted Professor Brian Olsen, University of Maine, and was pleased to receive confirmation that the bird had been banded in either Maine or Connecticut as part of a multi-state population research study. The banding location is uncertain due to similarity of bands used on birds in both states.

This is the second, color-banded Saltmarsh Sparrow recorded in the region this year.  The first was recaptured by Banding a Saltmarsh Sparrow. Photo: Patrick Leary
 Borowske, University of Connecticut, during her February 2013 field work in Florida. Alyssa’s sparrow was traced to a breeding population in Maine.  These sightings are remarkable due to the high number of birds dispersed across thousands of acres of Florida marsh, the sparrows’ tendency to remain concealed, and the brief opportunity observers have to detect and record the tiny markers.  In Alyssa’s case she was fortunate to trap one banded bird amongst hundreds encountered during her field work here.

Northeast Florida’s coastal salt marshes support significant nesting populations of Seaside Sparrows and Marsh Wrens, but their numbers are substantially bolstered by an influx of migrant Seaside, Nelson’s, and Saltmarsh Sparrows each fall and winter.  Most originate from more northern Atlantic coast marshes, but some Nelson’s Sparrows breed in inland freshwater marshes hundreds of miles from the coast. In the winter, these species forage in the “drowned prairie” of coastal saltmarsh cordgrass and, despite their numbers, are seldom viewed by humans. On high tides, the birds concentrate in dense grass along marsh watercourses and on isolated marsh islands, but even there remain well concealed in vegetation. 

Florida's coastal saltmarsh habitatDue to early evidence of sea level rise and related tidal perturbations, concern is growing for the survival of these species whose lives are directly dependent on the thin margin of tidal marsh stretching along the coast. Consequently, more attention is being focused on the status and health of these birds to identify important habitats and environmental requirements. As data is gathered, it is becoming evident that our regional marshes support not only significant numbers of resident sparrows, but also substantial populations of migrant and wintering birds.

The next time you gaze across our expansive marshes be aware that, in addition to the colorful Roseate Spoonbills, Wood Storks, herons, egrets, and the myriad of smaller shorebirds, the rich ecosystem also supports an abundance of marsh-adapted sparrows and wrens concealed from view in the dense stands of cord grass that are the key element in the ecosystem’s fecundity. Stop, listen, and look carefully and you may catch a glimpse of these cryptically-colored birds that will give you a new awareness of the life within Florida’s coastal saltmarshes.

Climate Change and the Everglades

posted on November 20, 2013 in Climate Change,Everglades,Publications

everglades_slack12_flickrRestoration of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem has some great and obvious benefits including improving water quality, protecting South Florida drinking water supplies, and improving and protecting habitat areas for wildlife. However, restoration of the Everglades has another important benefit that doesn’t get as much attention: helping prepare for, and reduce the impacts of climate change.

Climate change can seem like a daunting global issue but there are strategies to lessen its impacts on a local level. For South Florida, continuing to invest in restoration will be key to delaying and minimizing some of the impacts. Healthier ecosystems respond better to change and more easily adapt to changing conditions. Restoring the Greater Everglades Ecosystem will also have the added benefit of improving the health and resilience of our coral reefs, and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Estuaries.

audubon_everglades_climatechange_nov2013_coverimageIn addition to the well-known benefits for water and wildlife, continuing to move forward with the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) will help slow the intrusion of salt water into aquifers, delay impacts of sea level rise along the coasts, improve flood control, and make sure ecosystems are healthier and more resilient.

In short, it is smart planning for our future with multifold benefits for people and wildlife.

For more information, please see the following two links:


Everglades Restoration and Climate Change Adaptation Highlighted in President’s Climate Action Plan

posted on July 8, 2013 in Climate Change,Everglades

Everglades Sunset - Photo by MacStoneIn late June, President Barack Obama spoke about his historic Climate Action Plan, the second climate action plan in U.S. history, preceded only by the Clinton-Gore Climate Action Plan nearly twenty years ago in October 1993. The President’s Climate Action Plan could not have emerged at a better time since as the President noted, “the twelve warmest years in recorded history have all come in the past fifteen years”, with last year reigning as the warmest year of all. Accordingly, the President emphasized the need for immediate action to not only address the effects of existing climate change through resiliency, but also curtail future climate change by changing current energy practices.

The President focused on the integral role of wetlands in climate change resiliency by underscoring the need to “. . . protect the dunes and wetlands that pull double duty as green space and as natural storm barriers.” In particular, the President highlighted Everglades restoration as an adaptive measure for climate change by reaffirming the federal government’s partnership “. . . with the State of Florida to restore Florida’s natural clean water delivery system – the Everglades.”

You can watch this section of President Obama’s speech here:

Jump to timestamp 32.30 for Florida comments.

Additional information:

Oil Companies Push to Open Florida’s Public Lands to Drilling

With support from the Florida Petroleum Council and Associated Industries of Florida, HB 695 by Rep. Ford (R-Gulf Breeze) passed the House Energy and Utilities Subcommittee and will now move on to Appropriations. This bill and its Senate companion, SB 1158 by Sen. Evers (R-Crestview)creates a mechanism for public land managers to entertain proposals for oil and gas leases on public uplands. Largely thought to be intended for public lands in NW Florida like Blackwater State Forest (a recent Florida’s Special Places nominee), this bill would be applicable statewide, including Southwest Florida where commercial oil and gas extraction is currently active.

The Senate bill has not yet been scheduled for a committee hearing in the Senate, where if it is scheduled, the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee will be a key battleground committee for conservation interests. This issue is still developing; stay tuned for more this week on how best to lend your voice to this issue.

New Solar-Thermal Power Plant Comes Online in Martin County

posted on March 11, 2011 in Climate Change,Renewables

Audubon of Florida Executive Director Eric Draper was a featured speaker at the opening of FPL’s newest solar energy installment, located in Martin County. The array features over 190,000 mirrors that concentrate the sun’s rays by 80%. That heat is then used to boil water, which in turn creates steam that is used to generate 75 megawatts of power, or enough to serve 11,000 Florida homes.

Besides being 75 million dollars under budget, the new plant is the first in the world to be hooked up to an existing natural gas power plant and will save customers an estimated $178 million in fuel costs over its lifetime.

Congratulations Florida – it can be done!

Watch Executive Director Eric Draper’s speech at the opening ceremony here:

Happy Holidays from Audubon of Florida

"Spoonbill Lagoon" by Peter R. Gerbert

“The Spoonbill Lagoon” © Peter R. Gerbert

As the temperature drops across our state, Audubon of Florida wishes you the warmest of holiday seasons and a healthy New Year. This time of the year is perfect for spending time outside with loved ones, reconnecting with the natural world. Try spending a day at one of Florida’s incredible State Parks or take a trip to Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Wherever you may find yourself this busy holiday season, be sure to take comfort in your family, friends and natural Florida.

Please take a moment to read Audubon of Florida’s year-end reports and newsletters.  They are a great and concise way to learn about what Audubon has been up to in 2010.


The Advocate

The Coastal Strand

Florida Raptor News

Climate Action Network

Thank you for all your support – we’re looking forward to an exciting 2011!

Protect the WEB – Water, Energy and Birds are All Connected

posted on November 30, 2010 in Climate Change,Renewables

Protect the WEBTake the Conservation Challenge today and  upload your stories and tips to our Facebook Page.

Providing ample clean water for human consumption and use takes a huge amount of energy and often impacts our wetlands, ponds, lakes, streams, rivers and estuaries. These natural systems are critical for the survival of natural habitats, native plants, birds, and other wildlife. By modifying the may we use energy and design our backyard landscapes, we can dramatically reduce our energy use and our water consumption and contribute to conserving these vital resources.

Improving your home’s energy and water efficiency also saves you money. Here are some fast facts: Home heating and cooling generally accounts for 50 percent of the electricity you use at home. Watering lawns account for half of potable water use. Energy Star estimates that you could save up to 20 percent of air conditioning costs just by sealing and insulating your home.  A shade tree planted on the west side of your home can also provide valuable free energy saving benefits.

With growing numbers of people and rapid rates of development, many of our native habitats are disappearing. Birds and other wildlife that call Florida home have fewer places to breed and spend the winter, and the millions of migrating birds that pass through our state twice each year have fewer places to rest and refuel.  Through conservation you can help make sure there is enough water for both human consumption and the natural environment.  And by planting the right plants in the right places, you can save both water and energy and provide food, water and shelter for birds.

Invite your friends and family to take the challenge with you – or bring a copy of the list to your next neighborhood meeting. Together, we can make a difference for Water, Energy and Birds.

South Florida Posts Driest October on Record

posted on November 4, 2010 in Climate Change

The Sunshine State lived up to it’s name in October, at least on the southern tip of the peninsula. Last month was officially the driest on record, meaning that locals and seasonal visitors should be vigilant in their conservation practices, from the frequency in which lawns are watered to the length of time we stay in the shower.

From the Palm Beach Post:

Officials from the South Florida Water Management District on Monday called for water-conservation measures as they reported that the region received an average of just a half-inch of rain during the month, the least since records were first kept in 1932.

“The forecast for a drier-than-average dry season and the unpredictability of our weather means saving as much water as possible now is critical to South Florida,” said Tommy Strowd, the water management district’s deputy executive director of operations and maintenance, in a news release.

Do you have any tips to help promote water conservation and energy efficiency? Share your ideas and learn others at our Protect the WEB Facebook Cause page, because Water, Energy and Birds are all connected.

Climate Change in Glacier National Park

posted on October 8, 2010 in Climate Change

The harsh realities of climate change can be seen in striking visual form in Montana.  In 1900, Glacier National Park had over 150 magnificent glaciers that loomed mightily over the park’s expansive acreage.  Now, only 25 of these frozen behemoths remain…and with significantly less volume.  As the glaciers recede, there is no mistaking that climate change is real and dramatically affecting our globe and natural systems.

CNN reports:

Glacier National Park is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year but soon the glaciers that gave the park its name will be gone.

“Glacier National Park has been the poster child park for climate change for a lot of people in the country and I think that there has been pretty sensational news about the glaciers disappearing in fairly short order,” says Chas Cartwright, Glacier National Park Superintendent.

“There is a lot less water coming off the mountain. There are dramatic changes in vegetation. It begs the question: how is that going to impact wildlife in this park?”

Many of the plant and animal species that call the park home require cold water, meaning the ecosystem of the park may change dramatically when the glaciers are gone.

What will remain of the wildlife in this part of the world is unknown.  Global action is required immediately to curb the effects of climate change – effects that are already changing the physical world.

Fore more picture evidence of the effects of climate change in Montana, click here.

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