For generations, Florida's farmers and ranchers have used their land to grow oranges, sugar, tomatoes and beef cattle, among other things. But now they've added a highly profitable new crop:
A state agency is paying large agricultural operators millions in taxpayer dollars to hold water on their property, treating it as if it were a crop. The agency sees it as a way to create a series of "reservoirs" without the expense of building anything permanent....
Just hours before the fatal shooting of a Tarpon Springs police officer in December, court records show the man accused of shooting him told a man at a party that he was in a mood to kill.
Marco A. Parilla Jr., 24, was at a party in Holiday before the fateful encounter with Officer Charles Kondek, 45, in the early hours of Dec. 21. Parilla chatted with another partygoer who noticed a Glock in his pants pocket....
Biologists tallied a record number of manatees this winter, counting more than 6,000 of them scattered around the state, according to numbers released Monday.
During the February aerial survey, a team of 20 observers from 11 organizations counted 3,333 manatees on Florida's east coast and 2,730 on the west coast, for a total of 6,063. That's nearly 1,000 more than the previous record, set in 2010....
03/12/15 Global Warming
There's that sound again: people around the country laughing at Florida.
"So the Florida Department of Environmental Protection can't use the term 'climate change'?" comic Larry Wilmore asked on The Nightly Show on Wednesday. "That's like telling Rudy Giuliani he can't use the word '9/11.' "
Comics, cartoonists and columnists have all jumped on the story, broken by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, in which former DEP employees said no one at the state agency was allowed to use the terms "climate change," "global warming" or "sustainability." As the story has gone viral, it has turned into one more way the Sunshine State has become the Punchline State....
An environmental group wants to stop all the "swim with the manatees" businesses that over the past 40 years have become the foundation of Citrus County's tourism industry.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed notice Monday that it intends to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over protections for the endangered animals. The suit, filed on behalf of four Citrus County environmental activists, calls for the federal agency to halt any program that lets humans get within 10 feet of a manatee....
After receiving about 5,000 written comments, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided to make permanent most of its proposed measures for protecting manatees that seek winter refuge in Citrus County's Three Sisters Spring.
The move comes about three weeks after a story went viral about the agency's decision to temporarily close human access to the spring because more than 300 manatees had crowded in. One animal-centric website, the Dodo, headlined its story: "300 Manatees Throw Massive Party In Wildlife Refuge, Literally Shut The Place Down."...
AMID ALL THE NASTY ATTACK ADS, one political commercial that ran on Florida television stations last year stood out for sheer beauty. It opened with clouds scudding across the Everglades, a rainbow arching over a stand of mangroves and a girl swimming in a spring.
"What's more important than protecting Florida's natural areas?" the narrator asks. "For water. For wildlife. For people." Vote for Amendment 1, the ad said, if you want to "protect and restore" Florida's "drinking water, lakes, beaches, lakes, rivers and springs." ...
This month marks the height of the hunting season at the majestic King Ranch in Texas, where some of Florida's top elected officials have visited courtesy of U.S Sugar.
Yet for the first time since 2011, records show, the state's Republican elite have yet to make the trek west. U.S. Sugar -- which has much at stake this year with lawmakers rewriting the state's water policy -- continues to contribute sizable amounts in cash, but the company has stopped paying for the secret trips to King Ranch....
02/09/15 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — This month marks the height of hunting season at the majestic King Ranch in Texas, where some of Florida's top elected officials have visited, courtesy of U.S. Sugar.
Yet for the first time since 2011, records show, the state's Republican elite have yet to make the trek west. U.S. Sugar — which has much at stake this year with lawmakers rewriting the state's water policy — continues to contribute sizable amounts in cash, but the company has stopped paying for the secret trips to King Ranch....
Big-game hunters, gather up your ammo. Just two years after taking bears off the state's list of imperiled species, Florida wildlife commissioners agreed Wednesday that they want to bring back a bear-hunting season for the first time in more than 20 years.
The first bear hunt could happen as early as fall, if wildlife officials can iron out the details.
What changed? After decades of leaving humans alone, in the past year bears have mauled four people — three women and one teenage girl, all of whom were walking their dogs....
Florida may be going on a bear hunt.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission executive director Nick Wiley said Wednesday that he will "put bear hunting for population management on the table" at the next commission meeting in two weeks.
If commissioners at that Feb. 4 meeting approve bringing back the bear hunt — banned statewide since 1994 — then the first hunting season could occur as early as this fall, Wiley said. The season would be kept short, with strict quotas for hunters, he said....
01/17/15 Global Warming
Gov. Rick Scott has never said that he believes climate change is really happening, despite meeting with scientists who did their best to persuade him. His Department of Environmental Protection has no specific program devoted to combating the problem. And although a group met in St. Petersburg last year to propose some possible climate change solutions for Scott, they have gotten no response from Tallahassee....
Someone has taken a violent dislike to Florida's iconic brown pelicans.
In the Florida Keys over the past six weeks, more than a dozen pelicans have turned up with their pouches slashed, left to die of starvation.
"It is heartbreaking to see," said Maya Trotman, director of Florida Keys Wildlife Rescue, which has dispatched volunteers to try to find any more maimed pelicans still flying around....
ST. PETERSBURG — A teacher was arrested at the Lealman Intermediate School on Wednesday on a charge that he had sex with a 14-year-old student at Coquina Key Park "on several different occasions in his car," police said.
The teacher, charged with lewd and lascivious battery, is Jeffrey Bohlander, 54, of 1270 S Keene Road in Clearwater. After his arrest, Bohlander resigned from the school, which is at 4900 28th St. N in unincorporated Pinellas County, police said....
12/29/14 Global Warming
Along Florida's most famous slice of waterfront, the water is taking a bigger and bigger bite. As the level of the Atlantic Ocean has pushed higher, it has begun gobbling up the shoreline along Cape Canaveral.
A railroad that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration built along the beach in the 1960s began being routinely covered by waves during storms. Meanwhile, dunes were leveled that once protected Kennedy Space Center, no matter how high the tide....