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Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer

Craig Pittman

Tampa Bay Times reporter Craig Pittman is a native Floridian. He graduated from Troy State University in Alabama, where his muckraking work for the student paper prompted an agitated dean to label him "the most destructive force on campus." Since then he has covered a variety of newspaper beats and quite a few natural disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires and the Florida Legislature. Since 1998 he has reported on environmental issues for the Times. He is a four-time winner of the Waldo Proffitt Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism in Florida and a series of stories on Florida's vanishing wetlands that he wrote with Matthew Waite won the top investigative reporting award in both 2006 and 2007 from the Society of Environmental Journalists. He is the author of three books: "The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid" (2012); "Manatee Insanity: Inside the War Over Florida's Most Famous Endangered Species," (2010); and, co-written with Waite, "Paving Paradise: Florida's Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss," (2009), all published by the University Press of Florida. He lives in St. Petersburg with his wife and two children.

Phone: (727) 893-8530

Email: craig@tampabay.com

Twitter: @CraigTimes

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  1. Florida may be going on a bear hunt in 2015

    Wildlife

    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....

    Complaints about bears to the state wildlife commission’s hotline have been growing.
  2. Climate change impacts being assessed by Florida Department of Health

    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....

    Vicki Boguszewski received a $10,000 grant from the Florida Department of Health.
  3. Florida pelicans are being slashed, beaten

    Wildlife

    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....

    A photo on the Florida Keys Wildlife Rescue website shows a juvenile brown pelican recovering from surgery for a slit pouch.
  4. Lealman teacher charged with having sex with 14-year-old girl

    Crime

    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....

    Jeffrey Bohlander, 54, of Clearwater, a teacher at Lealman Intermediate School, is charged with lewd and lascivious battery.
  5. As rising sea level chomps at Cape Canaveral, NASA uses nature-friendly solution

    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....

    Space Exploration Technologies’ Falcon 9 rocket lifts off in March 2013 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. NASA recently leased one of the launch sites near the beach erosion to the SpaceX group.
  6. Pasco osteopath accused of drugging and assaulting female patients

    Crime

    For more than a decade, Dade City's Dr. Daniel P. McBath has been recognized for his service to the community, particularly his work with Pasco County's sports teams. Thirteen years ago, the Florida Society of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians named him its Physician of the Year.

    But 10 years ago, according to an order filed by state health officials, he drugged a female medical student and assaulted her while she was unconscious. When she awoke, he told her they had just "made love," state health officials said. ...

    Dr. Daniel McBath of Dade City says the accusations against him are “retaliation.”
  7. Feds release new winter regulations to protect manatees in Three Sisters Springs

    Wildlife

    On these winter days when Kings Bay turns chilly, hundreds of manatees crowd into Three Sisters Springs in Citrus County, huddling together in the warmth flowing from the underground spring vents.

    Lately they've had plenty of company — too much, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Photos of hundreds of manatees piled up like puppies in Three Sisters have attracted so many tourists that federal officials estimate the spring sees 100 people an hour. The number of snorkelers and boaters visiting the springs to see the manatees has nearly doubled from 67,000 permitted visitors in 2010 to more than 125,000 in 2013....

    A manatee inspects snorkeler Julie Barney, of Vero Beach, right, and her mother, Laura Rogers, of Vero Beach, while swimming near the entrance to Three Sisters Springs on Monday on Kings Bay in Crystal River in Citrus County.[DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  8. Scott names new chief for environmental agency

    State Roundup

    A year ago, when Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced he was suing the state of Georgia for taking too much water and leaving Apalachicola and its oysters high and dry, one of the people standing by him was Jon Steverson, executive director of the Northwest Florida Water Management District.

    On Thursday, Scott had another job for Steverson, 39, of Tallahassee. The governor appointed the fourth-generation Florida native as the new secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection....

    Jon Steverson is the state’s new defender of natural resources.
  9. Discovery TV show star and partner sent to prison for smuggling snakes

    Wildlife

    On his reality television show, Swamp Brothers, Robbie Keszey wrestled with scores of alligators, crocodiles and venomous reptiles swarming across his Bushnell snake farm.

    But Keszey had a secret sideline. He and his business partner, Robroy MacInnes, were smugglers slipping around state, federal and international law. Last week, their smuggling earned each man a federal prison sentence: a year behind bars for Keszey, 18 months for MacInnes....

    Robbie Keszey and Robroy MacInnes transported eastern indigo snakes, pictured, from Florida to Pennsylvania. And they shipped eastern timber rattlesnakes to Florida. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times]
  10. Alico buying three Florida citrus producers for $363 million

    Agriculture

    Agricultural giant Alico Inc. is buying three Central Florida citrus operations for $363 million in an aggressive move that the Fort Myers company says will make it the largest citrus producer in the United States.

    The deals announced Wednesday more than triple Alico's agricultural footprint to more than 30,000 acres and triple its return to shareholders. The deals show Alico is gambling that Florida's orange groves will bounce back from the citrus greening bacteria that has devastated the industry — to the point of pledging to replant trees that have been lost to the disease....

    Despite citrus’ decline from disease, Alico pledges to grow the industry in its vast acreage. Its Florida land buys now make it the biggest U.S. producer, Alico says. 
  11. DEP upsets state park fans by proposing marina, cabins and other alterations

    Environment

    Three years ago, early in Gov. Rick Scott's administration, his Department of Environmental Protection proposed major changes in the state park system — mostly to add more campgrounds and other facilities, including a place for recreational vehicles to park overnight at Honeymoon Island State Park.

    The proposal ran into a firestorm of opposition. A public hearing in Dunedin drew about 1,000 angry people. After that, Scott himself pulled the plug....

    Plans to change the St. George Island park were panned by local residents.
  12. Everglades alligators wasting away while Congress controls their fate

    Environment

    They are the symbol of the Everglades, the animal that for decades most tourists have anticipated seeing during a visit to the national park.

    But the alligators that inhabit the Everglades are showing signs of serious trouble. Their population has dropped, and the ones that are still around tend to look starved.

    Did invading pythons eat their lunch? Did they get into some bad sushi? No, the answer is more complicated, according to veteran biologist Frank Mazzotti — and it bodes ill for the Everglades as a whole....

    Alligators that live in the Everglades are showing signs of serious trouble. Their population has dropped, and the ones that remain tend to be smaller. Here, partially submerged alligators swim in an Everglades canal.
  13. USF gets $20 million to study 1979 Ixtoc oil spill as guide to Deepwater Horizon contamination

    Water

    A consortium of science organizations led by the University of South Florida's College of Marine Science is getting a $20.2 million grant to continue leading studies of the impact of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster — in part by studying the impact of another Gulf of Mexico oil spill that happened in 1979.

    "By looking into the past, it should enable us to look into the future," oceanographer Jacqueline E. Dixon, dean of USF's marine science program, said....

    The Mexican runaway oil well, 51-miles offshore in Campeche Sound, Mexico on August 27, 1979, continues out of control and on fire, spewing off huge quantities of natural gas. Engineers say they reduce the flow of crude oil from 30,000 to 10,000 barrels a day but claim they probably won’t be able to cap it before late September or early October. [Associated Press]
  14. 19th Florida panther killed by car, tying all-time record

    Wildlife

    On a Collier County road on Thursday, biologists found a female Florida panther that had been run over by a car or truck. The death of that 3- or 4-year-old panther marks the 19th roadkill death of one of Florida's official state animals this year.

    That ties the all-time record set in 2012 — with more than a month left to go in the year. Experts expect to see the record broken before New Year's Eve rolls around....

    Cliff Coleman photographed a Florida panther on the Black Boar Ranch, a hunting preserve he manages which located just south of the newly created wildlife passage called the Lone Ranger Track, east of LaBelle. [Photo by Cliff Coleman]
  15. Years of tracking giant snails costs Florida taxpayers millions

    Wildlife

    MIAMI

    At a little-known government laboratory in South Florida, they keep the snails under lock and key. Sure, any escape would be sloooooow. But giant African land snails are such a threat to humans that the rules say they have to be kept locked away, just in case.

    The aptly-named snails can grow to be more than 6 inches long. Wherever they go they leave a trail of smelly excrement. They eat 500 kinds of plants. They produce up to 500 eggs two or three times a year, and because they're hermaphrodites they don't need a mate. If they aren't getting enough lime from the soil for their shells, they will gobble the stucco off the side of a house. ...

    Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services scientist Mary Yong Cong holds a live giant African land snail in her hand. Cong keeps live snails in her office (under lock and key) so that dogs trained to sniff them out can get their scent.