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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


Twitter: @CraigTimes

  1. NRA's Hammer says water agency's actions against local gun club are illegal


    The National Rifle Association's most influential lobbyist denounced a state water agency Tuesday, demanding that Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature abolish the Southwest Florida Water Management District for what she called violations of the Second Amendment.

    Marion Hammer, whose Florida concealed weapons permit is License No. 0000001, is upset at the agency commonly known as Swiftmud because it is trying to make a Pinellas Park gun club clean up lead pollution caused by spent ammunition....

  2. NRA's Marion Hammer wants water agency abolished over gun club dispute


    The National Rifle Association's most influential lobbyist blasted a state water agency Tuesday, demanding that Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature abolish the Southwest Florida Water Management District for what she called violations of the Second Amendment.

    Marion Hammer, whose Florida concealed weapons permit is License No. 0000001, is upset at the agency commonly known as Swiftmud because of a decade-long conflict over a Pinellas Park gun club and lead pollution caused by spent ammunition....

    Marion Hammer, who was the national NRA’s first female president, wields tremendous clout both in Tallahassee and nationwide. She wrote Florida’s concealed-weapons law, which was then copied by 40 other states. She’s also the author of the state’s controversial Stand Your Ground law, which was copied by other states as well. Here, she speaks in favor of a guns-at-work bill during a meeting of the state House environment and natural resources council in Tallahassee. The bill was defeated.
  3. Shark attacks hit record worldwide in 2015, with Florida No. 1


    Shark attacks hit an all-time worldwide record in 2015, with Florida — as always — leading the globe in the number of times sharks bit surfers, swimmers and beachfront splashers, according to researchers at the University of Florida.

    Florida — in addition to being the Lightning Capital of the Western Hemisphere, Sinkhole Central and the state most likely to be hit by a hurricane — has a longtime reputation as the Shark Attack Capital of the World. ...

    Australian surfer Mick Fanning is pursued by a shark in Jeffrey's Bay, South Africa, on July 19, 2015. Fanning punched the creature during the televised finals of a world surfing competition in South Africa and escaped without injuries. Worldwide the number of shark attacks hit 98 in 2015, according to the International Shark Attack File.  [World Surf League via AP]
  4. Homosassa water supplier fears new Suncoast leg will pollute its well field


    To some people in Citrus County, the second leg of the Suncoast Parkway would be a tremendous economic boost, spurring new development in areas now far off the beaten path.

    But to the 6,000 people who get their water from the Homosassa Special Water District, the new toll road is a pollution threat.

    The road's stormwater retention ponds would be located next to — and upstream from — the water district's Peach Orchard well field, which produces more than 7 million gallons of water a day. Both are atop a highly porous geological formation known as karst, which is made of easily dissolved limestone riddled with holes and channels....

    Two runners pass underneath the Suncoast Parkway as they run along the Suncoast trail on Wednesday afternoon, January 27, 2016 in Tampa. [ZACK WITTMAN | Times]
  5. Getting it wrong: Suncoast Parkway set to expand even as it fails to meet projections


    Before the Suncoast Parkway opened, a consultant predicted that it would be so full of cars its toll booths would rake in $150 million a year by 2014.

    That forecast wasn't close. Nor were the next two. The consultant eventually settled on a forecast of $38 million a year.

    But when 2014 rolled around, the road was so empty it collected a mere $22 million.

    Yet the Florida Department of Transportation now wants to spend $256.7 million to extend the Suncoast another 13 miles north through Citrus County. And the projections the DOT is relying on to justify what has been dubbed Suncoast 2 are from the same consultant that got the first phase so wrong....

    A runner heads towards the Suncoast Parkway as he runs along the Suncoast trail on Wednesday afternoon, January 27, 2016 in Tampa.
  6. Controversial toll road could wipe out historic turpentine camp


    ETNA CAMP — To someone strolling along the edge of the woods, the tangled metal straps, shards of broken pottery, and bits of crumbled bricks on the ground look like litter.

    But to an archaeologist like Scott Bierly, the items are artifacts of a bygone era, relics from when men toiled amid heat and insects to collect tree sap and refine it into turpentine.

    The Etna Camp, on state-owned land in the Withlacoochee State Forest, is so important an archaeological site that it's listed on the National Register of Historic Places....

    A shard of pottery from the Etna Camp shows the size of many of the artifacts left from the old turpentine camp in Citrus County. Although the camp is on the National Historic Register, Florida officials have routed a controversial toll road, the second leg of the Suncoast Parkway, through the site. [CRAIG PITTMAN | Times]
  7. Florida's second Everglades python hunt expected to bring hundreds of hunters


    The thousands of Burmese pythons slithering around the Everglades eating everything in sight have little reason to worry about this, but hundreds of hunters are descending on South Florida this weekend for the state wildlife commission's second Python Challenge.

    The python hunt starts today and runs through Valentine's Day, with a $1,500 prize for catching the most snakes and $1,000 for the biggest snake. So far the contest has attracted only 573 hunters, a third as many as the first one did in 2013. ...

    Justin Matthews stalks during the first Python Challenge, when more than 1,000 hunters killed just 68 snakes.
  8. Water bills ready for quick vote but environmental groups want to slow it down


    Florida has some serious water woes: spreading nutrient pollution, the algae-choked springs and, in the Indian River Lagoon, massive sea grass and wildlife die-offs.

    Yet for the past two years, the Legislature has failed to deal with the problem. Politics got in the way.

    In 2014, everyone from Gov. Rick Scott to a coalition of environmental groups and a consortium of business and industry groups said the Legislature needed to take swift action on water issues. ...

    [ CAMERON COTTRILL  |  Times ]
  9. It's official: Feds want to reclassify manatees as something less than endangered


    Nearly 50 years after Florida manatees appeared on the first-ever federal endangered species list, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it's time to call them something other than endangered.

    "We believe the manatee is no longer in danger of extinction," U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service deputy regional director Michael Oetker said in a Miami news conference Thursday.

    The agency says manatees are now merely "threatened" — still in need of protection but no longer in such dire circumstances, a change that in Florida can affect everything from development regulations to funding for enforcement....

  10. The price of cheap gas? Boaters killed more manatees in 2015 than prior year


    ST. PETERSBURG — Florida's boaters killed more manatees last year than they did in 2014, according to figures released Tuesday by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. Speeding boats killed 87 manatees in 2015, 14 more than the number of boat-related deaths the year before.

    "It's on the high side," said Martine DeWit of the institute's Marine Mammal Pathology Laboratory in St. Petersburg. "Watercraft are still the biggest threat to the manatee population, long term."...

    Electra, a manatee being treated at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in 2009.
  11. Gators, goat sacrifice and a Darth Vader robber — Florida got weirder in 2015

    Human Interest

    Florida is America's Weirdest State. Let's just agree to that as a first principle. Weird things happen everywhere there are human beings, of course, but more weirdness happens in the Sunshine State and it tends to be weirder.

    For proof that this is a fact, look no further than a few of the stories that happened here in 2105 — stories with headlines like "Deerfield Reptile Store Owner Hits People With Pet Dragon" and "Alleged FIU Foot Sniffer Arrested."...

    A man wearing a Darth Vader mask tried to rob a Jacksonville Beach 8 til Late convenience store in November, police said. [Image from surveillance video via Jacksonville Beach Police Department]
  12. DEP drops plan to launch cattle grazing pilot program in Myakka River State Park


    Florida's top environmental official, Jon Steverson, has been pushing all year to get the state parks to make more money by adding hunting, timber harvesting and cattle grazing.

    But now one of those appears to be off the list.

    Department of Environmental Protection officials wanted to run a pilot project with cattle grazing leases at Myakka River State Park near Sarasota to see how well it worked. The proposal generated intense local opposition....

    This is one of the many hiking trails at Myakka River State Park, near Sarasota. The 37,000-acre park hasn’t had any cattle in it since the 1930s.
  13. Florida tops 20 million in population


    THE THIRD LARGEST STATE IN THE UNION — Prognosticators have been saying it for years: Florida will surpass 20 million in population.

    Such projections are no longer necessary. The U.S. Census Bureau made it official Tuesday.

    Florida's population in 2015 was 20,271,272.

    Only California (39,144,818) and Texas (27,469,114) had more, according to the bureau.

    Read more....

  14. It's official: Florida joins the 20 million club


    Wag your elbows. Flap them as if you're a bird. Enjoy that feeling of freedom now, because elbow room in Florida is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

    According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Florida's population has now topped 20 million people.

    Prognosticators have been predicting this would happen for years, the way they've been predicting the number of Florida tourists would someday top 100 million. ...

    Crowds on Clearwater Beach this spring are just one sign of a rapidly growing population. Demographers predicted Florida, third behind California and Texas, would surpass the 20 million mark.
  15. Poll: To boost state park revenue, hike fees or let cattle in


    Nearly 40 percent of Tampa Bay residents say those who use state parks are the ones who should pay to make them more profitable, according to a poll of 605 registered voters in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

    Yet, at the other end of the spectrum, 42 percent say the state could boost revenue by leasing portions of parks to ranchers for cattle grazing, according to the Dec. 3-10 Tampa Bay Times/WTSP 10News poll....

    Cows graze alongside SR 54.   A Times/Channel 10 poll of registered voters in Pinellas and Hillsborough shows support for cattle grazing to make the state's parks profitable. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]