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. Why won't the Florida GOP talk about King Ranch?

    Blog

    On a Friday in February 2013, Gov. Rick Scott stepped aboard a Texas-bound plane to take part in a secret ritual for Florida's power elite.

    As other politicians had done before and would do after, Scott was departing for historic King Ranch, one of North America's premier hunting grounds. The trips, records indicate, were financed all or in part with contributions from Florida's sugar industry, right down to the hunting licenses....

  2. A history of Florida's gift ban: Scandal. Reform. Repeat.

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Free hunting trips, whether to King Ranch in Texas or destinations closer to home, are a fixture of Florida politics.

    It was nearly 25 years ago that details emerged about lawmakers hunting and fishing with lobbyists. Their crime: not reporting the trips, which was a violation of a 1970 law.

    Back then, all county and state elected officials were required to report gifts worth more than $25, so the public would have an idea of who might be influencing their politicians....

    Willie Meggs charged more than two dozen state lawmakers.
  3. King Ranch's storied history: from cattle rearing to luxury hunting

    State Roundup

    Sprawled across 1,300 square miles of Texas hills, desert and coastal prairies, King Ranch is among the top hunting destinations in North America, and one of the Lone Star State's most historic treasures.

    Established in 1853 by a steamboat captain named Richard King, it was the state's first cattle ranch, the prototype for all the other magnificent spreads that helped define the American West. It's where some of the original cattle drives started and where the first American cattle breed was created. It inspired Edna Ferber's novel Giant and the screen version starring James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor — not to mention a line of Ford pickup trucks....

    A horse trainer works at King Ranch near Kingsville, Texas. Hunting accounts for a growing portion of revenue at the King Ranch that rivals, if not surpasses, money made from ranching.
  4. Why won't Florida GOP leaders talk about hunting trips to King Ranch in Texas?

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE

    On a Friday in February 2013, Gov. Rick Scott stepped aboard a Texas-bound plane to take part in a secret ritual for Florida's power elite.

    As other politicians had done before and would do after, Scott was departing for historic King Ranch, one of North America's premier hunting grounds. The trips, records indicate, were financed all or in part with contributions from Florida's sugar industry, right down to the hunting licenses....

    Susan Hepworth insisted no laws are being broken.
  5. Texas company ends controversial oil drilling in Florida; keeps pumping from one well

    Environment

    A Texas company that sparked controversy by drilling for oil in Florida panther habitat near the Everglades — and then violating its permit — announced Friday that except for its lone well that's producing oil, it is ending all its operations there.

    Officials from the Dan A. Hughes Co. "assessed their capital budget and their prospects in other parts of the country and decided to allocate their resources to other project areas," spokesman David Blackmon said....

    Workers at the Dan A. Hughes drilling operation on Dec. 31, 2013, the day the company violated its permit by using a drilling technique not allowed under its state permit. The uproar that resulted led to a $25,000 fine, testing of the groundwater and now an announcement from Hughes that it’s ending its drilling work in Collier County.
  6. Feds declare 300 miles of Florida beaches critical habitat for loggerheads

    Wildlife

    In a move likely to affect the building of new sea walls, federal officials Wednesday announced that they had designated hundreds of miles of beaches in Florida and six other states as critical habitat for loggerhead sea turtles.

    The areas designated for the turtles stretch from North Carolina to Mississippi and encompass 84 percent of all known loggerhead nesting areas. However, the announcement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration did not include any of Pinellas County's beaches, which frequently see nesting turtles....

    The loggerhead, like all species of sea turtles, is considered imperiled.
  7. Federal officials may take manatees down a notch on endangered species list

    Wildlife

    Federal officials announced Tuesday that they have agreed to consider removing Florida manatees from their list of endangered species. Instead, they said, the iconic mammals — which have been on the list since it was created in 1967 — may belong in the less protective "threatened" category, even though the number of manatees killed last year set a new record.

    The potential change in the manatee's status is being considered under pressure from the Pacific Legal Foundation, a libertarian group that generally opposes all environmental regulations. In this case it's working on behalf of Save Crystal River Inc., which opposes new federal rules requiring boats in Kings Bay to slow down during the summer as well as winter....

    Manatees have been on the endangered list since the first list was created in 1967.
  8. St. Augustine haunted by ghosts of civil rights turmoil 50 years ago

    Perspective

    No city in Florida embraces its past with as much ardor as St. Augustine. As the oldest continuously occupied city in the United States, history is its main industry. Hordes of tourists and busloads of schoolkids troop through its streets to watch the (pretend) guards patrolling Fort Matanzas, to fire the (fake) cannon at the Pirate & Treasure Museum, to sip from the (phony) Fountain of Youth....

    A WADE-IN AT THE BEACH    The protests became more creative. On June 25, 1964, segregationists confronted integrationists at a whites-only beach. A group of black and white students in swim trunks tried to integrate the beach, an event dubbed a “wade-in.” Angry whites beat them, and then state troopers waded in with their nightsticks and beat both sides. “There was blood in the water,” Dr. Robert Hayling, the dentist, recalled.
  9. Beach renourishment set; Jannus makes changes; a dog park opens

    Human Interest

    Beaches to get infusion of sand

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is scheduled to start putting fresh sand on Pinellas County's eroded beaches at the beginning of July, but the beaches will remain open throughout the work, corps officials said.

    The work will begin at Sunshine Beach, at the northern tip of Treasure Island. It will be followed by Sunset Beach in Treasure Island and Upham Beach and Pass-a-Grille in St. Pete Beach....

    Starting early next month, these beaches will be renourished, in this order: Sunshine Beach and Sunset Beach in Treasure Island, and Upham Beach and Pass-a-Grille in St. Pete Beach.
  10. 'Microplastics' imperil marine life in Tampa Bay, worldwide

    Water

    Years of hard work and millions of dollars went into cleaning up the nutrient pollution that was ruining Tampa Bay with fish kills and algae blooms. Now healthy sea grass beds are spreading across the bay bottom once more, and fish and manatees are swimming through water that has become clearer.

    But in the meantime another pollutant, one that few people have ever heard of, has been building up in the bay and posing a serious threat to marine life in Florida's largest estuary. So far, nobody knows what to do about it....

    The Eckerd crew, including Chelsea Trimmer, has consistently found about 150 particles of microplastics per gallon sampled.
  11. Gov. Rick Scott vetoes money for regional planning councils -- again

    Blog

    Although Gov. Rick Scott didn't veto a lot of spending in this year's $77 billion state budget on Monday, he did reject $2.5 million for the state's regional planning councils.

    That he did so should not be a surprise. Scott vetoed funding for the regional planning councils in 2011, 2012 and 2013, too.

    Because of Scott's repeated vetoes, the councils have been forced to lay off employees or freeze pay because their other source of funding, local governments, could not fill the gap....

  12. Gov. Scott vetoes money for regional planning councils for fourth year

    Growth

    Although Gov. Rick Scott didn't veto a lot of spending in this year's $77 billion state budget on Monday, he did reject $2.5 million for the state's regional planning councils.

    That he did so should not be a surprise. Scott vetoed funding for the regional planning councils in 2011, 2012 and 2013, too.

    Because of Scott's repeated vetoes, the councils have been forced to lay off employees or freeze pay because their other source of funding, local governments, could not fill the gap. ...

    Gov. Rick Scott did not give a direct reason for the rejection.
  13. Deputy DEP secretary Jeff Littlejohn resigns

    Blog

    After three years of running the regulatory side of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Deputy Secretary Jeff Littlejohn — son of veteran Florida Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Chuck Littlejohn — turned in his resignation Friday afternoon.

    Littlejohn, a frequent target of criticism from environmental activists, said in his resignation letter that he was glad he had been able to reduce “unnecessary regulatory burdens” on Floridians by eliminating or streamlining hundreds of rules “without lowering environmental standards.”...

  14. Federal proposal would pay landowners to preserve Florida panther habitat

    Wildlife

    VENUS — In a move that has never been tried before by the federal government, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials want to pay big landowners to maintain their property as good panther habitat.

    They unveiled a possible pilot program Thursday, one that would spend $500,000 per year to pay landowners to preserve about 26,000 acres for 10 years — roughly 10 percent of all the South Florida land that might eventually be covered, according to wildlife service officials....

    A Florida Panther on the Black Boar Ranch, a hunting preserve just south of the Lone Ranger Track, east of LaBelle.
  15. Florida company's Arctic Mice blamed for salmonella in snake owners in 18 states

    Wildlife

    Reptile owners around the country are on alert. Two federal agencies are investigating. At least 37 people in 18 states have gotten sick. Five had to be hospitalized.

    And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, the cause of all this is a dose of salmonella that can be traced back to a product sold by a Florida company.

    The product: frozen mice, suitable for feeding to your pet snake. ...

    The CDC and the FDA have warned reptile owners nationwide that nearly 40 people in 18 states have fallen ill with salmonella they contracted from frozen mice they fed to their snakes. The source? A Florida company, the largest of its kind in the country, that makes Arctic Mice and sells them via Petsmart.