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....
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. ...
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....
12/11/14 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....
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....
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....