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. Gov. Rick Scott and the environment, a case of dramatic change

    Blog

    In January, Gov. Rick Scott stood in front of a room full of Department of Environmental Protection employees and praised their hard work.

    One accomplishment Scott singled out: making it easier than ever to obtain a permit for filling in wetlands, pumping water out of the aquifer or pouring pollutants into the water and air.

    "Recently Florida has successfully reduced its environmental permitting time down to just two days, and that's great!" Scott said. "We take care of our environment, but when we know we're going to give a permit, give it to them quickly."...

  2. Under Scott, Department of Environmental Protection undergoes drastic change

    Environment

    In January, Gov. Rick Scott stood in front of a room full of Department of Environmental Protection employees and praised their hard work.

    One accomplishment Scott singled out: making it easier than ever to obtain a permit for filling in wetlands, pumping water out of the aquifer or pouring pollutants into the water and air.

    "Recently Florida has successfully reduced its environmental permitting time down to just two days, and that's great!" Scott said. "We take care of our environment, but when we know we're going to give a permit, give it to them quickly."...

    Algae coats sea grass in the Indian River Lagoon.
  3. Scott's DEP tried to change award-winning park system

    Water

    One of the Department of Environmental Protection's most important jobs is operating the state park system.

    Florida's 171 parks have won three national awards — the only state system so honored. The parks attract 25 million visitors a year and contribute $1.2 billion to the state's economy — yet the Scott administration repeatedly tried to change them.

    First, after Scott met with golf legend Jack Nicklaus, two of his allies in the Legislature (one of them Sen. John Thrasher) sponsored bills to allow Nicklaus to build golf courses with adjoining hotels in five state parks....

  4. Solutions offered at climate change forum inspired by Gov. Scott

    Global Warming

    ST. PETERSBURG — About 250 people turned out Monday afternoon for a conference on climate change inspired by Gov. Rick Scott to talk about solutions ranging from alternate energy sources to coping with sea level rise.

    The Florida Climate Science and Solutions Summit, held at Eckerd College, brought together scientists, government officials and entrepreneurs to discuss what has worked and what has not as the atmosphere and oceans heat up....

    Melissa Fultz, 31, of St. Petersburg captures an image of the ideas wall at the Climate Science and Solutions Summit at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg on Monday.
  5. Gov. Rick Scott visits Bethel Community Baptist

    Blog

    Two weeks after Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist visited Bethel Community Baptist Church in St. Petersburg, Republican Gov. Rick Scott followed suit Sunday morning. Unlike Crist, Scott stayed for the entire church service and shook hands and posed for photos afterward.

    When Crist visited the church, he spent most of his time knocking Scott for his cuts to the education budget and for not expanding the Medicaid program, as well as ending a program Crist had started as governor to automatically restore the rights of ex-felons who have served their time....

    Gov. Rick Scott with the Rev. Manuel Sykes on Sunday at Bethel Community Baptist Church in St. Petersburg
  6. Charlie Crist endorses Greenlight Pinellas in visit to St. Pete church

    Blog

    Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist and St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin spent about 20 minutes campaigning at Bethel Community Baptist Church in St. Petersburg Sunday morning.

    Tomalin urged the congregation to vote for the Greenlight Pinellas transit issue because of the jobs it would create -- and then Crist endorsed the ballot item as well.

    "Greenlight is good -- good for transportation," Crist told the congregation....

    Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist and St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin spent about 20 minutes campaigning at Bethel Community Baptist Church in St. Petersburg Sunday morning.
  7. What about the manatees? Group targets two U.S. agencies for dock permits

    Wildlife

    An environmental group that frequently sues the government over endangered species issues has taken aim at the federal permitting of thousands of boat docks in Florida and how that affects manatees.

    The Florida office of the Center for Biological Diversity contends that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service aren't keeping track of how many permits they approve for waterfront access throughout the state....

    The Center for Biological Diversity says two federal agencies are not considering the cumulative impact on manatees from the high number of Florida docks they are approving.
  8. U.S. Sugar plans development on land Florida wanted for Everglades restoration

    Environment

    For the past two years, as its executives were taking Florida politicians on secret hunting trips to the King Ranch in Texas, U.S. Sugar was planning for a massive change in its business plan.

    The company, which has been growing and processing sugar cane in South Florida since the 1930s, has mapped out a way to turn itself into one of Florida's biggest developers.

    On 67 square miles of sugar land southwest of Lake Okeechobee in Hendry County, U.S. Sugar and Hilliard Brothers of Florida, another sugar company with adjoining property, have joined forces on a project that would plop down 18,000 homes and 25 million square feet of stores, offices, warehouses and other commercial buildings amid the rural landscape....

    Sugar is such a mainstay in Hendry that the county seat of Clewiston is known as “America’s Sweetest City.”
  9. After dismantling land programs, Scott now wants funds for them

    Environment

    When Gov. Rick Scott unveiled a proposal this month to revive Florida's popular environmental land-buying program, to the tune of $150 million a year, the news caught Greg Brock off guard.

    "I was kind of shocked," said Brock, who recently retired from the Division of State Lands.

    That's because Scott's administration has spent the past three years dismantling the division of the Department of Environmental Protection that's in charge of assessing and acquiring environmental land, according to Brock and other former DEP employees. ...

    Mosaic — as part of a legal settlement — offered last year to hand over to the state for free the Peaceful Horse Ranch along the Peace River. The DEP said no thanks. 
  10. Scott and Putnam disclose a few more details on King Ranch trips

    Elections

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam this week provided the most detail yet on his hunting trips to King Ranch in Texas, saying he did not discuss state business, such as water policy, while visiting hunting land leased by U.S. Sugar.

    However, Putnam still won't answer key questions about his trips to King Ranch, where he and other top Florida Republican elected officials have visited since U.S. Sugar leased land there in 2011....

    Adam Putnam says his last trip to the Texas ranch was in 2012.
  11. Touting prosugar bill, Southerland first U.S. congressman to confirm King Ranch trip

    Elections

    TALLAHASSEE — Standing alongside Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and representatives from business groups, U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland on Monday touted federal legislation to block federal oversight of waterways and wetlands in favor of state and local government agencies.

    "If the big government bullies are successful, it will mean higher costs for doing business, more uncertainty in the workplace, and fewer jobs," the Panama City Republican said during a news conference in the state Capitol. "States and local governments are sometimes better able to manage waters within their boundaries than the D.C. bureaucrats a thousand miles away."...

    U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland confirmed that he went on a hunting trip to U.S. Sugar's lease on King Ranch. [The New York Times (2011)]
  12. With close ties to sugar, next House speaker admits King Ranch trip

    State Roundup

    To say that Steve Crisafulli is comfortable working with the sugar industry is an understatement.

    Crisafulli, who becomes the most powerful man in the Florida House of Representatives this fall, has been a major beneficiary of the state's sugar industry. During the last two election cycles, agricultural interests have contributed at least $200,000 to Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, and his political action committees. U.S. Sugar contributed nearly half of that total, $94,500....

    The website for King Ranch in Texas, where U.S. Sugar built a hunting lodge, touts the animals available for hunting.
  13. Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge, Group 35

    Politics

    Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Group 35

    The race for this seat on the Pinellas-Pasco bench pits a first-time candidate named Jon Newlon, a family law attorney with a solo practice, against an incumbent with nearly a quarter century of experience, Circuit Judge Bruce Boyer. Craig Pittman, Times staff writer

     

    Bruce Boyer, 67

     ...

    Jon Newlon
  14. Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge, Group 16

    Politics

    Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Group 16

    Brian Battaglia and Kimberly Sharpe have taken different paths through the legal system, but both say their experience has prepared them for taking the bench as a Pinellas-Pasco circuit judge. Craig Pittman, Times staff writer

    Brian Battaglia, 53

    Attorney

    Kimberly Sharpe, 33...

    Brian Battaglia
  15. Clean Tampa Bay worth $22 billion to bay area, study says

    Environment

    One in every five jobs in the Tampa Bay watershed depends on keeping the bay itself healthy, according to a new study unveiled Tuesday.

    A clean bay also contributes about $22 billion to the bay area's total economic activity over the larger, six-county region, according to the study conducted by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.

    The survey — the first look at the bay's economic impact since 1999 — looked at employment, real estate, food services and lodging in an area that includes all or parts of counties from Hernando to Sarasota. The two agencies also sent a detailed survey to 76 professionals working in industries affiliated with the bay....