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

  1. Texas oil company used acid in Florida wildlife sanctuary soil, denies fracking

    Water

    The Texas oil company fined $25,000 for violating its state permit while drilling a well amid a wildlife sanctuary was not doing any hydraulic fracturing, also known as "fracking," according to Dan A. Hughes Co. spokesman David Blackmon.

    Instead of using water mixed with chemicals to create fractures, as is common in fracking, it was using acid, Blackmon said, adding that company officials don't see anything wrong with what they did....

  2. Springs bill advances in Senate, though stripped of funding

    Water

    A bill to help restore Florida's ailing springs passed its last committee stop in the Senate, but wound up stripped of millions in projected funding.

    The bill, SB 1576, won approval from the Senate Appropriations Committee after it was amended to take out a funding source that would have supplied an estimated $380 million in documentary stamp tax money for cleaning up the pollution tainting the state's iconic springs. The amended bill also allows the state to waive the deadlines for cleanup that were in the original....

  3. Oil company drilling in sanctuary fined $25,000 for violation that could be fracking

    Water

    The Texas company that stirred controversy by applying to drill for oil in Florida panther habitat was doing more with one of its wells than what its state permit allowed.

    The Florida Department of Environmental Protection on Friday afternoon revealed that it had fined the Dan A. Hughes Co. $25,000 for violating its permit. The violation involves using a process that sounds like fracking — although the word "fracking" appears nowhere in either Friday's DEP news release or the legal paperwork about the fine from 10 days earlier....

  4. Gulf oil spill restoration projects include hotel, ferries, boat docks

    News

    Four years ago Sunday, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 crew members and igniting the worst environmental disaster in American history.

    Before the crisis was over, 4.9 million barrels of oil had spewed into the Gulf of Mexico. Scientists now believe it caused the deaths of pelicans, oysters, dolphins, coral and sea turtles, not to mention causing heart damage to bluefin tuna and deformities among shrimp, killifish and crabs. Globs of weathered oil continue washing ashore, and plenty more remains buried in the sediment offshore....

    BP has paid $1 billion to help restore areas damaged by the 2010 gulf oil spill. Yet much of the money is funding projects such as ferries, boat ramps and a hotel and conference center.
  5. Florida wildlife commissioners limit harvest of sea cucumbers

    Wildlife

    Two months after they postponed a decision to regulate the harvest of one of Florida's ugliest sea creatures, state wildlife commissioners voted Wednesday to limit how many sea cucumbers can be collected.

    However, the decision was criticized by the owner of the only sea cucumber processing plant on the East Coast of the United States, who said it would force him to shut down.

    "It's hard for me to accept being put out of business by a rule or regulation that hasn't been fully researched," said Eric Lee of the Florida Sea Cucumber Corp. in Ramrod Key, scheduled to be featured next month on Bizarre Foods, Andrew Zimmern's Travel Channel program....

  6. Florida senators moving on bill to protect springs, but House efforts stall

    Water

    With the legislative session more than half over, lawmakers in the House and Senate remain at odds over what to do — if anything — to fix Florida's ailing springs.

    In the Senate, SB 1576, sponsored by five veteran legislators, has passed two of its three committee hearings by unanimous vote. It calls for designating protection zones around 38 of the state's most prominent springs, cutting the flow of pollution from runoff and septic tanks, and safeguarding their continued flow with limits on pumping....

    Because many of Florida’s springs are major tourist draws, such as Silver Springs, their environmental woes have an economic impact on their nearby communities. Bills in the Florida Senate and House say that “the Legislature finds that springs are a unique part of this state’s scenic beauty, deserving the highest level of protection.”
  7. Hunter says he was attacked by Florida panther

    Wildlife

    A Lake Wales hunter says he was attacked by a Florida panther while he was calling turkeys near Lake Kissimmee in Central Florida. If true, it would be the first recorded panther attack on a human since the 1800s.

    Unfortunately, say state biologists, the hunter waited three weeks to report it. That means they cannot verify that it occurred. His wounds are nearly healed, and rain that has fallen since the attack has obscured any paw prints the animal may have left behind....

  8. State parks' 'friends' upset by bills that may kill them off

    Environment

    They build nature centers. They volunteer as tour guides. Some of them even pay park rangers' salaries.

    Florida's state parks wouldn't win national prizes if it weren't for the 111 "Friends of" groups that help support them, groups such as the 345-member Friends of the Island Parks in Dunedin.

    But the groups say a pair of bills that have been zooming through the Legislature this spring could doom them. At best, the legislation is likely to foul up their fundraising and long-range planning, they say....

    George Skalkeas, 63 (left), and George Fischer, 71, are shown as volunteers with the Friends of the Island Parks in this 2010 file photo. They have built more than 30 memorial benches together. They purchase the lumber at local home improvement stores, then assemble the benches on the workshop at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin.
  9. Striking video: Study finds sharks use all their senses to track prey

    Wildlife

    Everybody knows that sharks sniff out the tiniest drop of blood in the ocean and swim right over to its source and start chomping. Basically, if not for that telltale scent, the sharks would never find anything to eat, right?

    Wrong.

    A 6½-year study of three species of Florida sharks, published Wednesday, has found that in hunting prey they use all of their senses, not just their sense of smell....

    A blacktip shark is fitted with nose plugs during the study.
  10. At opening day game, Rays fans rave about renovated ballpark

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — The minute Travis Morgan walked into Tropicana Field, well before the first pitch in Monday afternoon's Tampa Bay Rays home opener, he could smell something new.

    In addition to the usual smells that go with a major league ball game — hot dogs cooking, popcorn popping, beer on tap — Morgan, 27, a Tampa building remodeler, could detect the subtle scent of new wood....

  11. Study finds Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused heart defects in young tuna, amberjack (w/video)

    Wildlife

    Oil from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster causes severe defects in the developing hearts of amberjack, bluefin and yellowfin tunas, federal scientists announced Monday.

    Those heart defects likely mean an early death for those fish exposed to the oil, although what the further implications might be for the future of the species are unknown at this point. Bluefin tuna in particular are already a species in jeopardy, in part due to the demand from sushi restaurants....

    Fire boats battle the fire at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 21, 2010. The rig sank and oil began spewing two days later.
  12. Relocated Everglades pythons can find their way home

    Wildlife

    They aren't afraid of alligators. They eat everything in sight, yet they can be virtually invisible. An army of hunters vying for cash prizes didn't make a dent in their population.

    Now there's another reason to respect the horde of Burmese pythons that have overtaken much of the Everglades: Even if you take them far away, they can find their way home.

    Just like Lassie, but with scales....

  13. Lawsuit looms to protect manatees, sea turtles in Indian River Lagoon

    Water

    Manatees are threatening to sue the Florida Department of Health over leaky septic tanks tainting their habitat.

    On behalf of manatees — which are actually named as the plaintiffs in the case — two other animal species and the chairman of an environmental group, attorneys filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue state health officials Thursday over septic tank waste that has polluted the Indian River Lagoon on Florida's east coast....

  14. DEP ends attempt to sell surplus conservation land

    Blog

    Almost a year after the Florida Department of Environmental Protection launched a review of its conservation lands looking for $50 million worth that it could sell as surplus, the agency is ending the program without having sold a single acre.

    "The department will not continue with this large scale conservation land sale effort," DEP press secretary Patrick Gillespie said Monday.

    The effort stirred up statewide controversy and apparently cost the department its top two land division officials — without raising a single penny of the $50 million that the Legislature had promised last year....

  15. DEP ends effort to sell $50 million worth of parks and preserved land

    Environment

    Nine months after the Florida Department of Environmental Protection launched a review of its conservation lands looking for $50 million worth that it could sell as surplus, the agency is ending the program without having sold a single acre.

    "The department will not continue with this large-scale conservation land sale effort," DEP press secretary Patrick Gillespie said Monday.

    The effort stirred up statewide controversy and apparently cost the department two top officials without raising a penny of the $50 million the Legislature had promised....