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. Feds declare 300 miles of Florida beaches critical habitat for loggerheads


    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.
  2. Federal officials may take manatees down a notch on endangered species list


    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.
  3. St. Augustine haunted by ghosts of civil rights turmoil 50 years ago


    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.
  4. 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.
  5. 'Microplastics' imperil marine life in Tampa Bay, worldwide


    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.
  6. Gov. Rick Scott vetoes money for regional planning councils -- again


    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....

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


    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.
  8. Deputy DEP secretary Jeff Littlejohn resigns


    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.”...

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


    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.
  10. Florida company's Arctic Mice blamed for salmonella in snake owners in 18 states


    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. ...

    A Florida company’s Arctic Mice, a food for snakes and other reptiles, is suspected of causing salmonella in 37 people in 18 states.
  11. Swiftmud wants to speed up filling of wetlands by taking over federal permits


    The Southwest Florida Water Management District wants to make it faster for developers to get permits to destroy wetlands, the district's governing board members said Tuesday.

    The board, commonly known as Swiftmud, which currently hands out most state permits for filling wetlands in the 16-county region around Tampa Bay, said it wants to take over some or all of the federal permitting process, too. ...

    Swiftmud chief Carlos Beruff says the corps of engineers is plodding.
  12. Gov. Scott's beachfront home vulnerable to changing climate


    This month, a new report written by a group of scientists said that climate change was not only real, but it was already affecting people in the United States, particularly in Florida, where 75 percent of all residents live near the coast.

    Three of those Florida coastal residents are among the state's most prominent Republicans — Gov. Rick Scott, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush. Shouldn't they be worried?...

    Gov. Rick Scott seems unconcerned about climate change. But with a waterfront Naples mansion, he might want to rethink. “He’s definitely in one of the most vulnerable positions,” said a planner, adding that the sea’s creeping up on him already.
  13. Drone parts from MacDill land at NYC college student's doorstep


    The box landed at the New York college student's front door looking like any other parcel shipped across the country, the kind that might contain cookies from Mom or a gift from Aunt Mabel.

    The UPS label was addressed to him, but inside the box were wings and a control panel, along with a card that said the items were federal property and should be returned to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration office at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa....

  14. Give Day Tampa Bay hits $1 million goal; MOSI gets most donations

    Human Interest

    The Give Day Tampa Bay event hit its goal of raising more than $1 million for charities in a 24-hour period Tuesday, with more than 5,000 people making donations, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay announced.

    Nearly 400 social service, education, health and cultural nonprofits signed on to participate, linking their websites to to grab as many donors as possible throughout Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties....

    The Museum of Science and Industry topped all other organizations participating in the 24-hour Give Day Tampa Bay event, collecting $111,344.
  15. Florida squarely in cross-hairs of climate change, new report says (w/video)


    In a federal report being called "the loudest and clearest alarm bell to date" regarding climate change, the Tampa Bay area is labeled as one of three areas in Florida particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels, with the others being Miami and Apalachicola.

    The report, the Third National Climate Assessment, also warns of increases in harmful algae blooms off Florida's coast, worsening seasonal allergies for people already made miserable by springtime pollen and heavier rainstorms and flooding in low-lying areas, such as the storm that clobbered the Panhandle last week....

    The Third National Climate Assessment warns of heavier rainstorms and flooding in low-lying areas, such as the storm that collapsed part of Scenic Highway on April 30 in Pensacola.