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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. Federal wildlife officials adopt permanent protection measures for Three Sisters manatees


    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."...

    Officials with the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge on Tuesday morning instituted an emergency closure of Three Sisters Springs in order to safeguard the approximately 300 manatees that had packed into the canal that leads to the springs. The closure will remain in effect until at least midday Wednesday -- possibly longer -- in order to "keep them undisturbed for as long as possible during this cold spell,'' said Ivan Vicente, visitor services specialist for the agency. An aerial survey of manatees in the area is slated for Wednesday, and Vicente predicted a possible record number due to the cold weather. The old record is 567 in Citrus County waters. Vicente also said that he measured the outside air temperature at the Springs at 25 degrees at sunrise. During times of cold weather, Manatees take haven into the springs, in which the waters run about 72 degrees throughout the year. [CHRIS ZUPPA   |   Times]
  2. Amendment 1 passed by a wide margin but now all that cash is up for grabs


    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." ...

    STEVE MADDEN   |   Times illustration
  3. King Ranch slips into history for GOP


    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....

  4. Florida GOP leaders have stopped taking King Ranch trips from U.S. Sugar

    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....

    Associated Industries lobbyist Brewster B. Bevis posted this photo of himself on Facebook that he said was taken at King Ranch in 2012. The date is the same as when House Speaker-designate Steve Crisafulli acquired a Texas hunting license. 
  5. Florida likely to bring back bear hunting


    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....

    The Florida black bear has increased in number, and maulings of humans are up.
  6. Florida may be going on a bear hunt in 2015


    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....

    Complaints about bears to the state wildlife commission’s hotline have been growing.
  7. Climate change impacts being assessed by Florida Department of Health

    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....

    Vicki Boguszewski received a $10,000 grant from the Florida Department of Health.
  8. Florida pelicans are being slashed, beaten


    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....

    A photo on the Florida Keys Wildlife Rescue website shows a juvenile brown pelican recovering from surgery for a slit pouch.
  9. Lealman teacher charged with having sex with 14-year-old girl


    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....

    Jeffrey Bohlander, 54, of Clearwater, a teacher at Lealman Intermediate School, is charged with lewd and lascivious battery.
  10. As rising sea level chomps at Cape Canaveral, NASA uses nature-friendly solution

    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....

    An aerial view looking north shows launch pad 39A, foreground, and 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral. The Atlantic Ocean is eating away at the waterfront near the complex.
  11. Pasco osteopath accused of drugging and assaulting female patients


    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. ...

    Dr. Daniel McBath of Dade City says the accusations against him are “retaliation.”
  12. Feds release new winter regulations to protect manatees in Three Sisters Springs


    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....

    About 300 manatees crowd a canal at Three Sisters Springs in January, prompting officials with the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge to institute an emergency closure. [Times]
  13. Scott names new chief for environmental agency

    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....

    Jon Steverson is the state’s new defender of natural resources.
  14. Discovery TV show star and partner sent to prison for smuggling snakes


    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....

    Robbie Keszey and Robroy MacInnes transported eastern indigo snakes, pictured, from Florida to Pennsylvania. And they shipped eastern timber rattlesnakes to Florida. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times]
  15. Alico buying three Florida citrus producers for $363 million


    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....

    Despite citrus’ decline from disease, Alico pledges to grow the industry in its vast acreage. Its Florida land buys now make it the biggest U.S. producer, Alico says.