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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

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  1. Florida wildlife commissioners cap next month's bear hunt to 320 kills

    News

    FORT LAUDERDALE — State wildlife commissioners on Wednesday limited the number of bears that can be killed to 320 during next month's bear hunt, Florida's first in 21 years.

    During a marathon meeting that drew objections from environmentalists and support from ranchers, commissioners also approved a controversial new policy on the future of the Florida panther.

    The panther decision, which eases protections on the mammal, drew a wide variety of speakers, including a 9-year-old girl who brought her stuffed toy panther, a rancher who fretted that panthers would eat his grandchildren and a fishing captain who said the commissioners should open a hunting season on the state animal....

    Liesa Priddy made the motion for the bear quota and also pushed for a new policy on panthers.
  2. State wildlife com­mis­sion discussing new policies toward bears, panthers

    Wildlife

    Bears in the crosshairs and panthers pouncing on livestock are hot topics on the agenda today as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission opens a two-day meeting in Fort Lauderdale.

    The commission voted in June to reinstate bear hunting in Florida for the first time since 1994. The controversial decision, opposed by three-fourths of the 75,000 people who wrote, called or e-mailed the commissioners, sets the stage for a one-week hunting season in October....

    Seen here in May of 2014, a black bear perches on a tree in Panama City, Fla. For the first time since 1994, bear hunting is legal in Florida, thanks to a June vote by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Today the board will consider how many bears can be killed during the one-week hunting season in October.
  3. Builder’s push for friend’s permit was his last act on water board

    Blog

    Carlos Beruff’s motion to help out his friend, former state senator Pat Neal, in getting a wetlands permit from the Southwest Florida Water Management District board Tuesday turned out to be one of his final official acts as a board member.

    Beruff — who like Neal is a Manatee County homebuilder — had sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott on July 10 saying he planned to resign early from Swiftmud, with his last day being Tuesday....

  4. Count Bill Nelson in for Florida's next python hunt

    Wildlife

    Count at least one hunter eager for the second round of Florida's official python hunt -- even though he didn't catch any last time.

    U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., 72, confirmed Monday that he plans to participate in the Python Challenge next year just as he did the first one in 2013.

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission organized the first Python Challenge to raise awareness about the peril posed by the invasive snakes in the River of Grass, and also to encourage a lot of people to try catching the elusive prey. The prize for catching the most snakes was $1,500, and for the biggest snake, $1,000....

  5. Swiftmud board member says he has no conflict in approving permit for friend

    Wetlands

    TAMPA — Former state Sen. Pat Neal has built thousands of homes in Manatee County for other people, and now he wants to build four more for his family.

    The place where he wants to build them is a mangrove-covered spot on the water. To make the development work, Neal wants to wipe out an acre of high-quality wetlands, which has drawn objections from local fishing and environmental groups....

    Swiftmud board member Carlos Beruff is hoping to develop a 463-acre site on Sarasota Bay. [Courtesy photo] 
  6. Institute scores $4 million in Transocean settlement, but can't spend it on rickety research vessel

    Environment

    ST. PETERSBURG — U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson announced Monday that the Florida Institute of Oceanography is getting $4 million to conduct more research on the impact of the 2010 oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico.

    But there's a catch.

    None of that money, Nelson said, can be used to fix or replace FIO's 45-year-old R/V Bellows, which is the school's biggest research asset. At 71 feet, the ship has served as a workhorse for decades. It averages 100 to 150 days at sea a year and brings in $750,000 from researchers who pay to charter the boat....

    The Florida Institute of Oceanography’s biggest research asset, the R/V Bellows, is falling apart.
  7. Count Sen. Bill Nelson in for Florida’s next python hunt

    Blog

    Count at least one hunter eager for the second round of Florida’s official python hunt -- even though he didn’t catch any last time.

    U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., 72, confirmed Monday that he plans to participate in the Python Challenge next year just as he did the first one in 2013.

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission organized the first Python Challenge to raise awareness about the peril posed by the invasive snakes in the River of Grass, and also to encourage a lot of people to try catching the elusive prey. The prize for catching the most snakes was $1,500, and for the biggest snake, $1,000....

  8. Jeb Bush said he loved manatees, but preferred boaters, antitax stance as governor

    Wildlife

    As a presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush hasn't said much about the environmental issues facing America. He has waffled on climate change and supported approval of the Keystone pipeline and drilling in the arctic, and that has been about it.

    But when he was a gubernatorial candidate in 1998, he took pains to show his concern about the environment — particularly about one of the state's signature animals, the manatee. He even helped SeaWorld release a pair of rehabilitated manatees, one of them named "Little Jeb." After he was elected, during a 2000 Cabinet meeting he made his interest in manatees even plainer....

    A pair of manatees navigate the waters of Kings Bay, Crystal River’s headwaters, in January. The area is the largest winter refuge for manatees on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
  9. Richard Corbett resigns as Florida Fish and Wildlife commissioner

    Blog

    Richard Corbett, the Tampa mall developer who chaired the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission when it decided to bring back bear hunting after 21 years, has resigned.

    Corbett sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott dated Tuesday in which he said he wanted to "retire" before his term on the commission officially ended in 2018. His last day is Sept. 1.

    Corbett's letter makes no mention of the controversial decision to bring back bear hunting, a move he strongly supported even though 75 percent of the 40,000 people who called, emailed or wrote letters to commissioners opposed it. He gave no reason for his resignation, and could not be reached for comment Saturday....

  10. Richard Corbett resigns as Florida Fish and Wildlife commissioner

    Wildlife

    Richard Corbett, the Tampa mall developer who chaired the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission when it decided to bring back bear hunting after 21 years, has resigned.

    Corbett sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott dated Tuesday in which he said he wanted to "retire" before his term on the commission officially ended in 2018. His last day is Sept. 1.

    Corbett's letter makes no mention of the controversial decision to bring back bear hunting, a move he strongly supported even though 75 percent of the 40,000 people who called, emailed or wrote letters to commissioners opposed it. He gave no reason for his resignation, and could not be reached for comment Saturday....

    Richard Corbett said he wanted to “retire” before his commission term officially ends in 2018. 
  11. As governor, Jeb Bush loved manatees -- but sided with boaters

    Blog

    As a presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush hasn’t said much about the environmental issues facing America. He’s waffled on climate change, and supported approval of the Keystone pipeline and drilling in the Arctic, and that’s been about it.

    But when he was a gubernatorial candidate in 1998, he took pains to show his concern about the environment — particularly one of the state’s signature animals, manatees. He even helped SeaWorld release a pair of rehabilitated manatees, one of them named “Little Jeb.” After he was elected, during a 2000 Cabinet meeting, he made his interest in manatees even plainer....

    Manatees in Kings Bay, Crystal River's headwater. The area attracts and provides a habitat for hundreds of manatees during the winter months looking to escape the cold water of the Gulf of Mexico.
  12. Wildlife commissioner part of group seeking permit to 'take' panthers

    Wildlife

    The Florida wildlife commissioner who pushed to loosen the state's official panther policy is also part of a group seeking a federal permit to kill a certain number of panthers if they get in the way of plans for their land.

    Some of Florida's biggest landowners have spent more than a decade working on this plan, which will set the rules for development on 177,000 acres in Collier County. The land stretches from the Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest on its northern end to the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge and Big Cypress National Preserve to the south....

    A recent scientific study says Florida panthers have already lost more habitat than federal and state officials think.   
  13. Booming license sales show Florida may have more bear hunters than bears

    Wildlife

    The licenses for Florida's first bear hunt in 21 years are so popular that the state may wind up with more bear hunters than bears.

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which approved the controversial hunt, set no limit on the number of licenses that could be sold. Since the licenses went on sale Monday, the agency has sold 1,340 of them. The sale is supposed to continue through Oct. 23, right before the one-week hunt begins....

    A female bear runs near a pond in the Ocala National Forest after being released from a trap. [Times (2010)]
  14. DEP faces future legal battle over seawalls that interfere with turtle nesting

    Wildlife

    Four conservation groups notified the state Department of Environmental Protection on Thursday that they intend to sue over its permitting of seawalls that block sea turtles from nesting on Florida beaches.

    The agency has already been under fire from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its permitting because all sea turtles are legally protected species.

    The notice, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club, the Florida Wildlife Foundation and the Surfrider Foundation, contends the DEP is violating federal law by handing out seawall permits in nesting territory with no regard for the turtles. Earthjustice is representing the groups....

    Singer Island in Palm Beach County has suffered major beach erosion that in some cases threatens the stability of expensive condos. This is the Aquarius development, as seen in 2007. [Palm Beach County]
  15. Federal agency wants to curtail access to Three Sisters Spring and its manatees

    Wildlife

    It's about to become harder to swim with the manatees in Citrus County's Three Sisters Spring, where thousands of tourists have flocked for years to splash around amid the slow-moving, couch-sized creatures.

    On Wednesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service unveiled proposed new rules restricting human access to the only confined water body in the United States open to the public while wintering manatees are present....

    A manatee swims near the entrance to Three Sisters Springs on Monday (12/15/14) on Kings Bay in Crystal River in Citrus County. To protect endangered Florida manatees from their thousands of fans, the public would be blocked from paddling into two-thirds of the popular springs from December through March, under new temporary rules proposed Monday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.