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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 taxpayers pay ranchers millions to hold water back from Lake Okeechobee

    Water

    For generations, Florida's farmers and ranchers have used their land to grow oranges, sugar, tomatoes and beef cattle, among other things. But now they've added a highly profitable new crop:

    Water.

    A state agency is paying large agricultural operators millions in taxpayer dollars to hold water on their property, treating it as if it were a crop. The agency sees it as a way to create a series of "reservoirs" without the expense of building anything permanent....

    The Caulkins Citrus Co. in Martin County is being paid to retain 6,780 acre-feet of water at $76 per acre-foot. By contrast, an audit found putting the water on public land instead of private would cost the taxpayers just $8 per acre-foot.
  2. Suspect in police officer's killing said he was in a mood to kill, records show

    Crime

    Just hours before the fatal shooting of a Tarpon Springs police officer in December, court records show the man accused of shooting him told a man at a party that he was in a mood to kill.

    Marco A. Parilla Jr., 24, was at a party in Holiday before the fateful encounter with Officer Charles Kondek, 45, in the early hours of Dec. 21. Parilla chatted with another partygoer who noticed a Glock in his pants pocket....

    Marco Parilla, Jr., center,  pictured at his first court appearance, is accused of killing Tarpon Springs police Officer Charles Kondek.
  3. Latest manatee count breaks all-time record with more than 6,000

    Wildlife

    Biologists tallied a record number of manatees this winter, counting more than 6,000 of them scattered around the state, according to numbers released Monday.

    During the February aerial survey, a team of 20 observers from 11 organizations counted 3,333 manatees on Florida's east coast and 2,730 on the west coast, for a total of 6,063. That's nearly 1,000 more than the previous record, set in 2010....

    The count found 3,333 manatees on Florida’s east coast and 2,730 on the west.
  4. 'Climate change' ban boosts Florida's image as the Punchline State (w/video)

    Global Warming

    There's that sound again: people around the country laughing at Florida.

    "So the Florida Department of Environmental Protection can't use the term 'climate change'?" comic Larry Wilmore asked on The Nightly Show on Wednesday. "That's like telling Rudy Giuliani he can't use the word '9/11.' "

    Comics, cartoonists and columnists have all jumped on the story, broken by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, in which former DEP employees said no one at the state agency was allowed to use the terms "climate change," "global warming" or "sustainability." As the story has gone viral, it has turned into one more way the Sunshine State has become the Punchline State....

    Comedy Central
  5. Environmental group wants to stop people from swimming with the manatees

    Wildlife

    An environmental group wants to stop all the "swim with the manatees" businesses that over the past 40 years have become the foundation of Citrus County's tourism industry.

    Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed notice Monday that it intends to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over protections for the endangered animals. The suit, filed on behalf of four Citrus County environmental activists, calls for the federal agency to halt any program that lets humans get within 10 feet of a manatee....

    Swimming with manatees has been the foundation of Citrus County's tourism industry for the past 40 years. [Times files (2006)]
  6. Federal wildlife officials adopt permanent protection measures for Three Sisters manatees

    News

    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]
  7. Amendment 1 passed by a wide margin but now all that cash is up for grabs

    Perspective

    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
  8. King Ranch slips into history for GOP

    Blog

    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....

  9. 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. 
  10. Florida likely to bring back bear hunting

    Wildlife

    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.
  11. Florida may be going on a bear hunt in 2015

    Wildlife

    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.
  12. 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.
  13. Florida pelicans are being slashed, beaten

    Wildlife

    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.
  14. Lealman teacher charged with having sex with 14-year-old girl

    Crime

    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.
  15. 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....

    A railroad line was placed along the beach to help with the construction of launch sites at Cape Canaveral as the space race with the Soviet Union was heating up.