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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's water was House Speaker Crisafulli's top priority; now it waits

    Water

    Last year saw a rare alignment of political forces in Florida. Gov. Rick Scott, several powerful state senators, a coalition of environmental groups and a consortium of business and industry groups all said the Legislature needed to do something about fixing Florida's water.

    They all agreed that the pollution is too pervasive, the flow too endangered and the perils too great to the state's future to ignore it any longer....

    Water was a priority for House Speaker Crisafulli.
  2. Tampa Bay sea grass beds expand, show water is now as clean as it was in 1950

    Water

    Tampa Bay now supports 40,295 acres of sea grass beds, the largest amount of sea grass measured since the 1950s, a new study by scientists at the Southwest Florida Water Management District has found.

    The extent of sea grass beds is a way to measure the water quality in the bay. The more sea grass there is, the cleaner the bay is.

    "Sea grass was our canary in the coal mine (and) major losses occurred when Tampa Bay was in distress," said agency scientist Kris Kaufman, who led the study. "Now with sustained good water quality in the bay, sea grasses are flourishing."...

  3. In pursuit of $120 million contract, Alico takes state lawmakers for a copter ride

    Blog

    This is a story about how to get things done in Tallahassee. Usually, it takes cash. Sometimes, it also takes a helicopter.

    Last year, a South Florida water agency ran out of money for a program that pays ranchers to hold back excess rainwater from filling up Lake Okeechobee too fast, a practice known as water farming. A major agriculture corporation, Alico, asked the Legislature to instead use state taxpayer money to keep the project rolling....

  4. Legislators approve water farming funding after copter rides, donations

    Water

    This is a story about how to get things done in Tallahassee. Usually, it takes cash. Sometimes, it also takes a helicopter.

    Last year, a South Florida water agency ran out of money for a program that pays ranchers to hold back excess rainwater from filling up Lake Okeechobee too fast, a practice known as water farming. A major agriculture corporation, Alico, asked the Legislature to instead use state taxpayer money to keep the project rolling....

    GOP Reps. Bill Galvano, left, Tom Lee and Dana Young were all given helicopter tours of the water farming process by Alico, which then contributed to the PACs.
  5. Panther shot, killed; officials investigating

    Wildlife

    At first, the dead Florida panther found lying on a Collier County highway last month appeared to be yet another roadkill victim.

    But then a Gainesville veterinarian took an X-ray of the carcass and found a different cause of death. The endangered panther had been gunned down. It's the seventh one shot and the sixth killed that way since 2008.

    Now U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials are offering a $5,000 reward for information, but the odds are against them. Federal investigators have so far solved only two of the six killings....

    Until seven years ago, intentional killings of endangered Florida panthers were very rare.
  6. Study finds Everglades pythons like saltwater mangroves as much as freshwater marshes

    Wildlife

    For five years, scientists tracked the 19 Burmese pythons around the Everglades, following their radio and GPS signals. They were hoping to learn where the invasive snakes prefer to live.

    The answer is: pretty much everywhere. They live in the trees, and they live underground. They mostly thrive in freshwater marshes — but there was one that, to the scientists' surprise, found a home in the saltwater mangrove swamp at the Florida peninsula's southern tip and stuck around for quite a while....

    An expert demonstrates safe handling techniques with a 13-foot-long Burmese python during the kickoff of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission's 2013 Python Challenge.
  7. State officials ponder cattle ranching and more to make money off state parks

    Environment

    The new boss of the state Department of Environmental Protection, Jon Steverson, wants to make the award-winning Florida State Park system pay for itself.

    That means letting some things into the parks that until now have been kept out. Timber companies chopping down the state's trees. Cattle grazing on taxpayer-owned grass and leaving behind cow pies. Metal cell phone towers looming over the tallest pines, palms and oaks....

    The suspension bridge at the Myakka River State Park is 25 feet off the ground. The DEP is quietly testing a plan to allow ranchers to lease space for cattle grazing in the park near Sarasota.
  8. Core samples show parallel between Deepwater Horizon and 1979 spill that also used dispersant

    Water

    After the offshore rig sank into the sea, the oil flowed for months before anyone could stop it. Millions of gallons of crude tainted the Gulf of Mexico. To try to dissipate it before it reached shore, the rig's owner sprayed an unprecedented amount of chemical dispersant on the slick.

    That's what happened with the Deepwater Horizon disaster that began five years ago today off the coast of Louisiana. That spill of BP oil has continued causing ecological damage such as a die-off of dolphins and lesions on redfish, among other marine species....

  9. Study finds high incidence of respiratory problems in oil spill cleanup workers

    Environment

    Thousands of people who were hired to help clean up after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill are experiencing problems with their respiratory systems that may be tied to their exposure to the oil, according to an ongoing government study of the spill's health impacts.

    The incidence of wheezing and coughing among cleanup workers that BP hired was 20 to 30 percent higher than among the general public, Dale Sandler, chief of the epidemiology branch of the National Institutes of Health, said Friday....

    Workers clean a beach after tar balls washed up as efforts continue to contain BP's massive oil spill on May 12, 2010, in South Pass, La. The Deepwater Horizon oil rig operated by BP was leaking an estimated rate of 1,000-5,000 barrels of oil a day into the gulf. [Getty Images]
  10. State wildlife officials vote to bring back bear hunts (w/video)

    Wildlife

    TALLAHASSEE — Despite opposition from 75 percent of the people who wrote and called, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to bring back bear hunting this fall.

    The hunt — the first in 21 years — is tentatively scheduled for one week in October. It is expected to result in the killing of up to 200 bears. The commission has slated a final vote for its June meeting, but bear-hunt opponents acknowledged they have no chance of stopping it now....

    Bryan Wilson protests against bear hunts outside a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission meeting.
  11. Bear hunt on agenda for Florida wildlife commissioners this week

    Wildlife

    For 21 years, it has been illegal to hunt the black bear in Florida. That may change in the fall.

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission meets this week to decide whether to give tentative approval to rules for a revival of bear hunting, banned since 1994.

    If commissioners give the proposed rules a green light on Wednesday, then a final vote would come at their June meeting....

    Critics question the need for a hunt since the bear population is not known.
  12. 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.
  13. 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....

    Police Officer Charles Kondek was killed Dec. 21.
  14. 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....

    A lone manatee swims in the discharge canal next to the Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center, Big Bend Power Station, Apollo Beach, Monday. State Biologists tallied a record number of manatees this winter, counting more than 6000 scattered around the State of Florida. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  15. '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