To see a Florida spring that looks the way Florida springs used to look, travel up to Gilchrist County, pay $10 and walk to the end of a wooden diving dock. Then, in the words of artist Margaret Tolbert, you just "jump off into wonderland."
At Blue Springs, the water is so clear that the hundreds of turtles that call it home appear to be swimming through air. The white sand on the bottom shines like a beacon, and the current blasts up from the limestone caverns as if it were squirting from the world's biggest fire hose....
ST. PETERSBURG — Five hours after police said she was abducted in broad daylight, a woman escaped her captors Monday and called for help.
About 8 a.m. Monday, Latanya Lavette Henry, 34, had parked her car in the parking lot of the Boca Ciega Apartments on 37th Street S and headed for her sister's apartment.
But as her sister watched from a window, Henry walked over to a silver Toyota Camry parked a few spaces over. Henry later told police that she'd seen four men in the Camry and one called out to her, so she went over to see what they wanted....
Four months ago, when state officials released a list of 169 parcels of Florida park land that might be sold as surplus, one name stood out: the Hilochee Wildlife Management Area in Polk County.
Totaling more than 2,600 acres, the six parcels in the 16,000-acre Hilochee formed the biggest chunk of land on the original list of 5,000 acres that state officials said might no longer be needed for conservation. ...
Manatees that survive exposure to Red Tide algae blooms may wind up with compromised immune systems, making them more susceptible to disease and other woes, a new study finds.
The discovery may alter the way the survivors are cared for at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo and other rehabilitation facilities around the state.
Earlier this year, more than 270 manatees along the state's southwestern Gulf Coast died from the toxins in a Red Tide bloom — the worst die-off since records began being kept in the 1970s. ...
Dolphins are dying all around Florida and scientists don't know how to stop it.
The die-offs of bottlenose dolphins are going on in three different places, and appear to be from more than one cause. Although dolphins are not an endangered species, the loss of so many all at once is clearly bad news, scientists say.
"This particular species has suffered a huge impact, all over the Southeast," said Blair Mase, a marine mammal specialist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has classified each of the die-offs as an "unusual mortality event."...
A University of South Florida St. Petersburg professor who teaches courses in American government is about to get some firsthand experience. She has filed papers to run as a Democrat for the state Senate seat held by Republican Jeff Brandes.
Although she is a first-time candidate, Judithanne Scourfield McLauchlan, 45, of Madeira Beach, is no neophyte. The political science professor and Ph.D. has worked in presidential campaigns and has served on the board of directors of the League of Women Voters. She often appears on local television talking about politics. Her most recent book, Congressional Participation as Amicus Curiae before the U.S. Supreme Court, explores how members of Congress try to influence Supreme Court decisionmaking....
11/12/13 Local Government
Pinellas County business owners, but not homeowners, will soon be able to apply for loans for solar panels and other green technologies that are paid back through property taxes.
Pinellas County commissioners voted down a proposal to include homeowners in the energy-saving program. Including them would hurt the county's still-recovering real estate market, said Commissioner John Morroni. ...
A century ago, water flowed freely from the Hillsborough River down into Tampa Bay. The millions of gallons of freshwater used to keep the bay's salinity in check, which was important for the health of the snook and other fish living there. But in 1897, Tampa dammed the river, creating a reservoir to supply its drinking water. Since then, freshwater has continued to spill out of the dam into the riverbed, but during dry seasons there is sometimes no water to spare....
11/08/13 Local Government
A recent discussion among Pinellas County commissioners about ranking consultants for contracts revealed complaints about the county's apparently lenient attitude toward unsatisfactory work.
"We don't reprimand the contractors for doing a bad job," Commissioner Susan Latvala said. "We don't write them up. We don't keep them from bidding on the next job."
What sparked the discussion at Tuesday's commission meeting was a vote by commissioners in August over a $4 million contract to build a medical clinic for the poor and the homeless. ...
With two months left in 2013, manatee deaths have already broken the record set three years ago. Boaters are not to blame — in fact, the number of manatee deaths from being hit by boats are down.
As of this week, the number of manatees killed in 2013 has hit 769, according to records kept by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg.
That means more than 15 percent of the estimated population of about 5,000 has already been killed, and as the year goes on the total will continue to climb....
ST. PETERSBURG — Thirty years ago, Karen Brown Dunlap visited the Poynter Institute as a summer student and knew she had to come back. The former reporter and university professor joined the faculty in 1989, and became its president in 2003.
Now Dunlap, 62, is ready to try something new. She announced Monday that she will retire in January.
Dunlap, the first African-American member of the Times Publishing Co. board, said it was time to step down because she felt fatigued and figured "it's time for me to take a new direction."...
State officials in charge of Florida's parks and trails have decided to stop allowing a trapper to snare wild monkeys from around Silver Springs and sell them to research laboratories, a Department of Environmental Protection spokesman confirmed Friday.
"The department is still looking at other ways to deal with this invasive species," DEP press secretary Patrick Gillespie said in an e-mail to the Times....
The newest addition to the federal endangered species list is the Florida bonneted bat, the state's largest and rarest bat species. They have a wingspan of almost 20 inches and atop their heads are large, broad ears that slant forward over their eyes like an old-fashioned bonnet. Scientists figure there are only a few hundred left. They live nowhere but in South Florida, where their habitat is expected to be inundated by rising seas due to climate change — hence the decision last month to put them on the endangered list. For a gallery of photos of other Florida "political animals," go to tinyurl.com/tbtimes-polianimals....
10/24/13 State Roundup
During the funeral for U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, the commandant of the Marine Corps announced that Young is now an honorary Marine, which he called "the absolute very highest honor we could have bestowed on this valiant warrior."
That announcement led to a dramatic moment during the graveside memorial for Young, who spent nine years in the Army National Guard and another six as an Army reservist long before becoming chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense....
After losing both at trial and on appeal, Tampa Bay Water's board voted 8-0 Monday to end its pursuit of damages from the engineering company that designed its flawed 15.5 billion gallon reservoir.
Instead, the utility will pay HDR Engineering's legal fees and costs, totaling about $21 million.
"These fees will be paid through funds on hand and they will not directly affect water rates," Tampa Bay Water spokeswoman Michelle Biddle said in a statement emailed to the Times....