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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. Gov. Rick Scott as environmental champion? Yes, says foundation headed by developer


    Gov. Rick Scott, whose administration has pushed to open the parks to cattle grazing and timber harvesting, offered polluters ways to get out of fines and sharply cut back staffing and regulations designed to protect Florida's natural resources, is getting an award for being a friend to the environment.

    The award, announced via email last week, is being given to Scott later this year by the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida, which functions as a support group for the state's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is run by gubernatorial appointees....

    This year the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida is giving its annual conservation award to Gov. Rick Scott and his wife, Ann. The foundation executive director, Brett Boston, said the award had no name. In 2013, though, when Boston, left, presented the trophy to Bass Pro Shop founder Johnny Morris, the award had a name: the BlueGreen Award for Conservation Leadership in Florida. [Bass Pro Shops]
  2. St. Pete Beach bomb isn't the strangest thing to wash up on a Florida beach


    The World War II-era flash bomb that washed ashore in St. Pete Beach over the weekend may be the noisiest thing to hit Florida shores since Spring Break, and it's certainly not the kind of shell people expect to find at the beach.

    But it's far from the strangest thing to wash up on a Florida beach....

    This 2012 photo made available by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission shows a giant eyeball from a mysterious sea creature that washed ashore and was found by a man walking the beach in Pompano Beach. [AP Photo]
  3. Over scientists' objections, rancher pushes panther policy


    The state pays nearly $1 million a year to biologists to study the Florida panther.

    Yet when the state's top wildlife official decided to rewrite Florida's panther policy to overhaul how the state manages the endangered cats, he didn't consult them until the document was done.

    Instead, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission executive director Nick Wiley brainstormed almost exclusively with an Immokalee ranch owner who has lost thousands of dollars thanks to panthers....

    State biologists estimate there could be between 100 and 180 panthers roaming a habitat eroded by development. Some ranchers think the numbers are higher, perhaps ranging toward 300.
  4. Just what Florida needs — a new cockroach


    A scientist named Marc C. Minno was organizing some files in his office last month when something odd fell out of a folder. He peered down at the floor and saw it was a small cockroach, maybe half an inch long.

    At this point, most Floridians would have either squished the bug with a shoe or run screaming from the room. Not Minno. He has written several books on butterflies and moths. Bugs don't bug him....

    This is the pale bordered field cockroach that Marc Minno found in his office in Live Oak. It's fairly new to Florida. [Marc C. Minno]
  5. Florida to receive $3.25B from gulf states' Deepwater Horizon settlement with BP


    Five years after oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster tainted the Panhandle's sugar-white beaches, petroleum giant BP agreed Thursday to an $18.7 billion settlement with Florida, four other gulf states and the federal government.

    Florida's share could be more than $3.25 billion, paid out over 18 years, state Attorney General Pam Bondi announced at a news conference in Tampa. She promised the settlement "will benefit areas of the state most devastated by the spill," though she did not provide a specific breakdown of how the money will be spent....

    Children walk amid oil that washed ashore on Pensacola Beach after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The images of oiled beaches and birds after the oil spill hurt Florida’s tourism industry, convincing visitors to cancel reservations.
  6. Scott vetoes money for controversial water-farming projects


    Florida legislators, some of whom got helicopter rides and hefty donations to their political action committees, approved millions of taxpayer dollars for a water-farming project that critics compared to corporate welfare.

    Now Gov. Rick Scott has wiped it out with the stroke of his pen.

    Last week, Scott vetoed a $4.5 million water-farming appropriation in this year's budget. He did so, according to his veto letter, because "water storage projects are more appropriately supported" by the state's five water management districts — not by the taxpayers of the entire state....

    In water farming, ranchers are paid to hold back excess rainwater from filling up Lake Okeechobee. When the lake gets too full, the excess is dumped into estuaries on each side of the state, causing algae blooms and fish kills that hurt the economy.
  7. Bondi joins other states in lawsuit over protecting wetlands


    Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi joined seven other states' top lawyers Tuesday in a suit challenging new federal rules designed to better protect the nation's wetlands.

    The suit argues that the new rules from the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are "an attempt by two agencies of the federal government to usurp the states' primary responsibility for the management, protection, and care of intrastate waters and lands."...

    Florida is home to more wetlands, such as the Big Cypress National Preserve shown here, than any other state except Alaska. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is suing to challenge new federal rules designed to better protect wetlands. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times (2008)] 
  8. Scientists say sandy clumps on Sunset Beach contained BP oil from 2010 spill


    Five years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster off the coast of Louisiana dumped between 3 million and 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, scientists now say they have proof that a little bit of it wound up on a Pinellas County beach.

    Small sand patties that washed ashore along a 30-yard stretch of Sunset Beach near Caddy's on the Beach restaurant in Treasure Island contained traces of the Deepwater Horizon oil, as well as of the chemical dispersant that BP sprayed on the spill, according to a just-published paper by scientists from the University of South Florida....

  9. No clear reason for open season on Florida black bear


    Until three years ago, the Florida black bear was a legally protected species in Florida, not to mention one of the state's most prominent symbols for wildlife conservation.

    Now, the bear is about to get a target on its back.

    On Wednesday, Florida's wildlife commissioners plan to vote on bringing back bear hunting, a practice not seen in Florida in 21 years.

    They are taking that step in the wake of four bear attacks on humans in 2013 and 2014 — but nobody will say that's why. In fact, wildlife officials can't agree on the reason and admit there are some basic questions they can't answer....

    A bear runs after being released in the Ocala National Forest by state wildlife officials who trapped the bear and her cubs after one got its head stuck in a jar it pulled from a trash bin.
  10. Lawsuit could be brewing against state over Amendment 1 funding


    House and Senate leaders declared Sunday that they had set aside $55 million for buying new public land from a ballot measure that was passed last year by 75 percent of state voters.

    It wasn't until Monday that environmentalists realized lawmakers were planning to spend far less, setting up a likely legal showdown over what exactly Amendment 1 means.

    The problem: The ballot measure, Amendment 1, dedicated more than $700 million for conservation and preservation. Environmentalists had hoped that lawmakers would approve at least $300 million to buy conservation and preservation lands....

  11. Lawsuit could be brewing against state over Amendment 1 funding

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — House and Senate leaders declared Sunday that they had set aside $55 million for buying new public land from a ballot measure that was passed last year by 75 percent of state voters.

    It wasn't until Monday that environmentalists realized lawmakers were planning to spend far less, setting up a likely legal showdown over what exactly Amendment 1 means.

    The problem: The ballot measure, Amendment 1, dedicated more than $700 million for conservation and preservation. Environmentalists had hoped that lawmakers would approve at least $300 million to buy conservation and preservation lands....

    Lobbyists listen to a news conference by House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, on a television monitor in the Capitol after the House passed a tax cut bill on Monday.
  12. To boost state park funds, DEP considers allowing hunting


    To generate more money for the state, Florida's popular state parks could see more than just timber harvesting and cattle-grazing added to the bird-watching, camping, canoeing, kayaking and hiking activities allowed now.

    How about hunting?

    The boom of gunfire could begin echoing through Florida's award-winning parks system by December under a Department of Environmental Protection plan contained in documents obtained Friday by the Tampa Bay Times....

    DEP Secretary Jon Steverson wants the park system to pay for itself.
  13. Florida's water was House Speaker Crisafulli's top priority; now it waits


    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.
  14. Tampa Bay sea grass beds expand, show water is now as clean as it was in 1950


    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."...

    Then-Vice President Dan Quayle plants sea grass near the Gandy Bridge with Penny Hall of the Department of Natural Resources.
  15. In pursuit of $120 million contract, Alico takes state lawmakers for a copter ride


    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....