The good and the bad

These past couple of weeks, there was a lot happening in the news about the Florida environment.

Endangered Florida panthers and development pressures continue to clash in southwestern Florida. NASA is considering putting a new launch pad in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

It’s not all bad news. Ecotourism is making a positive effect on the Florida economy. The state’s conservation land-buying program, Florida Forever, is still going on (for now). The Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway is official. A new Florida state forest is also being born.

I enjoy keeping up with what’s going on in Florida’s environment. Maintaining this blog, though, just doesn’t seem to make sense. It’s just a side aspect of the larger EcoFlorida Web site. Updating this blog takes me away from that.

When EcoFlorida first started providing links to news headlines about Florida’s environment, there were a small handful of sites providing that information in one place. EcoFlorida also provided actual news stories. Then I moved it to a blog format. Now, there are many, many Florida environment news sites, blogs and listservs that provide information.

Just like the news, which reports the good things that happen as well as the bad things that happen, hanging up this blog is mixed. But it’s the right thing to do, for now.

Enjoy exploring natural Florida!

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Protecting Florida’s corals is worth the cost

Protecting species often seems to come with what some people view as a downside. To protect recently-deemed-threatened staghorn and elkhorn corals, that could mean tougher looks at beach widening, sewage discharge, ship anchoring and other coastal activities if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service goes through with a designating parts of southern Florida as critical habitat for these corals, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

Florida reportedly has the third-largest coral reef system in the world (after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the barrier reef in Central America near Belize. Many of Florida’s reefs have died off or suffered from bleaching. The staghorn and elkhorn corals in question have seen a 90% decline, according to the article. There is an economic importance in saving the corals, as well: NOAA has estimated the reef is worth $7.6 billion to the economy.

Read more at the article linked above….

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Just linking

I just found out about the Drought Diary blog by Palm Beach Post reporter Bob King. Interesting stuff — especially the post Are we all in a drought? Really?

I have always preached the necessity of having a campground reservation. Sun-Sentinel columnist Ralph de la Cruz is now lamenting the fact many campsites are booked 11 months in advance after he couldn’t get a campsite for a father/daughter camping outing because everything was already booked. It’s a combination of not having enough public campgrounds, he says, and the fact many people practically live at Florida campgrounds during the winter….

Should conservation land be used to support alternative energy? Many people in St. Lucie are saying no, according to Craig Pittman at the St. Petersburg Times.

And Real Simple magazine has a feature on its Web site about compensating for your carbon footprint. Other links on the page take you to information about cutting energy costs and ways to reuse items in your home.

Finally, there’s an interesting Q&A about the environmental impact of drinking orange juice from concentrate vs. fresh at Slate. Because Florida is the orange juice king, I thought this was interesting on a local angle.

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Swimming in a cesspool? State looks at making counties phase out pumping sewage in ocean

Today, a state senate environmental committee is set to look at legislation that would phase out pumping sewage into the Atlantic Ocean.

Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties are the only three counties that pump treated waste into the ocean, according to news from the Miami Herald, to the tune of 300 million gallons a day. The counties are supposedly balking at the idea of it, saying it will be costly and that there’s no proof the treated waste is harming coral reefs (although scientists have been studying that).

I don’t claim to know the answers about where the sewage should go, but there has to be a better place for it than the ocean. Even if you don’t do it for the coral reefs, or for the sea life, consider the economic impact. Florida’s main industry is tourism, no small part of that thanks to the beaches. If beaches have to turn people away because the bacteria levels are too high, that sends a bad message to tourists. It also tells residents we don’t care about cleaning up our own messes.

I, for one, don’t care to swim in a cesspool.

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Weather, not wildlife officials, to blame for deaths

Wildlife officials who started a prescribed fire that got out of hand and led to five deaths have been cleared of any wrongdoing by a state investigation, the Tampa Tribune and Lakeland Ledger report. A sudden change in weather is to blame for the smoke that created visibility problems on I-4 and resulted in a 70-car pileup on Jan. 9, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The comments left by readers at the Tampa Tribune article linked above are interesting. Some people indicated they didn’t expect the state to find its own workers negligent. Others said drivers need to remember to be careful in low-visibility situations. Still others said the state highway patrol should have shut down that portion of I-4. It’s an unfortunate tragedy no matter who is to blame.

If any good can come out of this, I hope it’s that fire managers will add even more layers of protection to their prescribed burns, and that transportation officials will be certain to know where burns are going on ahead of time just in case a fire gets out of hand again.

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Adopt a lake

Lake County has started an Adopt-a-lake program, the Orlando Sentinel says. People can sign up to adopt a lake, taking water samples, cleaning up litter and the like. Volunteers are trained.

I think this is brilliant! More counties should invite citizens to adopt bodies of water.

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“The business of the environment”

I just found out the Wall Street Journal has an environment blog. As you might expect of the Journal, it’s all business-related.

What other environment-related blogs do you read?

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