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Gopher tortoise training Jan 13-16

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Wildlands Conservation will be holding its next Gopher Tortoise Authorized Agent Training January 13-16th in Venice Florida.

Please email Lance Arvidson if you are interested in attending.

These courses are offered to help meet the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) application requirements for authorized gopher tortoise agent in the following areas:
A. Gopher Tortoise Surveys
B. Marking, Transport and Release and Trapping (bucket, live trapping and hand-shovel excavation)

GT Surveying and Natural History Course (Level A):
Provides instruction and testing to meet the FWC published requirements of Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent in Gopher Tortoise Surveys. The class also covers Basic Natural History, Safety Issues and FWC Guidelines and Permitting Requirements
2 DAYS (1 Day Classroom, 1 Day Field). Pre-class and post-class work is needed to pass this course.

Combination Course (Levels A and B):
Wildlands Conservation is offering an intensive 4 day class that will combine Course 1-A and 1-B for those that desire to be trained in Gopher Tortoise Surveys, Transport, Marking, Release, and Capture (Does NOT include Mechanical Excavation class ).
4 DAYS (2 Days Classroom, 2 Days Field). It also covers basic natural history, safety issues, recipient site management and FWC Guidelines and Permitting Requirements. Pre-class and post-class work is needed to pass this course.

More information can be found at the Wildlands Conservation website. Information about FWC requirements can be found at http://myfwc.com/license/wildlife/gopher-tortoise-permits/

Contact Information
Lance Arvidson, Senior Ecologist, Wildlands Conservation, larvidson@wildlandsconservation.org

Popular student calendar cultivates conservation ethic in youth

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SARASOTA COUNTY – Sarasota County commissioners today honored 13 elementary school artists whose illustrations appear in the 2015 "Catch the Rain" calendar. More than 1,500 students entered this year's competition to illustrate ways to use landscaping methods that mimic Mother Nature in catching and keeping more of our rainfall to water plants and reduce stormwater runoff.

"The goal of the 'Catch the Rain' calendar is to show the community's youth and their parents how easy it is to capture this vital natural resource, and how this helps keep our bays healthy," said Rob Wright, who coordinates the calendar contest for Sarasota County through its Neighborhood Environmental Stewardship Team (NEST) program.

The popular annual calendar contest is open to any elementary student in any public or private Sarasota County school, including charter and elementary-age home-schooled students. Each winner's school will receive a supply of calendars, and copies of their winning artwork will be displayed throughout January 2015 in the Sarasota County School Board Administration offices.

Copies of the calendar will be available at all county public libraries and administration facilities after Jan. 1. To get a free copy of the 2015 "Catch the Rain" calendar, or to learn more about the NEST program, call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000 and ask for Rob Wright.

NEST program page on Sarasota County''s website »


Amendment 1’s passage opens floodgate of questions on water

TALLAHASSEE — State lawmakers and other elected officials are calling water policy a priority for next year, but where they’ll go with it remains up in the air.

One reason is the big unknown: how a constitutional amendment voters just passed that mandates spending for land and water conservation will work.

Beyond this, any attempt at a comprehensive policy will have to address myriad concerns and some powerful interests, including pollution from cities’ stormwater runoff and farmers’ fertilizer.

What’s more, the discussion will come against a backdrop that might seem counterintuitive to champions of water conservation: New data from the U.S. Geological Survey suggests the country’s water use overall is tapering off, with numbers at their lowest levels in 40 years.

Florida still managed to use 6.2 billion gallons of fresh water from underground and surface sources such as aquifers and rivers, according to the data. That was in 2010, the most recent year for which the information is available.

Continued on TBO.com »


Coast Guard flies 193 rare sea turtles from freezing Cape Cod to Florida

A Coast Guard plane touched down in Orlando at dusk Tuesday, hauling a cargo of the world's rarest sea turtles, rescued by volunteers from the lethally chilly waters and beaches of Cape Cod Bay.

Weighing only 2 to 10 pounds, the young Kemp's Ridley sea turtles are among the first of an astounding wave of the reptiles to succumb to hypothermia in the "bucket" of the Massachusetts bay.

"They're so small," said Alyssa Hancock, a SeaWorld Orlando aquarium worker, peering into one of 101 banana boxes holding 193 turtles.

Turtle rescues happen every year in late fall in the Northeast, but for reasons not yet known what's happening this year is "epic," said one of the nearly two dozen volunteers passing boxes of turtles like a bucket brigade.

"Statistically, I feel like we are out on Pluto," said Tony LaCasse, spokesman for the New England Aquarium's marine-animal hospital in Quincy, Mass., who fears the number of cold-stunned turtles could quadruple.

"We've been rescuing sea turtles for 25 years, and we are just absolutely shocked," LaCasse said.

Among possible explanation for the huge spike in turtle rescues – the record of 242 in 2012 has been eclipsed already this year by more than 400 rescues – is that the number of highly endangered Kemp's ridleys has been increasing slightly in recent years.

For full article continue on the Stars and Stripes’ website here »


USF College of Marine Science Awarded $20.2M for Gulf Oil Spill Research

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Photo: USF biological oceanographer Steven Murawski

TAMPA – The University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science has been awarded a $20.2 million grant by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative to continue leading studies of the impact of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, one of the nation’s largest environmental disasters.

The grant will support the efforts over the next three years by professors, post-doctoral scholars and students at 19 collaborating institutions, in five countries including Mexico, the Netherlands, Germany and Canada. The effort, dubbed C-IMAGE (Center for Integrated Modeling and Analysis of Gulf Ecosystems) consortium was originally established at USF in 2012 to conduct studies on the oil spill after the well blowout was capped.

The award is the largest single grant for USF for its research on the spill, which began in the weeks immediately after the Deepwater Horizon blowout that killed 11 people and over 87 days later spewed nearly 5 million barrels into the Gulf of Mexico. USF marine researchers working in conjunction with the Florida Institute of Oceanography - which operates the research vessels R/V Weatherbird II and R/V Bellows - were among the first scientists to begin documenting the spill and played a key role in understanding its dynamics in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.

Continued on news.usf.edu »


Public Meeting to Focus on Myakka Island Conservation Corridor

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The Myakka Island Conservation Corridor is an initiative of Conservation Foundation of the Gulf, a private non-profit land trust, to permanently conserve over 7,560 acres on three critically-located ranches adjoining the “Myakka Island,” a 110,000+ acre assemblage of conserved lands along the central section of the Myakka River.

The Myakka Island Conservation Corridor proposal is an opportunity for the State of Florida and funding partners to purchase land and conservation easements that will benefit both wildlife and human populations. This project will benefit our region in numerous ways. It will help protect and improve water quality and flood protection, so needed for the region. It will enhance and leverage previously invested dollars and resources within the Myakka Island, along the Myakka River and throughout Charlotte Harbor. The Myakka River is a state-designated Wild & Scenic River, that feeds Charlotte Harbor, a National Estuary, Outstanding Florida Water, and one of the Gulf of Mexico’s least-spoiled estuaries. The proposal will also conserve high quality natural habitats for an array of wildlife, from gopher tortoise to Florida panther. It will protect working ranchlands and support Florida’s agricultural economy. Finally, it will support eco-tourism by buffering and potentially expanding recreational opportunities along the river. Both Sarasota and Manatee Counties take advantage of local recreational and natural resources in their economic marketing and development plans, recognizing that 83% of Florida visitors say that being close to nature is important.

There is an upcoming opportunity for the public to show its support for the Corridor, to tell the State's Acquisition & Restoration Council why these lands should be a top priority for protection and the State's Florida Forever funding.

The Florida Funding Forever - Public Hearing will be held Tuesday, December 2, 2014 at 5:00pm at the Bradenton City Council Chambers, 101 Old Main St., Bradenton, FL 34205.

For questions, call Debi Osborne or Lee Amos at (941) 918-2100

For full article continue on the CAC’s website here »


Proposed I-75 changes will require wetlands mitigation

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. -- It'll be a win-win situation for the Florida Department of Transportation and Manatee County if officials finalize an agreement to mitigate removal of wetlands across Interstate 75 during construction on a new interchange on University Parkway -- all paid for by the state, said Brent Setchell of FDOT.

"$2,000,400 -- good for them to provide the mitigation that is going to offset both our wetland and species mitigation," Setchell said.

Those who drink water in Manatee County will benefit as well according to Charlie Hunsicker, the county's director of Parks and Natural Services.

"The more wetlands you have, the more storage banks that you have upstream of your major drinking water ponds. The more reliable that pond is going to be through the months of low rainfall."

"Instead of spending just roughly $4 million to accomplish the mitigation, the state is only going to be spending $2 million. it goes into other projects, other roadways..other priorities."

Even though the wetlands around the interstate are considered of poor quality, the project will consist of the ecological restoration of approximately 75 to 100 acres of wetland areas located on the east side of Duette Preserve that is considered high quality -- not only for keeping water clean but for ecosystem as well.

For fill article continue on WWSB’s website here »

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