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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 »


FWC, research partners unlock red tide's mysteries in 5-year study

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Photo: Red tide researchers, courtesy FWC

Contributing research institutions: University of South Florida, Mote Marine Laboratory, University of Miami, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences, Old Dominion University, and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Last month, researchers at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) published new findings on Florida’s red tide organism, Karenia brevis, in a special issue of the scientific journal Harmful Algae. This publication is the culmination of an unprecedented collaboration on red tide research in the Gulf of Mexico led by the FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) and funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

From this work, researchers unveiled that Karenia brevis uses a variety of nutrients from different sources, including offshore blooms of another algae species, Trichodesmium, as well as decaying fish that die during blooms. Researchers quantified the relative roles of these nutrient sources in affecting blooms.

They also confirmed the importance of physical forces in the occurrence of nearshore blooms of Karenia brevis. In 2010, this red tide organism did not bloom on the southwest Florida shelf because deeper water did not transport source populations to shore; this phenomenon was in stark contrast to 2008, 2009 and, particularly, 2007, when a massive bloom occurred.

Moreover, the work confirmed previous findings that blooms of this particular red tide species, Karenia brevis, are extremely complex and result from a particular suite of physical, chemical and biological factors. This study highlights that effective bloom management integrates short-term solutions of bloom prediction, such as the FWC/USFSP three-day forecasts, with longer-term solutions, including nutrient-reduction strategies.

This project and future projects like it are another step forward in understanding the red tide phenomenon.

“To obtain a comprehensive understanding of red tides in the Gulf of Mexico, we really needed to collaborate with experts across the many fields of marine science, as well as study variations in bloom conditions from year to year,” explained Matt Garrett, a research associate at FWRI. “We were able to put together the big picture of these blooms, which are clearly affected by the physics, chemistry and biology in the ocean.”

Lead investigators at the FWC brought together a diverse group of scientists that included algal biologists, physical oceanographers and chemists from six agencies and universities—the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences, University of Miami, Mote Marine Laboratory, Old Dominion University, University of South Florida and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science—to understand the physical and chemical drivers of red tides.

The uniqueness of the project came not only from its multidisciplinary nature, but also from its duration and spatial coverage: Between 2007 and 2010, four 14-day research cruises along the southwest Florida shelf, from St. Petersburg to Marco Island and 70 miles offshore, were conducted. The field work was paired with in-depth laboratory studies, which focused on the physiology and ecology of the organism. Most importantly, researchers were able to study bloom and nonbloom years to understand the physical and environmental forces that can cause red tides of the harmful species Karenia brevis.

Hard copies of the special issue of the Harmful Algae journal are available upon request by email to HABData@MyFWC.com.

More information about the research »

More information about red tide from MyFWC.com »


SWFWMD to perform prescribed burns in Deer Prairie Creek Preserve area in Nov.-Dec.

The Land Management Section of the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) will be conducting prescribed burns during the months of November and December on Deer Prairie Creek Preserve and neighboring Schewe Tract. Deer Prairie Creek Preserve, which is jointly owned and managed by the District and Sarasota County, is located between Interstate 75 and US Highway 41. The Schewe Tract, which is located north and south of Interstate 75 just north of Deer Prairie Creek, is fully owned and managed by the District. Both of these parcels are located west of North Port. Approximately 500 acres will be burned in small, manageable units.

According to Will VanGelder, the District’s land management supervisor, burns are implemented to mimic natural fire cycles under a controlled situation. The objective is to avert uncontrolled wildfires and enhance the area’s natural conditions by maintaining the ecological and wildlife habitat values. Prescribed burns are only conducted when weather conditions are optimal to meet the desired objectives and to minimize impacts to the public.

Although every effort will be made to assure that smoke does not affect homes or highways, vehicle operators should exercise caution if smoke reduces visibility on the area’s roads or highways.


DEP’s Florida Coastal Office debuts interactive map of Aquatic Preserves

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The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Coastal Office presents an online interactive story map that takes visitors on a virtual tour of the state’s 41 aquatic preserves through pictures, videos and website links.

Florida’s aquatic preserves encompass approximately 2.2 million acres. All but four of these “submerged lands of exceptional beauty” are located along Florida’s 8,400 miles of coastline in the shallow waters of marshes and estuaries that serve as a critical nursery for many of the nation’s recreationally and commercially important fish and shellfish.

“The aquatic preserve story map provides a captivating way for the public and government officials to learn about each aquatic preserve and the great things being accomplished by Florida Coastal Office staff and volunteers across the state,” said Chris Robertson, GIS coordinator for the Florida Coastal Office. “This map is an incredible tool that can be used to teach Florida residents about the natural beauty found right in their backyard.”

This interactive mapping project was created to educate the public about the diverse ecosystems found across the state and to encourage public support and community involvement in the aquatic preserves.

Approximately two-thirds of Floridians live in counties that border an aquatic preserve.

The creation of this interactive map takes promoting the aquatic preserves further than just handing out a pamphlet or pointing to a storyboard. It allows guests to get a closer look at the research, resource protection, education and community outreach that is taking place at each site.

The map is hosted on the Florida DEP’s ArcGIS online gallery.

Visit the interactive story map »


Challenges to Our Local Environment, Past and Present

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How have we dealt with water woes, the coastline, wildlife and development over the years and where are we now? The environment is the subject of a Conversation at the Crocker on Tuesday, November 11, starting at 7 p.m.

The local environment is the subject of a Conversation at The Crocker, on Tuesday, November 11, starting at 7 p.m. at the Crocker Memorial Church, 1260 12th Street (Pioneer Park), Sarasota. Organized and presented by the Historical Society of Sarasota County and sponsored by SARASOTA Magazine, this public conversation is free to Historical Society members and students. Guests, $10. Proceeds help maintain the two historic properties at Pioneer Park, The Bidwell-Wood House (1882, Sarasota’s oldest private residence) and the Crocker Memorial Church (1901, Sarasota’s oldest surviving church building). Tours of both historic buildings are available prior to the Conversation.

“Many of us moved to the Sarasota area for the climate, the beaches, to boat on the bay, fish in the Gulf of Mexico, and enjoy the beautiful Old Florida rural serenity,” said Howard Rosenthal, President of the Historical Society. “But, this part of Florida has a fragile environment and challenges to it are increasing as the county grows and struggles to support increased development. There are water issues, conservation of resources and decreasing habitats for wildlife. At this Conversation we’ll hear from four experts about what our environmental challenges have been in the past and what they are now.” On stage the evening of Tuesday, November 11, are Julie Morris, Jon Thaxton, Becky Ayech and Glenn Compton.

Julie Morris (pictured here) came to Sarasota in 1970 to attend New College and focus on Environmental Studies. She led the Florida Sierra Club in the 1980s and was active in Sarasota and Florida issues related to the coast, wetlands, rivers and wildlife. In the 1990’s she was a Commissioner of the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission and was the first Chairman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Morris managed fish in the Gulf of Mexico for nine years as a member of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. She has worked at New College, first as co-director with Jono Miller of the New College Environmental Studies Program, and now as Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Former Sarasota County Commissioner Jon Thaxton (now Gulf Coast Community Foundation Director of Community Investment) is a fourth-generation Floridian who was born near Osprey and began working at his family’s real estate business age 14. He began his environmental advocacy at Venice High School in 1974 as a founding member of the Ecology Club and has never stopped championing the environment. Thaxton was awarded the 1,000 Friends of Florida State Growth Management Award and was twice named the Nature Conservancy’s Grassroots Activist of the Year. In 1996, he was featured in National Geographic for his work in preserving endangered species. Thaxton’s involvement in both business and environmental issues contributed to his first successful campaign for the Sarasota County Commission in 2000 and his reelection in 2004 and 2008. Jon Thaxton is respected throughout Florida as a leading advocate for protecting the natural environment.

Becky Ayech has lived in Miakka (the oldest settlement in Sarasota County) for 34 years. She has served as the president for the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida and president of the Miakka Community Club, a civic organization which preserves and maintains the rural way of life in Miakka as well as a 100 year old Schoolhouse. She is immediate past chair of Fisheating Creek Settlement Advisory Board, a former member of Sarasota County Planning Commission, policy consultant for Florida Water Coalition and co-founder of the SWFWMD Environmental Committee. Becky and her husband own a sustainable farm where they raise sheep, chickens vegetables and fruits.

Glenn Compton is Chairman of ManaSota-88, past member of the Venice Environmental Advisory Committee, past supervisor with the Sarasota Soil and Water Conservation District and Venice High School Science teacher for 30 years. ManaSota-88 is a Florida non-profit organization, created in 1968. Its environmental protection efforts, protecting the public's health and preservation of the environment, span more than 40 years. The organization's commitment to safeguard the air, land and water quality is aggressive and uncompromising. Operating revenues are derived totally from private citizens.

For more information about this Conversation and the whole season of Conversations at The Crocker, contact Linda Garcia, Site Manager, Historical Society of Sarasota County, 941-364-9076 or hsosc1@gmail.com.


Public invited to 15th annual Charlotte Harbor Nature Festival

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The 15th Annual Charlotte Harbor Nature Festival will be held Saturday, November 22, 2014 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Charlotte County Sports Complex located at 2300 El Jobean Rd/SR 776 in Port Charlotte.

Please help celebrate the splendor of the natural environment of Southwest Florida by sponsoring, exhibiting, volunteering and promoting this event.

The Charlotte Harbor Nature Festival is a regional family-friendly celebration where people can learn about topics affecting the natural environment of southwest Florida. This is accomplished through a wide variety of activities for both adults and children, which include guided walks in Tippecanoe Environmental Park, hands-on activities, exhibits and vendors, music, a Children’s Discovery Zone and more. A committee of volunteers, who represent a diverse group of organizations, is dedicated to making this Festival exciting and informative. Admission and parking are both free. To learn more, watch the short videos the CHNEP has posted on YouTube:

2013 Festival
2012 Festival
2011 Festival

The CHNEP invites public participation as a sponsor, exhibitor, volunteer or promoter of the 15th annual Charlotte Harbor Nature Festival, making it bigger and better than ever. To register as a sponsor or exhibitor, click on the link below.

Sponsor / exhibitor information and registration »

Contact Information
Maran Hilgendorf, Communications Manager, Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, maran@chnep.org, 326 West Marion Avenue, Punta Gorda, FL. 33950
phone: (941) 575-3374.

As Infrastructure Crumbles, Trillions of Gallons of Water Lost

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Photo courtesy of National Public Radio

A recent study by Gallet's group and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning found the Chicago area alone is losing 22 billion gallons of treated water per year through leaky pipes.

"We figured that that could fill the residential needs of about 700,000 people in a year," says Tim Loftus, water resource planner for the agency.

"That's a big city," he says. "That's a year's worth of residential water use."

Nationwide, the amount of water that is lost each year is estimated to top 2 trillion gallons, according to the American Water Works Association. That's about 14 to 18 percent (or one-sixth) of the water the nation treats.

And it's not just water that's going down the drain, but billions of dollars in revenue too because utilities can't charge customers for water that is lost before it gets to them.

But fixing the nation's water systems isn't going to be cheap.

"Our estimates are that this is a trillion-dollar program," says David LaFrance, CEO of the American Water Works Association. "About half of that trillion dollars will be to replace existing infrastructure. The other half will be putting into the ground new infrastructure to serve population growth and areas that currently aren't receiving water."

Across the country, many communities are raising water rates — some in the double and triple digits — to begin addressing the problem. California and Maine, as well as several individual communities, are asking voters next week to approve massive bond initiatives to fund water infrastructure improvements.

For full article continue on NPR’s website here »


Service proposes trade protections for four native freshwater turtles

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A booming international trade in turtles has put pressure on populations across the country and has led to concern about the long-term survival of several species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced a proposed rule to address the growing threat of illegal take and trade in native turtles. If finalized, this action will bring four native freshwater turtle species – the common snapping turtle, the Florida softshell turtle, the smooth softshell turtle and the spiny softshell turtle – under the protection of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and require exporters to obtain a permit before shipping turtles overseas.

Freshwater turtles and tortoises are collected, traded and utilized in overwhelming numbers. Bringing these turtle species under CITES protection will allow the Service to better monitor international trade, determine the legality of exports and, in consultation with State wildlife agencies and other experts, decide whether additional conservation efforts are needed. It will also enlist the assistance of 179 other countries that are part of CITES in monitoring trade in these species.

“Wildlife trafficking is not just a danger to foreign species. Native wildlife, including paddlefish, live reptiles and sharks, as well as plants such as ginseng, are poached and illegally traded,” said Bryan Arroyo, Assistant Director of International Affairs. “We work closely with State wildlife agencies to protect native species and ensure that trade is legal and sustainable, particularly for species at greatest risk of overexploitation.”

Continue reading on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website here »

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