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CHNEP Micro-Grants are now available

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The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP) is a partnership to protect the natural environment of Florida from Venice to Bonita Springs to Winter Haven. The CHNEP offers two types of grants to help others in their efforts to protect the environment and solve issues of concern as identified in CHNEP’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP):

  • The CHNEP offers Public Outreach Grants once a year, with applications due in September. The maximum grant request is $5,000 but most applications are funded in the $2,500 to $3,000 range. Guidance for the next cycle will be available by April.

  • The CHNEP offers Micro-Grants throughout the year. Most grant requests are up to $250 but a few requests for more support have been approved. Applications are considered when they are received. Awards are made until all funds for the year have all been obligated. The project must be completed and a final report and invoice received by CHNEP no later than August 31, 2015. Applicants are reimbursed funds once a final report and an invoice for work accomplished are accepted.

Citizens, organizations, businesses, government agencies, schools, colleges and universities may apply for grants to support projects that occur within the CHNEP study area that includes Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Polk Hardee and DeSoto counties. While all efforts supported by CHNEP with a grant help implement the CCMP, they are varied in their purpose and scope. Additional information about the grant-making process will soon be available at www.CHNEP.org". To apply for a grant, email Maran Hilgendorf for the application form; please include “micro-grant request” in the subject line. You will receive the funding decision by email. That email will contain critical information about how to accept the terms of the micro-grant and how to proceed in order to receive reimbursement for your micro-grant. If the request is approved, you must first provide a W-9 form for the City of Punta Gorda, the CHNEP’s new fiscal host. Additional guidance on this will be included with the funding decision notice.


Celebrate Sarasota's water oral history at annual screening Jan. 29th

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Bringing Sarasota’s Past to the Present
Sarasota's Water Oral History Project Annual Screening presented by
Sarasota County and New College of Florida

Please join us in taking a step back in time with a screening of videos showcasing oral histories as told by local area residents

When: January 29th at 6 p.m.; screening starts at 6:30 p.m.

Where: New College of Florida in the Mildred Sainer Pavilion, 5313 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota.

Refreshments will be served.

Meet the Oral History Subjects:

Lily Mae Martin: Born in 1925, Martin grew up in the turpentine quarters in Laurel and is among the last remaining members of that generation in the community.

Dr. Kellie Dixon: Georgia-born, she came to Sarasota in 1978, and she has worked at the Mote Marine Laboratory as a scientist ever since. She started as a volunteer. Dixon eventually earned the position of program manager of Mote's Chemical and Physical Ecology group, soon after earning her doctorate in Chemical Oceanography.

Boyce Blackmon: A native Floridian, Blackmon moved to Sarasota County in the mid-1960s and started a successful contracting business in 1965. Currently he is semi-retired and living in Myakka.

Beverly Fleming: She grew up on Boca Grande Island before moving to Sarasota when she was 17. From 2000 to 2006, she owned and operated an art gallery in Towles Court Artist Colony where she were show her own and other local artists' work.

Tito Gaona: A trapeze artist, he was born in Mexico and spent is childhood summers in Sarasota with his father. After traveling the world, Tito settled down in Venice, where he is now the owner and founder of the Flying Trapeze Academy.

To view all the videos and read all the transcripts of the interviews created by the Sarasota Water Oral History Project, visit www.sarasotaoralhistory.com.

More information about the New College oral history project »


EPA Climate Ready Water Utilities Initiative Releases Storm Surge Inundation Map and Scenario-Based

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The Storm Surge Inundation Map is an interactive map that illustrates the current worst-case storm surge and inundation scenarios on the American Gulf and Atlantic coasts, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The map combines data layers from FEMA 100 and 500 year flood maps as well as NOAA's Sea, Lake, and Overland Surge from Hurricanes (SLOSH) and the National Hurricane Center's coastal county hurricane strike maps. Explore the map at: water.epa.gov.

The Scenario-Based Projected Changes Map is an online map that provides easy access to localized scenarios of projected changes in annual total precipitation, precipitation intensity, annual average temperature, 100-year storm events, and sea-level rise from EPA's Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness Tool. To explore local climate change projection data across the United States, simply zoom in on a location of interest or type a location into the search field of the map. Climate change projection data within this map is provided by grid cell, illustrated as a square grid with 1/2-degree resolution, approximately 32 x 32 miles, for the United States. Explore the map at: water.epa.gov.


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

Prescribed burns in Deer Prairie Creek Preserve and Schewe Preserve from now through March

The Land Management Section of the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) will be conducting prescribed burns during the months of January, February, and March 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 650 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.


Beach Ambassadors to be honored at luncheon Jan. 22nd

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​SARASOTA COUNTY – A special awards luncheon in which Beach Ambassadors, volunteers who help make Siesta Key one of America's best beaches, will be honored for their service and dedication on Jan. 22.

Several Beach Ambassadors will be recognized for their work, including Ron Verilek, who has logged 1,000 of volunteer time over the course of 10 years. Like all of the Beach Ambassadors, Ron meets and greets visitors near the concession area of Siesta Key and provides a warm welcome, along with information, to help make their visit the best it can be.

A South Dakota native, Ron has been an advocate of volunteer work since he was in high school, and continued that tradition when he retired from the sales and marketing industry and moved to Siesta Key. Volunteering gives a sense of self-pride, Ron said, and a a feeling of gratification when helping other people.

"I've met some of the friendliest people from around the world, and you learn a lot about people when you hear their stories," Ron added. The Beach Ambassador program is a joint effort between Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources, The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce and Visit Sarasota County. The awards luncheon is an effort to honor their contributions to the community, and many ambassadors, like Verilek, will be celebrated for their efforts.

Stephanie Grosskreutz, managing director of Visit Sarasota County, praised the efforts of the Beach Ambassadors, and said they are one of the reasons that so many people come back year after year to Siesta Key, named the Best Beach in America in 2011 by Dr. Beach.

"The ambassadors are on the ground offering warm welcomes and spreading the word about everything Sarasota has to offer. We couldn't have the success we have without them," Grosskreutz added.

The event is scheduled for Jan. 22, 2015, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Phillippi Estate Park, 5500 South Tamiami Trail. For more information contact the Sarasota County Call Center at 941-861-5000.


New Sarasota County FEMA floodplain map workshops starting Jan. 20

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SARASOTA COUNTY – In anticipation of new floodplain mapping, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is hosting three open houses this month at three separate locations in Sarasota County.

More than 40,000 parcels will be moving into or out of high-risk flood zones throughout the county when the changes take effect in early 2016, according to data released by FEMA, and all property owners are urged to check the flood zone status of their properties.

According to FEMA officials, these new flood maps will help property owners better understand their current flood risk in order to make more informed financial decisions about protecting themselves and their property, and how these changes may impact construction and insurance costs.

FEMA representatives will be on hand at all thee open house to provide information and one-on-one conversations with property owners. Registration is not required to attend the open houses. Scheduled locations and times include:
  • Tuesday, Jan. 20, 4-7 p.m., Sarasota Community Bayfront Center, 803 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 21, 4-7 p.m., Venice Community Center, 326 Nokomis Ave., Venice.
  • Thursday, Jan. 22, 4-7 p.m., Morgan Family Community Center, 6207 W. Price Blvd., North Port.

Additional workshops, which will be hosted by Sarasota County and the City of Sarasota, are scheduled for the following dates and locations:

  • Tuesday, Feb. 24, 4-7 p.m., Sarasota Bayfront Center, 803, N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.
  • Wednesday, March 4, 4-7 p.m., Venice Community Center, 326 Nokomis Ave., Venice.

  • April workshops in North Port and Englewood have not yet been scheduled.

    For more information, call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000, or visit the link below.

    More information »


    Searching for the ‘Heartbreak Turtle’ addresses Kemp’s Ridley turtle’s tale

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    From Wilma Katz of Englewood's Coastal Wildlife Club:

    Dear Turtle Friends,

    In mid-November, I attended the Second Symposium on the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle held in Brownsville, Texas. The presentations and discussion throughout the meeting were informative and timely. I was impressed particularly with a presentation by Dr. Thane Wibbels (pictured at left, with two of his lab assistants). His topic was: “SEARCHING FOR THE ‘HEARTBREAK TURTLE’: How the efforts of a diverse group of historic personalities coalesced to save the most endangered sea turtle in the world”.

    This is not an exaggeration. As Thane demonstrated at the symposium, the Kemp’s story is one of suspense, excitement, and heroes. And it is not over. I asked him if he’d be willing to come here and retell the story. Happily for us, he agreed. In addition to its history, Thane will update us on the species’ status today, and perhaps will offer insights into the recent extreme numbers of cold-stunned turtles, most of them Kemp’s, on Cape Cod (the all-species count was 1227 as of last week…), and on the continuing impact of the 2010 BP oil spill, on this species especially.

    Thane has been on the faculty of the University of Alabama at Birmingham since 1993, and has degrees from the University of Nebraska, the University of Houston, and from Texas A&M. In the international sea turtle community, he is best known for his research and expertise on temperature-dependent sex determination and on sex ratios in turtles. His extensive research includes sand studies on Sarasota County beaches and in-water studies on both Florida coasts and elsewhere.

    On Manasota Key in 2014, a Kemp’s nested just north of the Sarasota/Charlotte county line. Another Kemp’s nest was recorded on Stump Pass Beach State Park. Kemp’s ridleys are considered a rare species in Florida and nests are identified conclusively only by photo documentation or, absent that, by DNA analysis. Beachgoers are encouraged to forward photos and information to us of any daytime nesting they observe. Fortunately, Kemp’s ridleys are daytime nesters and if noticed by beach goers, they are often photographed.


    When: Thursday, January 22nd, 7:00 p.m.
    Where: Lemon Bay Park, 570 Bay Park Blvd., Englewood

    Please note Thursday, January 22nd on your calendar and:
    1. To share our good fortune because we can, please bring canned goods or other non-perishables and supplies (eg toilet paper) for delivery by Carol and Jeff Rice to Englewood Helping Hand for distribution to people having a rough time.
    2. Please bring screw-on plastic bottle and jar caps for recycling programs at local schools. These are traded for credit on recycled plastic equipment or benches, etc.
    And please come early enough to say hello to Thane and to enjoy desserts and coffee.

    We are hosting this program in collaboration with Sarasota County Parks and Recreation Department. The program is open to the public, and there is no charge.

    We look forward to seeing you!


    2015 Florida Artificial Reef Summit announced by SeaGrant

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    GAINESVILLE – Artificial reef experts, fisheries scientists and reef managers from around the state and nation will come together to discuss current issues and exchange ideas for future projects at the 2015 Florida Artificial Reef Summit Jan. 13-16 in Clearwater Beach.

    The summit provides a rare opportunity for members of the state’s artificial reef community to hear recent research results, share experiences and generate new ideas, according to Bryan Fluech, Florida Sea Grant Agent with the UF/IFAS Extension in Collier County.

    The last statewide Summit took place in 2010 in Cocoa Beach where over 180 participants including researchers, artificial reef program managers, marine contractors, natural resource managers, volunteer research diver organizations, and artificial reef citizen constituency organizations attended the event.

    “We are excited to welcome these groups back to continue the discussion on how to move Florida’s artificial reef program forward,” Fluech said.

    The theme of this year’s conference is “Navigating Expectations and Charting Objectives.”

    “We chose the theme to reflect on the diverse perspectives of artificial reef use in Florida as well as discuss what it takes to responsibly plan for, manage, and evaluate a comprehensive artificial reef program in the Sunshine state,” Fluech said.

    Florida Sea Grant, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the University of Florida IFAS Extension Service are organizers of the event.

    Florida has one of the most active artificial reef programs in the world with over 2,900 planned public artificial reefs placed off of its coasts. Everything from bridge rubble to specially designed concrete structures to retired naval ships has been deployed. Besides providing recreational fishing and diving opportunities, artificial reefs have also been used as substrate to support new oyster reefs, as erosion control structures to protect vegetated shorelines, as well as mitigation and restoration reefs to replace and repair natural hard bottom habitats lost through beach re-nourishment activities or vessel groundings.

    “Artificial reefs drive a variety of economic activities that bring significant economic benefit to coastal communities,” Fluech adds. “A number of cost-benefit analyses in Florida show positive economic results, especially in the local economies directly impacted by the fishermen and divers that come to take advantage of the reefs.”

    For more than three decades, Florida Sea Grant has contributed to Florida’s artificial reef program by developing and disseminating science-based information about the ecology of artificial reefs and their construction. Many of Sea Grant’s county-based extension faculty members assist local artificial reef programs by providing technical information that can improve the productivity and management of these reefs.

    Can’t make the conference in person? Listen in via Livestream at http://x.co/reefsummit.

    For more information on the conference, agenda and speakers »


    Join SBEP Bay Guardians at air potato round-up on Feb. 7th

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    The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program is recruiting Bay Guardian volunteers for an air potato round-up on February 7th.

    The event will be a kickoff for a three-year restoration, stormwater improvement, and environmental education project at North Water Tower Park. Managing partners include SBEP, Sarasota County, and the City of Sarasota. Funding was recently awarded to SBEP from the EPA Gulf of Mexico Program and to Sarasota County from the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The grant application process has brought together diverse groups that value the park including the Bayou Oaks Neighborhood Association, Indian Beach Sapphire Shores Neighborhood Association, the North Trail Redevelopment Partnership and the Sarasota Sky Pilots Disc Golf Club.

    The project will incorporate Low Impact Development (LID) techniques to reduce stormwater pollution and improve water quality in Whitaker Bayou and Sarasota Bay. Invasive plants will be removed to increase native habitat and improve aesthetics throughout the park. A diverse education, volunteer, and outreach program will improve environmental stewardship in the area while engaging school groups and local citizens.

    Volunteers will be removing air potato which is an invasive vine that covers and shades beneficial native plants. The vine grows a large tuber that looks like a hanging potato. There will be a contest with prizes for the smallest, biggest, weirdest-looking, and most air potatoes collected! These events are also a great opportunity to clean up trash.

    In order to participate you MUST wear appropriate footwear—closed toed shoes are required. We also recommend long-sleeved shirts and pants.

    This event is suitable for all ages. RSVP is required.

    Please wear hat, sunscreen, close-toed shoes are required (old tennis shoes work great), clothes that can get dirty, clippers if you have them and work gloves. Please bring a reusable water bottle to help reduce our plastic pollution. We strongly suggest carpooling, this is a larger event and parking is limited.

    Bay Guardians shirts will be available for all volunteers! If you already have one, please wear your shirt to the event.

    WHAT: Bay Guardians Air Potato Roundup
    WHERE: 4700 Rilma Ave,Sarasota, FL 34234
    WHEN: Saturday, February 7th, 2015, 9:00 a.m.-noon

    Catered lunch will be provided for all volunteers after the event is done!

    Questions? Email Camille Boffa or call (941) 955-8085.

    Click here to register »