Environment

The Florida Cabinet has approved a conservation easement in the Lake Okeechobee watershed.

The endangered Key deer herd was already coming out of a tough year — the herd lost more than 100 animals to New World screwworm.

So when the eye of Hurricane Irma crossed the Lower Keys as a Category 4 storm, wildlife managers were worried. The Lower Keys is also the only place on the planet where Key deer live.

But recently completed population surveys came up with good news, said Dan Clark, manager of the four national wildlife refuges in the Keys, including Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge.

Federal wildlife managers in the Florida Keys have a message for residents: Please stop feeding the endangered deer.

Since Irma washed over Cudjoe Key Sept. 10, pushing a storm surge that submerged much of the Lower Keys including the National Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine, residents who have long tended to the deer like beloved pets began putting out water and food, fearful that saltwater contaminated foraging grounds.

Excess water from Hurricane Irma is still making its way through Florida, exacerbating the significant water management challenges the state's faced this rainy season.

State lawmakers are pushing to ban fracking in the sunshine state.  A similar effort last year failed, but Sen. Dana Young (R-Tampa) believes this year will be different.

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