Environmental Roundup July 9, 2021
We are all connected by the environment we share. The Earth is our home. This is the space where we share the environmental stories that caught our attention this week in Florida and beyond.
Tropical Storm Elsa caused beach erosion and flooding in Southwest Florida that has destroyed some sea turtle nests. The Herald Tribune reports, turtle eggs were visibly scattered in the sand, Wednesday, at Turtle Beach in Sarasota. It's too early to know how many sea turtle nests in the region were disrupted by Elsa.
A $10,000 award is being offered for the most pythons removed through the Florida Python Challenge. Those wishing to qualify for awards must register for the competition, pay the registration fee of $25 and complete an online training. The 2021 Florida Python Challenge began at 8 a.m., July 9 and runs through 5 p.m., July 18.
Two new mosquito species were found recently in Collier County. The invasive Aedes scapularis and Aedes tortilis brings the total number of known mosquito species in Collier to 48. The mosquitoes are native to South America and the Caribbean, and were found just last year in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. Aedes scapularis is capable of transmitting yellow fever and Venezuelan equine encephalitis.
A research effort aimed at shedding light on the human health impacts of exposure to airborne cyanobacteria toxins from blue green algae is having difficulty finding study participants. The $1.6 million study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is designed for 150 participants, but the News-Press reports that so far, just ten people have volunteered. The project is looking to involve participants who live or work near Lake Okeechobee, canals in Cape Coral, or the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers. Volunteers would be required to complete surveys, undergo health screenings, and perform a lung function test. The aim of the research is to track any changes in liver and kidney function. While the body of research on the health impacts of blue-green algae exposure is limited, the exposure has been linked to liver disease and neurodegenerative diseases like ALS and Parkinson's.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering a plan to increase public access to the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Collier County. The Naples Daily News reports, the plan includes creating new trails for hikers and cyclists, opening the refuge to turkey hunting, and opening a pond on the refuge to anglers. Supporters of the plan, like the Everglades Coordinating Council say increased public access will help connect people to nature, and by extension, increase public support for environmental conservation. Organizations like the South Florida Wildlands Association and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida say focusing on increased public access contradicts the purpose of the refuge. Some opponents want a more thorough environmental impact study to be conducted before going forward with the plan. They also express concern about recently approved new developments in eastern Collier not far from the refuge.
The Biden administration has announced it is withdrawing approval given by the Trump administration to use radioactive phosphogypsum in road and highway construction, primarily in Florida.
Officials say the body of a 29-year-old woman found in a retention pond near Tampa, Sunday night, was likely attacked by an alligator. The AP reports , Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office officials say injuries are consistent with a gator attack, although the medical examiner's office will make a final cause of death determination. State wildlife biologists say alligator attacks on humans in Florida are rare, but there have been two other non-fatal alligator attacks in Charlotte County in recent months.
Florida wildlife officials think they know what caused a mysterious fish kill in Palm Beach County last month: A natural process called cold-water upwelling. The Palm Beach Post reports, ocean temperatures in the reef off Palm Beach were between 62 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit, which is low enough to kill tropical fish. Scientists say water samples tested negative for toxic algae blooms, but they're not ruling them out as a potential cause.
The City of New York did not handle Elsa well. Subways flooded, sewers overflowed, and the streets were inundated with water.
Maine lobstermen—who catch the bulk of the nation's lobster—organized to ban offshore wind farms. Maine's governor signed the offshore wind farm ban into law this week.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports Fieldwood Energy LLC, one of the largest producers of oil from the Gulf of Mexico, has filed for its second bankruptcy in less than three years. They plan to abandon 1,715 Gulf oil wells, 281 pipelines, and 276 platforms--or about 6% of the active wells in the Gulf. If that seems like a lot, consider the nearly half a million old, unused oil well sites with infrastructure, including fuel tanks that are in need of restoration and remediation in the U.S. Those sites are scattered nationwide and together make up a land mass roughly the size of Rhode Island and Delaware, combined. Responsibility for the Gulf infrastructure is up in the air, but taxpayers are likely going to end up footing the bill. The current administration’s infrastructure plan includes $16 billion to plug old oil and gas wells and to clean up abandoned mines. Remediating the land and restoring it to, for example, agriculture or natural forest, could help fight greenhouse gases, while letting them sit risks toxic contamination to land as well as fresh water sources. Read more at Fast Company.
Speaking of oil in the Gulf, ICYMI last week, the Gulf just off the coast of Yucatan was literally on fire last week, thanks to a Pemex oil pipeline.
While we here in the U.S. can still buy the herbicide Roundup at the local hardware store, Cary Gillam, author of The Monsanto Papers, reports for the Guardian that “a new analysis of more than 50 previously secret, corporate-backed scientific studies is raising troubling questions about a history of regulatory reliance on such research in assessing the safety of the widely used weed killing chemical known as glyphosate, the key ingredient in the popular Roundup herbicide.”
And yes, it’s hot and steamy in Florida, but consider: It’s so hot in British Columbia, Canada that mussels are cooking to death on their sea shore. Studies show the Pacific Northwest’s heat wave would be impossible--were it not for human made climate change. Humans are also responsible for extreme precipitation, such as the recent floods in Dearborn and Detroit Michigan, too.
Learn about all this and more, including regular updates on blue-green algae and red tide, on our website, WGCU.org.
Do & Learn
- Want to convert your St. Augustine grass lawn to a native, low maintenance Florida landscape? Want to be on TV? Flip My Florida Yard might have you covered.
- Learn all about Falconry with Lee County Libraries virtually on July 27. Resources for the virtual session can be picked up at library branches. Learn more.
- Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary has a ghost orchid that should be blooming very soon. Learn more on their website.
- The Florida Python Challenge starts July 9. If you’ve ever wanted to protect the Everglades and the animals that live there from invasive pythons, this is your chance. The challenge runs through July 18 and includes cash prizes. Learn more and register.
- The FWC is encouraging people to hunt wild hogs this summer. Learn more at MyFWC.com/hunting/wild-hog.
- Naples Botanical Garden invites essential workers and their families to visit the Garden on a complimentary basis through September 30, 2021. Be sure to check out their exhibition, Artists in Bloom.
- And a new exhibit at the Collier Museum, Swamp Angels: A History of Mosquitoes and Mosquito Control, might be a must-see. Running now through August 28 at 3331 Tamiami Trail E., Naples, Florida, in the county government complex.
- Watch Troubled Waters, a short documentary from the Calusa Waterkeeper.
Want to influence your local environment? There’s probably a public meeting for that.
Check out Collier County’s full public calendar here.
Charlotte County still has several committee vacancies to fill and many have something to do with the environment. Learn more at https://www.charlottecountyfl.gov/news/charlotte-county-committee-vacancies.stml
South Florida Water Management District Governing Board Meeting is Thursday, July 15, 2021 at 9:00 a.m. Click here for more information.
Got an environment story or tip to share? Email Valerie Vande Panne at Vvandepanne@wgcu.org.