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Environmental Roundup July 16, 2021

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Courtesy FWC Flickr
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Mark Salvato (USFWS) releases a Schaus' swallowtail butterfly into its natural habitat on Elliott Key.

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.

FLORIDA:

Collier County Commissioners on Tuesday approved changes to a program designed to boost environmental land conservation and diminish urban sprawl called the Rural Lands Stewardship Program (RLSA). The program includes 185,000 acres in eastern Collier County bordered by the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge and the Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest. It allows builders to develop on property with less conservation value in exchange for preserving more environmentally valuable land through a credit system. The revisions lagged without action by county government for years before this week's approval action, and aim to incentivize developers to voluntarily participate in the program. To date, the RLSA program has protected more than 50,000 acres of valuable conservation land, flow ways, and agricultural land.

Environmental reporter Amy Green with WMFE reports nesting sea turtles in Florida are getting smaller, and researchers don’t know why.

The endangered Schaus butterfly is having its best season in decades, thanks to conservation efforts.

Veterinary researchers at the University of Florida say they have discovered a new pathogen that is fatal for gopher tortoises. Gopher tortoises are protected under the Endangered Species Act in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. The species is considered threatened in Florida and is protected under state law. The animals are important because their burrows provide shelter for hundreds of other creatures. Researchers believe warming temperatures associated with climate change might be weakening the tortoises' immune systems, making them more susceptible to disease.

The Snail Kite, formerly unique to South Florida, is heading North, thanks to the health of their ecosystem deteriorating and native Apple Snail populations dwindling, which is the birds' sole food source.

Orlando is trying out roads that are meant to lower pollution and be cooling, and sunny day high tide flooding will likely increase throughout Florida.

Red tide is still at high levels in the Tampa Bay area, with no relief in sight. Keep up with red tide and blue-green algae on our website.

BEYOND

Arctic Circle land temperature has reached 118 degrees Fahrenheit during a heatwave that is persisting in Siberia. Scientists say this heat wave is likely impossible without the human-made climate crisis.

Despite the Biden administration stressing transparency for the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA has directed employees not to speak to the press. The Associated Press reports that the Biden administration is on pace to approve the highest level of oil and gas drilling since the George W. Bush administration, approving 2,500 permits to drill on public and tribal lands so far this year with 2,100 of those approved since Biden took office. Biden campaigned that he would end new drilling on federal lands, and new Interior Secretary Deb Haaland previously opposed that as well.

In addition, Jacobin reports Biden’s top domestic policy adviser, Susan Rice, owns a significant stake in Enbridge, a Canadian oil company whose pipeline also known as the controversial Line 3, was just backed by the White House.

NOAA is warning the moon “wobble” will increase high tide flooding, especially in the 2030s and 2040s.

The Associated Press reports as coal mines declare bankruptcy across Appalachia, tax payers are looking at footing the bill for the multi-billion dollar clean-up cost, estimated at as much as nearly $6 billion in Kentucky and West Virginia alone.

The Amazon has gone from being the cleansing lungs of the Earth to emitting more carbon than it cleans up, thanks to fires, many of which can be attributed to illegal land clearing by invaders on Indigenous land.

Learn about all this and more, including regular updates on blue-green algae and red tide, on our website, WGCU.org and be sure to sign up for our monthly environmental newsletter, Green Flash.

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By Alphonse-Marie-Adolphe de Neuville - Hetzel edition of 20000 Lieues Sous les Mers, p. 400. [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40090
Giant Squid as depicted in 2000 Leagues Under the Sea

Do & Learn

  • Supersized Squid! The National Shell Museum hosts a talk about the creatures in their virtual lecture series at 5 pm on July 27.
  • 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 is happening now. 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 Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission 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.
  • 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, 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 a.m. Click here for more information.

Got an environment story or tip to share? Email Valerie Vande Panne at Vvandepanne@wgcu.org.