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Environmental Roundup April 2, 2021

Sunrise over Placida Harbor, Florida
Mmacbeth, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Sunrise over Placida Harbor, Florida

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.

Manatees are Moving! Boat with Caution!

If you are a boater, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) wants you to slow down and look out for manatees, who are leaving their wintering homes and heading for warmer waters elsewhere, traveling through Florida’s rivers, canals and nearshore waters. Boat strikes are a major threat to Florida manatees—so slow down, watch the signs, and think about our manatee friends underwater. FWC also recommends:

  • Wear polarized sunglasses to help spot manatees.
  • Avoid boating in shallow areas to prevent damaging seagrass and to avoid resting and grazing manatees.
  • Look for large circles on the water, also known as manatee footprints, indicating the presence of a manatee below.
  • Look for a snout sticking up out of the water.
  • Follow posted manatee zones while boating.
  • Physically helping a stranded manatee may cause it more harm. Instead, report injured, distressed, sick or dead manatees to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or by dialing #FWC or *FWC on a cellphone so trained responders can assist.

Resources for boaters, educators and other interested members of the public are available at MyFWC.com/Manatee. What should you do if you see a manatee? The Viewing Guidelines page provides helpful tips on respectfully viewing manatees, additional guidelines for boat and personal watercraft operators, and information on what you can do to help these amazing aquatic mammals. Are you interested in supporting the FWC’s manatee research, rescue and management efforts? You can purchase a Florida manatee license plate, or donate $5 to receive a collectable FWC manatee decal. Both are available from your local Tax Collector’s office.

Also in the water: Could the invasive water plant Hydrilla verticillata and their cyanobacteria friends destroy BRAINS? When you mix in bromine, it turns out, YES, at least in bald eagles, mallards, and more of our avian friends. Read more about the fascinating, toxic mix at Science News.

The NY Times reports the current presidential administration plans to investigate “Trump-era attacks on science.”

Speaking of science, and perhaps highlighting human limitations even with science, “how about we dim the sun?” is increasingly being suggested as a solution to climate change. Wily Simpson’s prognosticators aside, this is turning into a road that some think will have devastating consequences.

Speaking of devastating consequences of what humans thought was pretty cool science, the Tampa Bay Times has an investigation into the poisoning of Gopher Resource factory workers. You can read the serieshere.

African elephants continue to be increasingly threatened with extinction, mostly due to ivory poachers and--sound familiar?--human encroachment into their habitat.

While red tide and harmful algae blooms (HABs) continue to encroach into our habitats here in Southwest Florida, perhaps it’s helpful to remember that our friends in Alaska are now dealing with HAB’s too, thanks to climate change.

Sure, it’s pretty neat the U.S. re-joined the Paris Climate Accord, but, how likely are we really to reduce our fossil fuel dependence when coal, gas, and oil companies have received nearly $4 trillion in financing from the world’s biggest banks since 2015? The Guardian reports: “...it has been known since at least 2015 that a significant proportion of existing reserves must remain in the ground if global heating is to remain below 2C, the main Paris target. Financing for new reserves is therefore the “exact opposite” of what is required to tackle the climate crisis…”

Consumer Alert: Your cookware might be toxic. And the worse part is, you probably don’t know it, or that the company manufacturing it has gotten away with deceptive advertising to make consumers feel good about it: "Companies often tell us certain chemicals are not in a product," said Melissa Cooper Sargent, the Ecology Center's environmental health advocate. "But when they don't tell us what is in the product, we cannot easily make an informed choice." Read more at E&E News.

Finally, the Calusa Waterkeeper has a new report covering water quality in Southwest Florida from 2018-2020. Do take a few minutes to learn about the water that should be nourishing us in Southwest Florida.

Read all of WGCU’s environmental coverage here.

Northern Parula
Arni Stinnissen/Audubon Photography Awards
Northern Parula

Do & Learn

  • April 3, 2021, 9:30-11am Environment and Growth Management, a League of Women Voters Lee County Virtual Educational Meeting. Learn more and register here.
  • April 12, 2021, How long can two people live on food destined for the trash bin? Find out as the ninth annual “Ding” Darling Film Series wraps up with the documentary Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story. Pre-registration for the film is required. Watch the trailer here.
  • April 17 marks Audubon Florida’s BIRDATHON. Keep track of your observations, and submit the total number of species you saw using this form.
  • If you know a youth who would be interested in hunting, the FWC has a mentored youth hunting program. VisitMyFWC.com/YHPF.
  • Another FWC effort, the Florida Youth Conservation Center Network offers camp programs with numerous activities focused on the theme of conservation-centered recreation. Learn more by visitingFYCCN.org.

Want to influence your local environment? There’s probably a public meeting for that.

The Lee Board of County Commissioners will meet at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 6, in the Old County Courthouse Commission Chambers located at 2120 Main St., Fort Myers, FL 33901. The agenda is available to the public a week in advance of the meeting byclicking here. If you are unable to attend the meeting, but would like to comment on an agenda item, submit aneComment no later than 11 a.m. Monday, April 5.

April 8, 2021 at 1 p.m. the Collier County Coastal Advisory Committee will meet. All interested parties are invited to attend, and to register to speak. For more information, call Jessica Arencibia at (239) 252-8345.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Thursday, April 8 at 5:30 p.m. Meeting on the Preliminary Project Operating Manual (PPOM) for the Indian River Lagoon – South (IRL-S) C-44 Project. Learn more, including how to join, at:www.saj.usace.army.mil//IRL-SPOM

Monday, April 12 at 10a.m. and Friday, April 16 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Workshop for the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) Project Delivery Team (PDT) on Port Mayaca Lock and Dam and Lake Okeechobee. Learn more, including how to join and/or comment, at https://www.saj.usace.army.mil/LOSOM/.

Charlotte County 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 Upcoming Meetings

The public is welcome to attend several upcoming public meetings, often virtually. See the SFWM Meeting Calendar for dates, times, and agendas.

U.S. Department of Agriculture to Host Public Listening Session on April 22, 2021

USDA is requesting public input from interested parties to help create a new Rural Renewable Energy Pilot Program. To ensure a diverse group of voices are heard, USDA is seeking written comments and will host a public listening session on April 22, 2021. The stakeholder listening session will be held virtually on Thursday, April 22, 2021, 2 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Anyone can RSVP to participate online by clicking here.

U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Standards Board Spring Meetings will be held online:

  • Tuesday, April 20, Noon - 5:00 pm
  • Thursday, April 22, Noon - 5:00 pm
  • Wednesday, April 28, Noon - 5:00 pm
  • Thursday, April 29, Noon - 5:00 pm
  • Friday, April 30, Noon - 5:00 pm

Learn more including how to attend, here.

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