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Environmental Roundup June 4, 2021

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Crystal River View / Courtesy FWC Flickr
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Activists are seeking a state constitutional amendment to give legal rights to Florida's waterways, and to guarantee all Floridians have a right to clean water.

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:

Environmental leaders have started gathering signatures to qualify a state constitutional amendment that would recognize legal rights of waterways in Florida. The amendment will recognize the legally enforceable rights of all waterways across the state to “exist, flow, be free from pollution, and maintain a healthy ecosystem.” The amendment also enables any Floridian or Florida organization to file a legal action on behalf of those waterways, and would recognize that every Floridian has a legal right to clean water. To qualify for the ballot, the Right to Clean Water state initiative must collect nearly 900,000 signatures over the next eight months. Learn more at WWW.FL5.ORG.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) is reevaluating its operation plan managing Lake Okeechobee water levels and water flow East, South and West of the Lake. Known as the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM), the Corps is hoping to approve a new plan that will determine when and how much water is discharged from Lake Okeechobee, and where that water will go. Lee County Commissioner Kevin Ruane calls all proposals the USACOE has presented so far, "devastating."

Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are predicting an average “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico this summer. The dead zone is an area of water with too little oxygen to support marine life. NOAA scientists estimate that based on their analysis, this summer’s dead zone will cover about 4,880 square miles, which is close to the five-year average of 5,400 square miles.

The Florida Python Challenge starts July 9. If you’ve ever wanted to protect the rare Everglades habitat and the animals that live there from invasive pythons, this is your chance. The challenges runs through July 18. Learn more and register now!

BEYOND FLORIDA:

Bloomberg Law reports that Maine, New York, Vermont, and Washington have already banned PFASs (polyfluoroalkyl substances) from food packaging and so has the restaurant chain Chipotle. Now the Wendy’s fast food chain is following their lead, announcing it will also phase out the use of PFASs in their food packaging, announcing its plan to remove PFAS “from to-go bags, sandwich wraps, fry cartons and other ‘consumer-facing’ packaging in the U.S. and Canada by the end of the year.”

The Washington Post reports birds--and famed birder organization Audubon’s very name--are beginning to face a racial reckoning. Some consider returning to indigenous names as a solution.

The Biden Administration is defending a large-scale Trump-approved Alaskan ConocoPhillips oil drilling project. While the Biden White House has had the U.S. rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and insists the country must turn away from fossil fuels, this particular project, now approved by both Trump and Biden, has a planned production of more than 100,000 barrels of oil per day, every day, for 30 years. The New York Times reports “ConocoPhillips also plans to install “chillers” into the permafrost — which is fast melting because of climate change — to keep it solid enough to support the equipment to drill for oil, the burning of which will continue to worsen ice melt.”

The New York Times also reports that while the U.S. and many other nations have agreed to reduce greenhouse gases, shipping industry emissions continue to climb and there’s a secretive United Nations agency, the International Maritime Organization, which has “set the bar so low that emissions can continue to rise — at roughly the same pace as if there had been no regulation at all.” But the delegates to the agency have agreed to revisit the issue in five years.

And, a reminder: The World’s Richest Countries Have Given $190 Billion to the Fossil Fuel Industry Since 2020 Alone.

Learn about all this and more, including regular updates on blue-green algae and red tide, on our website, WGCUnews.org.

Burmese python
FWC Photo by Carollyn Parrish

Do & Learn

  • Join the Florida Python Challenge, July 9-18, and win up to $2,500.
  • The FWC is encouraging people to hunt wild hogs this summer. Learn more at MyFWC.com/hunting/wild-hog.
  • Captains for Clean Water has a short educational video about blue-green algae.
  • Naples Botanical Garden invites essential workers and their families to visit the Garden on a complimentary basis through September 30.

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

Check out Collier County’s full public calendar here. Eastern Collier County developments Bellmar, Longwater, and the planned town agreement went to the Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday, May 25, and the RLSA (Rural Land Stewardship Area) amendments will go to the Board of County Commissioners on June 8.

Multiple area non-profits are organizing to influence the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers future plans for Lake Okeechobee. These include the Everglades Trust, Captains for Clean Water, and the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce.

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

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