Environment

Not-so-sexy beaches, a la Billy Corben

WARNING — It’s difficult to watch, but Miami filmmaker Billy Corben‘s tongue-in-cheek video playing off a somewhat less controversial Pitbull “Sexy Beaches” spot for Visit Florida is a must-see.

Corben’s clip stars the green slime that’s inundated Florida waterways and the dead fish, manatees and other creatures killed off by the effects of red tide creeping along both coastlines.

Visit Florida drew heat for a controversial contract inked with Armando Christian Perez, better known as Pitbull. The secrecy involving the $1 million contract with Pitbull cost the head of the public-private tourism agency his job late in 2016. Pitbull revealed the terms of the contract on Twitter, showing Visit Florida had paid him $1 million to pimp the state on social media, at concerts and on a “Sexy Beaches” video.

Florida Dems pimped Corben’s video, pointing the finger at Gov. Rick Scott (as does the film pastiche) for the toxic water situation that’s making people sick, closing Florida beaches and shuttering shore-front businesses. As widespread as they are, the red tide and toxic algae outbreaks could be problematic for Scott, a Republican trying to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in the race for the U.S. Senate.

For a flashback to what the state’s #SexyBeaches once looked like, check out Pitbull’s video.

Constitution revision member defends amendment bundling

img_7758-2Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, an appointee of fellow Martin County resident Senate President Joe Negron to the Constitution Revision Commission, defended the bundling of topics in six of the eight amendments the 37-member panel agreed this week to put before voters in November.

On her blog, the former Sewall’s Point mayor called it “a good thing” to roll some topics — such as oil drilling and vaping, or death benefits for first responders and university student fees — into single-ballot proposals.

“You may have read a plethora of articles on the completed work of the 2018 Constitution Revision Commission and thought to yourself, ‘What!?'” Thurlow-Lippisch wrote.

Six amendments “are grouped and related,” she added.

“Although for many, controversial, in my opinion, this is a good thing, perfectly legal, and we all know this was done by both former CRCs,” she went on.

Thurlow-Lippisch was behind the offshore drilling ban, which was linked with a ban on electric cigarettes, in what is expected to become Amendment 9 on the ballot.

 The Florida Petroleum Council has already expressed its opposition to the drilling ban proposal, calling it “bizarre and “surreal” that it was linked to the anti-vaping in the workplace measure.

Thurlow-Lippisch was unable to move some of her more ambitious proposals, including one measure crushed by business and agriculture groups, in which she sought to redefine legal standing for Floridians on environmental issues.

By Jim Turner.

Glades Lives Matter: “They want our land”

Senate President Joe Negron’s suggestion that water managers expand their search for land to build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee is drawing pushback from area residents.

Janet Taylor, a former Hendry County commissioner and chairwoman of Glades Live Matter, sent out an email rebuking the call to widen the planned reservoir.

“Their argument, however thinly disguised, is not about water quality and quantity,” Taylor wrote. “The water coming off the farms in our communities is much cleaner than it was when it came onto the farms. According to the SFWMD, 98% of the pollution that comes into Lake Okeechobee that has to be discharged comes from NORTH of Lake Okeechobee not from sources here in the Glades. No, this ‘reservoir redo’ is about taking more land, destroying our communities, displacing families and ruining local economies by ending farming on the most fertile soil on the face of the earth.”

In approving money for the reservoir (SB 10) earlier this year, state lawmakers made concessions to farmers, residents and politicians south of the lake by announcing support for a number of economic development projects in the Glades region, including an expansion at the Airglades Airport in Clewiston and an inland port in western Palm Beach County.

On Thursday, Negron sent a letter to South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Ernie Marks expressing concern that plans put forward a day earlier “may be unnecessarily constrained by using a limited footprint.”

The reservoir, which has been a top priority for Negron, is part of strategy to reduce polluted discharges from the lake into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries in Southeast and Southwest Florida. Negron shepherded a bill through the Legislature this year for the reservoir project.

“What I hope to see from the district is a proposal that is workable, that we can make a reality as expeditiously as possible to decrease the need for harmful discharges to the estuaries,” Negron, R-Stuart, wrote. “If the district needs to be flexible with the footprint to put an effective reservoir plan into action, I hope it will consider using any additional land available, if necessary.”

Bullsugar Alliance, along with a number of other groups, including the Sierra Club, Florida Sportsman, the Florida Wildlife Federation, Friends of the Everglades and the Stuart Flyrodders, called the district proposals “woefully short” of meeting the goals of stopping harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges into estuaries.

Taylor’s letter:

They are coming for our Land

Former Arkansas Senator Dale Bumpers once famously said, “When they tell you it’s not about the money . . . it’s about the money.”

Well, when the coastal elites and radical environmentalist tried to tell us that building a reservoir to store water south of Lake Okeechobee was “not about taking our land” . . . we knew . . . it was about taking our land.

We here in the Glades want clean water and healthy, thriving communities. The coastal folks gave plenty of emotional play to wanting clean water but seemed to have thrown that aside in favor of the same old radical rant to take our land. Here’s the proof.

Just 7 months ago we all agreed – environmentalists, Glades residents, farmers, advocates on all sides and legislators – to build a water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. We all agreed on the amount of land to be used, the type of land (already state-owned) to be used and the exact location of the land to be used. The legislature passed the reservoir act in Senate Bill 10 with great fanfare. Everybody got a pat on the back, accolades and awards were handed out like candy. The Governor signed the bill right here in our community. Since then the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) moved heaven and earth to get community input and put together an actual plan for building this reservoir. One that will meet the terms of the law and store water to reduce coastal discharges.

Then, recently, all hell broke loose when the radical Martin County group of professional protesters and their misinformed followers known as ‘Bullsugar’ began filling up inboxes and comments sections with the message that the reservoir (the one we all agreed on in May) won’t work because they “need more land.” Their action exposed to the rest of the state what we in the Glades have known all along – they want our land, and no reservoir project will ever be good enough unless it takes more land.

Their argument, however thinly disguised, is not about water quality and quantity. The water coming off the farms in our communities is much cleaner than it was when it came onto the farms. According to the SFWMD, 98% of the pollution that comes into Lake Okeechobee that has to be discharged comes from NORTH of Lake Okeechobee not from sources here in the Glades. No, this ‘reservoir redo’ is about taking more land, destroying our communities, displacing families and ruining local economies by ending farming on the most fertile soil on the face of the earth.

The word is out. Their motives are exposed. Groups like ‘Bullsugar’ got busted, again.

So instead of going back on their word and further exposing their true agenda to the rest of the state, we ask that they join us. Join us in our call to fix the most vulnerable population protection structure in America– the Herbert Hoover Dike. It protects the Glades communities, and a stronger dike will reduce the knee-jerk need to discharge water to the coasts after heavy rainfall events. Slowing down and treating all that water North of Lake Okeechobee will benefit the

Lake’s ecosystem, even further reduce damaging coastal discharges, and benefit ALL of our communities.

Fixing the Herbert Hoover Dike will not give them their true prize — our land. But it will make all our water cleaner, our whole economy stronger and keep all our communities together and secure.

Janet Taylor is the Chairwoman of Glades Lives Matter and a former Hendry County Commissioner

By Jim Turner.

Watch out for that bear!

State wildlife officials are advising motorists to watch out for hungry bears — on the road.

The latest video from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, designed to educate Floridians on how to avoid conflicts with black bears, focuses on what motorists can do to avoid driving into the path of the wandering creatures.

“Bears are most active around dusk and dawn, and therefore most vehicle-bear collisions happen during these times of day,” the commission noted. “To reduce the risk of hitting a bear, motorists should stay alert and drive cautiously around heavily wooded areas, roads with curves and areas marked with bear warning signs.”


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/235622570″>Vehicle Collisions with Bears</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/myfwc”>My FWC</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

The video — “Collisions with Bears“ — specifically notes that motorists should take extra caution when traveling in or around the Ocala National Forest in Lake and Marion counties, where about half the incidents resulting in the death of a bear occur.

In 2016, the state recorded 231 bears killed by vehicles in Florida, down from 248 in 2015 and 245 in 2014. In 2012, when bears were removed from the state’s list of threatened species, 285 bears were killed on Florida’s roads. 

The state agency started rolling out the videos nearly a year ago as a means to help people get along with black bears in large part by teaching people how to avoid interacting with the lumbering animals.

The agency, which has backed down from bear hunts for the past few years, has $515,000 to match with local government funding to help people and businesses buy bear-resistant trash cans and hardware and to have modified dumpsters. The amount is down from $825,000 last year.

Roughly 4,000 black bears are estimated to live in Florida, from the forests of Southwest Florida through the Panhandle.

By Jim Turner.

Speaker Paul Ryan after touring Florida Irma damage: “We are in it with you”

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After touring the wreckage caused by Hurricane Irma in Jacksonville and the Keys, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan assured Floridians that he’s got their backs.

“America loves Florida. I gotta just tell ya,” Ryan, flanked by bipartisan representatives of Florida’s congressional delegation and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, told a gaggle of reporters at an airport hangar in Miami.

The group’s tour took place as Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico, leaving 100 percent of the island — still reeling from Irma — without power.

“I’ve been coming here since I was a young guy. I’ve been fishing in the back bay, in Florida Bay behind Islamorada since my early 20s. My mom is a resident of Broward County. And so we want Floridians to know that they, too are in the front of our thoughts and our prayers, that the federal response will be there. That’s why we are here.”

The Florida lawmakers brought the House speaker (and other congressional budget leaders) down to witness first-hand Irma’s widespread impact, Rubio said.

“We know there’s going to be money needed to help the state of Florida recover,” Rubio said. “We wanted him to see it.

The assessment apparently worked, with Ryan pledging bipartisan support for rebuilding Florida, “whether it’s structures or businesses or agriculture or everything in between.”

“More is going to occur. More is coming,” he said. “We want the people of Florida to know that we are in it with you, that the federal response will be complete and that we have more work to do and that’s why we’re here, to assess this.”

Ryan called the damage to Florida “really astounding” after flying over Miami and the Keys, where Irma initially made landfall Sunday before coming ashore again in the southwest region of the state.

Ryan marveled that the massive storm affected nearly every part of Florida.

“What’s impressive is the response and what is needed is more aid and more help,” he said. “We know the federal government has a very important role to play here.”

Wildlife officials: Scare that bear!

Florida’s wildlife officials are using the movies to help people get along with black bears and also to keep away from backyards.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission released two videos aimed at educating residents about black bears, which have been a source of controversy over the past few years, and providing pointers about what to do if they have a face-to-face encounter with the lumbering creatures.

Some of the tips include a padlock to keep trash cans in a wooden cage off-limits to predators.

Others suggest using devices like the “Critter Gitter” — product placement? — that are activated when they detect a bear.

Of course, there’s always the old standard: Run.

The video doesn’t EXACTLY recommend running, but it does advise people to hightail it indoors or into a car, if possible, once a bear is spotted.

Once you’re safe, that’s the time to “scare the bear,” using whistles, car horns or pots and pans.

The 4- and 5- minute videos from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are part of  ongoing efforts to reduce conflicts between bears and humans.

One video, called “Bear Behavior,” addresses the habitat of bears and describes how to react when encountering a bear in the wild. Tips include speaking in an assertive voice and backing away slowly.

The other video, “Scare the Bear,” gets into when those bear behavior tips are not enough.

“It’s probably the opposite of what you might think,” the video states.

 If you see a bear from a safe distance, first get inside a secured location, make sure the bear has a clear escape route, and only then make some noise to let the bear know  you’re there, the video advises.

“The No. 1 cause of conflict with bears is unsecured trash and other attractants, such as pet food, barbecue grills and birdseed,” said Dave Telesco, who leads the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Bear Management Program. “As bears spend more time in neighborhoods, they begin to lose their natural fear of people, which can lead to dangerous encounters. These videos highlight steps that can be taken to ensure the safety of both bears and humans.”

 The agency, which has held off efforts to hold bear hunts the past couple of years, has $515,000 to match with local government funding to help people and businesses buy bear-resistant trash cans and hardware to secure regular trash cans and to have modified dumpsters. The amount is down from $825,000 last year.

Roughly 4,000 black bears are estimated to live in Florida, from the forests of Southwest Florida through the Panhandle.

By Jim Turner.

Caldwell ropes in cows, horses and trees in latest campaign video

Only oranges scream “Florida ag” louder than horses, cattle and trees.

And state Rep. Matt Caldwell, who’s running for state agriculture commissioner in what could be a heated primary against state Sen. Denise Grimsely, looped in all three of the latter — and heavy equipment and pickup trucks, too! —  in his latest “work days” video, released by Caldwell’s campaign Wednesday.

We’re not judging, but check out Caldwell, a Republican from North Fort Myers, hacking away at a limb on the back of a semi.