For Florida's flim-flamers, environment takes the hit

By JOHN HOWELL The Daily Fray
April 14, 2016 12:00 pm

That email objecting to Florida’s bear hunt? Worthless. Those signatures that put a solar energy policy on November’s ballot? Shady. The effort by lawmakers to broaden medical marijuana use? Token. And what about that tasty grouper sandwich? Bogus.

You can, apparently, also still buy Florida swampland when some local elected officials are involved.

Here's a recent ricochet of Florida eco tweets, summarized:

WHEN THE STATE Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was considering Florida's first bear hunt in 21 years, public comment was invited. More than 40,000 responded and 75 percent opposed a hunt. But commissioners voted to go ahead anyway.

On Wednesday, the FWC's Brian Yablonski told fellow commissioners to get ready to set a quota for the second hunt at their next meeting June 21-23 in Apalachicola, according to the Tampa Bay Times. And against the odds, a coalition of scientists and environmental activists are petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to put the Florida bear on the federal endangered list. Good luck with that.

"The drive to get the bears federal protection is led by the Center for Biological Diversity," the Times' Craig Pittman reports. "The head of its Florida office, Jaclyn Lopez, said she's hopeful the commissioners will listen to the public and set a quota of zero bears for the next hunt."


CONSUMERS FOR SMART SOLAR, a group seeking to attach existing solar energy regulations to the state Constitution through November's ballot, is expected to spend "millions" in the coming months to promote the utility-backed amendment.

Smart Solar, which spent more than $7 million to hold off a rival solar amendment by Floridians for Solar Choice, also has a slogan, according to a report in the South Florida Sun Sentinel. "Yes on 1 for the Sun." Jim Kallinger, a former Republican state representative and co-chairman of Smart Solar, said to expect to hear the phrase in social media, direct mail and some TV ads.

For Solar Choice, "The only people [Smart Solar's] proposed amendment would protect are utility shareholders. Period," said Stephen Smith, head of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. "This amendment seeks to limit non-utility solar options in Florida by enshrining the status quo and providing the utilities with leverage to continue to control their customers."


A POLL IN MARCH indicates 65 percent of registered voters support the medical marijuana amendment by United for Care. Florida lawmakers also support medical marijuana; that is, if you have 12 months or less to live.

In late March, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a medical marijuana bill, HB 307, expanding a 2015 law known as the "Right to Try Act" that allows medical marijuana for patients with terminal conditions. House sponsor Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Fort Walton Beach, said on Twitter the governor showed "heart & compassion" by signing the measure.

Meanwhile, Charlotte's Web, a noneuphoric pot extract that provides relief for children with epilepsy and chronic seizures, was made law two years ago but remains stalled by lawsuits and old-fashioned bureaucratic bungling, according to multiple critics.


FARM TO FABLE: A series of stories about Florida's local farm-to-table movement exposes sketchy eateries that take advantage of eco-minded foodies. "I’ve been had, from the snapper down to the beef," writes Laura Reiley, who has been the Tampa Bay Times’ food critic since 2007.

"This is a story we are all being fed," Reiley reports. "A story about overalls, rich soil and John Deere tractors scattering broods of busy chickens. A story about healthy animals living happy lives, heirloom tomatoes hanging heavy and earnest artisans rolling wheels of cheese into aging caves nearby.

"More often than not, those things are fairy tales. A long list of Tampa Bay restaurants are willing to capitalize on our hunger for the story."


A DECISION by Sarasota County commissioners to allow Whole Foods to pave 4.5 acres of wetlands for a parking lot in exchange for a conservation swap in Manatee County appears plainly misbegotten. "A closer look at the Manatee County mitigation site shows that because of flooding, it carried limited chance of development beyond, perhaps, a house," according to Emily LeCoz in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. "The wetland also already benefits from local, state and federal protection."

Sneaky, for sure. "In effect, Whole Foods was offering to save land that already is pretty much saved from development," H-T columnist Tom Lyons said. "Sure enough, county commissioners ... rolled over like a puppy and agreed to the senseless deal."


The Gunk Report

For the Blue-Green Algal Bloom Weekly Update from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, tap here. For DEP's Algal Bloom Sampling Map, tap here.

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