Wednesday Update
April 7, 2021
Welcome to the bi-weekly Wednesday Update. We'll email the next issue on April 21.

We encourage you to get outdoors often in celebration of Earth Month!

Thanks to Tim Hurdley for this photo of a nesting snowy plover (Charadrius nivosus) taken on Sanibel in 2019.


Please send your photos to to be featured in an upcoming issue.
Join Us in Celebrating Everglades Day Today!
Everglades activist and author, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, would turn 131 years old today – Everglades Day – the day we honor her spirit and carry out her legacy as advocates for Everglades restoration.

To celebrate Everglades Day, we put together the short video above highlighting the benefits of Everglades restoration to the Caloosahatchee estuary and the coastal waters of Southwest Florida. Out on Tarpon Bay, SCCF Environmental Policy Director James Evans and Marine Lab Director Eric Milbrandt talk about oyster health as an indicator of water quality.

Everglades restoration is essential for getting the water right and it touches every part of South Florida’s vast and diverse ecosystem from the headwaters of the Kissimmee River, to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) includes 68 projects throughout the greater Everglades ecosystem and northern estuaries targeted at improving the quantity, quality, timing, and distribution of freshwater.

When complete, the projects will work together to provide significant economic and environmental benefits including improved water quality, water supply, increased resilience to climate change, and support for thriving tourism, fishing, and real estate industries.

Everglades Day is an opportunity for environmentalists and activists to give a voice to the Everglades and share the importance of Everglades restoration during the legislative session when Florida’s lawmakers are discussing policy and budgets and considering amending and passing new laws. Like many other aspects of our lives, Everglades Day is being celebrated virtually this year.

SCCF typically sends representatives to Tallahassee along with over 60 other conservation and environmental groups who are part of the Everglades Coalition.
This year, we are asking YOU to help us get the message to our elected officials that Everglades restoration is a top priority for Floridians. Click the button below to make your voice heard! Thank you!
UF-CSS & SCCF Announce Strategic Collaboration
Recognizing the importance of water quality as a significant component of South Florida’s current and future economy and quality of life, the University of Florida’s newly established Center for Coastal Solutions (UF-CCS) and SCCF have entered into a strategic collaboration to address coastal water quality hazards in order to strengthen the resiliency and sustainability of Southwest Florida’s unique coastal area.

Founded in 1967, SCCF's Marine Laboratory conducts long- and short-term research in the waters and watersheds of Charlotte Harbor, the Caloosahatchee, and the Gulf of Mexico. The lab is an active member in the National Association of Marine Laboratories, and the Organization of Biological Field Stations. It is also a data provider to the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System.

The Lab’s research uses an instrument array composed of eight near real-time sensors deployed throughout the Caloosahatchee Estuary and Pine Island Sound. Known as RECON, which stands for River Estuary Coastal Observing Network, its unique set of sensors captures data with enormous depth that allows scientists and water managers to better study water quality issues and identify solutions.

“Nowhere else in the state is such high-resolution, high-quality, real-time data on coastal water quality available,” said Christine Angelini, Ph.D., associate professor in the UF Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure & Environment and director of UF-CCS. RECON’s data-collection capabilities paired with UF’s data analytics capacity are a perfect fit for this partnership.

Leading a new multi-sector flagship initiative, UF-CCS has formed a Comprehensive Coastal Observing Network (CompCON) in close coordination with SCCF to monitor, model, and immediately deliver data products useful for informing decisions related to addressing coastal hazards.
"Collaborating with UF-CSS is a great opportunity for us to increase the awareness and value of RECON and the water quality research our Marine Lab is doing," said SCCF CEO Ryan Orgera. "Our entire region’s coastal ecosystems will benefit from our pilot participation in CompCON by advancing ways in which science can inform critical policy, which will serve our tourism-based economy and boost the quality of life for our residents and visitors."

This summer, SCCF’s RECON will serve as the backbone for this UF-CCS pilot project that will put the Southwest Florida regional estuary in the forefront of international research into advanced monitoring of the health of coastal waters, lands, and air. 

“Our team looked into estuaries across Florida to serve as test beds to pilot our Comprehensive Coastal Observing Network (CompCON) and very soon honed into the Caloosahatchee River-Charlotte Harbor Estuary system because of the unique technical capabilities offered by RECON, as well as the expertise available through a community of partners working tirelessly to improve water quality and ecosystem health in the region,” said Angelini.

During this pilot phase, CompCON will be specifically focused on water quality challenges in Charlotte Harbor that are impacting the economy and coastal environment of Southwest Florida.

“Ultimately, CompCON seeks to envision, build, and continually advance the coastal monitoring and modeling systems of the future, technologies that will deliver information to decision makers, stakeholders and the public with the spatial resolution, speed, and level of certainty required to achieve proactive solutions to addressing water quality and other hazards along the coast,” Angelini said.
Red Tide Still Out There; Counts Down in Lee County
The latest red tide update from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) indicates that the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, is still present in Southwest Florida.

The FWC reports that K. brevis was observed at background to low concentrations in Sarasota County, background to high concentrations in Charlotte County, background to low concentrations in or offshore of Lee County and in Collier County, and low concentrations offshore of Monroe County

The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) admitted three red tide patients in the past week: a snowy plover that died, a double-crested cormorant that died, and a herring gull that is still being treated.

Click the button below to learn more about red tide.
First Snowy Plover Nest of Season Roped Off on Sanibel
SCCF Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht is excited to report that her volunteer team roped off its first snowy plover (Charadrius nivosus) nest of the season on Tuesday, April 6, on the East End of Sanibel.

The volunteers named the snowy plover in this photo "Pale Male." He was shading the single light brown-speckled egg, which blends in with the sand and shell, while his mate was off feeding to get energy to lay the next egg.

“We also have another area posted on the East End where our snowy plovers usually nest,” said Albrecht. “There are two pairs that will likely nest there soon.”

Our islands are a crucial nesting site for snowy plovers, Wilson’s plovers, and least terns from February, when the state of Florida's nesting season officially begins, through August.

Shorebird populations are in decline worldwide due to habitat loss compounded by increased threats from coastal water pollution, natural predation, climate change, and other factors. You can help these fragile populations survive by keeping them in mind when you hit the beach.

Please email if you see a snowy plover nest. Click here for tips on how to protect these precious shorebirds!
Imperiling Pelicans: SCCF and Mind Your Line Urge Responsible Fishing

Mind Your Line, a collaborative effort among Sanibel-Captiva conservation organizations, is issuing a plea to local fishing enthusiasts—especially users of the popular Punta Rassa Boat Ramp—to use smart practices to protect the region’s majestic brown pelicans.

The brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty and included in the state’s Imperiled Species Management Plan. Nonetheless, a leading cause of lethal injury in pelicans and other shorebirds is fishing hooks and monofilament entanglement.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in anglers on the water seeking outdoor, socially distanced recreation or fishing to feed their families in the face of economic hardship. As a result, many boat ramps and fishing piers in the region have seen an uptick in the number of injured and entangled wildlife—particularly brown pelicans.
As a member of Mind Your Line, SCCF is working with local partners to spread the word about proper fishing practices to reduce harmful impacts on birdlife. The popular Punta Rassa Boat Ramp on the mainland at the east end of the Sanibel Causeway has been the site of a steady stream of disturbing cases because a large group of pelicans, mostly juveniles, hang around the docks and the ramp daily. As fishing charters and private boats return to the ramp and fish-cleaning station, these pelicans gather around and beg for handouts. Many of these birds are suffering from embedded fishing hooks or monofilament entanglement. Others have torn pouches from trying to swallow bony fish carcasses.

Volunteers, county parks staff, and good Samaritans have been able to corral and deliver them to the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) for treatment, but often the injuries are too severe, and the birds do not survive.

An especially traumatic incident happened recently when a juvenile brown pelican became trapped in the fish-cleaning station’s carcass grinding machine. SCCF’s shorebird biologist and intern returned to the ramp to gain a better understanding of the situation. They observed countless individuals with embedded hooks and pouch injuries. On two out of three visits last week, they captured hooked birds to deliver to CROW.

Though there is signage indicating it is illegal to feed wildlife, people still do it—intentionally or unintentionally—by improperly disposing of carcasses and bait in the water.

Please visit the Mind Your Line website at for information about proper ways to discard monofilament and fishing gear and how to unhook a bird. If you have questions, please email

Tips for Responsible Fishing
  • Do not feed fish scraps to the pelicans or discard carcasses in the water.
  • If caught on a line, reel the bird in slowly to prevent further injury. Place a net under the pelican as soon as you are able to reduce stress and commotion, which can cause more injury.
  • Remove the hook by cutting the barb and pushing it backwards to remove. 
  • Release the pelican if it is healthy. If it is not, call CROW (239) 472-3644.
New Sea Turtle Volunteers Learn How to Identify Nests
On April 1 at sunrise, SCCF Biologist Jack Brzoza led our annual beach training for new sea turtle volunteers.

The team learned proper protocols for reporting and marking new sea turtle crawls, with these examples that we created on the beach showing the tell-tale tracks of a loggerhead sea turtle.

We saw a lot of holes on the beach--remember, if you dig one, please fill it in so our nesting females soon to be coming ashore to nest can safely lay their eggs.

Click to here or on the Be a Life Saver image below for some key tips you can share with others to protect sea turtles and shorebirds during nesting season.

We are very excited for the official start of sea turtle season on April 15!
Balancing the Needs of South Florida Through a New Lake O Regulation Schedule

By James Evans
SCCF Environmental Policy Director

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in the process of developing a new Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule that will provide new guidance on how the Army Corps will manage water in Lake Okeechobee for the different parts of South Florida’s complex water management system. The new schedule is called the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual or LOSOM for short.

LOSOM will consider additional infrastructure that will soon be operational, including rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike, Kissimmee River Restoration, and Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan projects such as the C-43 Reservoir located within the Caloosahatchee watershed and the C-44 Reservoir located in the St. Lucie watershed. LOSOM is supposed to balance the various project purposes of the Central and Southern Florida Project (C&SF): flood control; navigation; water supply for agricultural irrigation, municipalities, industry, and Everglades National Park; regional groundwater and salinity control; enhancement of fish and wildlife; and recreation.

Extensive drainage work that has occurred in the Caloosahatchee watershed over the past century resulted in a system that drains very quickly with little to no treatment, resulting in water of poor quality being delivered to the estuary and the coast. Because of these hydrological changes, the Caloosahatchee currently receives the lion’s share of the harmful discharges from the lake during the rainy season and is often cut off from beneficial flows during the dry season. This has resulted in wide-ranging damage to the estuary and its ecosystems, including impacts to freshwater tape grass, oysters, and sea grasses that depend on a balance of fresh and saltwater.

The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) is the roadmap to restoring the ecosystem damage caused by the C&SF Project. The goal of CERP is to restore the quality, quantity, timing, and distribution of freshwater flows to the Everglades and Florida Bay and the northern estuaries of the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie. The plan relies on massive infrastructure projects to store, treat, and convey freshwater to the Everglades and reduce damaging discharges to the northern estuaries.

While we wait for Everglades restoration to be completed, we have the opportunity to better balance the needs of our natural systems through development of the new lake regulation schedule. LOSOM is not designed to solve all our water management issues—although some stakeholders are using LOSOM to push for near-perfect water management conditions without the infrastructure to support such a request.

The Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District will need to make challenging decisions about how best to balance the needs of the system. It is unacceptable to continue to operate the system to benefit private landowners at the expense of our public resources.
During the LOSOM process, we need our West Coast stakeholders to be engaged and support plans that reduce the damaging, high-flow discharges to the Caloosahatchee while providing beneficial flows during the dry season. We also need to support plans that protect the other natural systems that we depend on by maintaining water levels in Lake Okeechobee that maintain a healthy ecosystem and deliver dry season flows to the Everglades. This can only be achieved by all stakeholders recognizing the need for truly balancing the needs of the entire system. 

Here are two ways to learn more about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s process for developing LOSOM:

  • Click here to visit the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) (

  • Click here to attend a virtual, two-part technical workshop of the LOSOM Project Delivery Team on Monday, April 12, 10am to 2pm, and Friday, April 16, 8:30am to 12:30 pm. For those who cannot attend the online workshop but wish to provide a comment, please send those comments by email to (recommended subject: LOSOM PDT Technical Workshop Comments).
Old Tamiami Trail Roadbed Removal Project Underway

On March 30, SCCF joined in the celebration of the Old Tamiami Trail Roadbed Removal Project groundbreaking.

“For 97 years, Tamiami Trail has been an impediment to moving water south into Everglades National Park,” said Pedro Ramos, superintendent of Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks. 

The South Florida Water Management District, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and other state and federal agencies joined Gov. Ron DeSantis to celebrate the groundbreaking of the project that will remove more than five miles of fill and old roadbed to allow more water to move south into the Everglades. 

“It was an exciting day for Everglades restoration,” said SCCF Environmental Policy Director James Evans. “We are finally starting to see momentum on the critical projects that will allow us to send more water south,”

The project is scheduled to be completed by January 2022. It is part of the Central Everglades Planning Project, a suite of Everglades projects aimed at moving more water south through the central portion of the Everglades system.
U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds Commits to Water Quality on Tour of Estuary

On April 5, SCCF had the pleasure of taking Congressman Byron Donalds, representing Florida’s 19th Congressional District, and members of his legislative team on a boat tour of Tarpon Bay to discuss water quality issues affecting our local communities.

A special thanks to the Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce for organizing the event and The City of Sanibel, Florida, SFWMD, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Captains For Clean Water, and the "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge for participating in the event.

“Today was a great opportunity for us to discuss the water quality issues that impact our quality of life and local economy. Congressman Donalds assured us that water quality is one of his top priorities and we look forward to working with him to secure funding for Everglades restoration and to implement policies and projects that will improve the quality of our coastal waters,” said James Evans, SCCF Environmental Policy Director. 

After touring the bay, Donalds and his staff attended a business roundtable meeting with local business leaders to discuss the impact water quality issues have on the local economy.
Join us in Welcoming Leo Orgera to the SCCF Family!

SCCF is excited to announce the arrival of this adorable bundle of joy at 5am today, April 7.

Emilio "Leo" Orgera weighed 8 lbs. 13 oz. and was born at Health Park in Fort Myers. He is the son of SCCF CEO Ryan Orgera and Alicia Tighe Orgera.

Dad reports that both mom and baby are doing well. We can't wait to meet you, Leo!
It's Peak Breeding Time for Diamondback Terrapins
Diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) monitoring and research is in full swing in the SCCF Wildlife & Habitat Management Department. SCCF biologists are collecting data on their distribution and abundance on Sanibel and surrounding areas. 

Breeding activity is currently at its peak and female terrapins in mangrove waterways are frequently being trailed by one or more males.

“As the average air temperature increases throughout the spring, so does the breeding activity until females begin their nesting cycle in late April and beginning of May,” said SCCF Wildlife & Habitat Management Director Chris Lechowicz. They will lay up to four clutches of eggs through the spring and summer months.

Terrapins are a brackish water species of turtle that live along the coast of the eastern United States from Massachusetts to Texas. Their habitat throughout most of their range is tidal salt marsh, but on much of the west coast of Florida, as well as the Florida Keys, they primarily live in mangrove waterways. 

SCCF has found that terrapins in their study areas can tolerate and thrive in water with salinities (salt) double that of sea water, which is on average around 35 practical salinity units (psu). Some tidal creeks where terrapins occur on Sanibel have salinities around 70 psu, Lechowicz noted. 
They have been reported in waterbodies with salinities over 100 psu in the Florida Keys. However, typically they occur in estuaries with salinities less than 30 psu and drink rainwater or water containing less than 20 psu. Terrapins that live in hypersaline areas drink rainwater as it collects at the surface of the waterbody before it mixes with the salt water. 

This unique species of turtle has an interesting life history. We still do not know exactly where hatchlings spend their first one to two years after hatching.

“We have never captured or documented a terrapin with less than about a 3-inch in carapace length in a mangrove creek, lake, and other waterways,” Lechowicz said. “These areas are full of predators such as fiddler crabs and mangrove tree crabs, so hatchlings would have a hard time existing there.” 

Studies in northern states have shown hatchlings spend their first two years in terrestrial habitats with very little water. What we do know is that we document them in parking lots, hiking trails, and backyards at odd but consistent times of the year. 

If you see juvenile (less than 3 inches) terrapins on or around Sanibel, please take a picture and report them to
Uhler & Vertich Co-Sponsor Spring Issue of Magazine

SCCF extends a big thank you to Uhler & Vertich Financial Planners for co-sponsoring the spring issue of SCCF’s new magazine.

The Spring 2021 issue of the magazine, Connecting You to Nature, will be mailed island-wide and to all SCCF members in mid-April. The second issue of the seasonal magazine spotlights key research, advocacy, and educational initiatives by SCCF to protect and care for Southwest Florida’s coastal ecosystems.

“We are long-time supporters and believers in the work that SCCF does, as are many of our clients,” said Tom Uhler. A 40-year wealth-planning veteran who was named a Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year, Uhler is a co-founding principal of Uhler & Vertich Financial Planners with Corey Vertich. In 2020 and 2021, Vertich was named among Forbes’ “Best-In-State Wealth Advisors.” Uhler said his firm’s team has “offered white-glove, concierge-level financial planning services for more than 20 years. We take time for our clients, giving them freedom to enjoy life in paradise."

Tom and his wife, Linda, co-founded SCCF’s Wine in the Wilds fundraiser and served as sea turtle program volunteers for more than 20 years. Linda has served as president of the SCCF Board of Trustees for three terms.

“We are thrilled that Uhler & Vertich are sponsoring our magazine to share the work our talented team of scientists, educators, and policy advocates do,” said SCCF CEO Ryan Orgera, “and for the time and talents that Tom and Linda have given to SCCF since they arrived on Sanibel in 1977.”

SCCF also thanks Bailey’s General Store for stepping up as co-sponsor of the Spring 2021 issue of Connecting You to Nature. If your company is interested in future underwriting opportunities, please contact SCCF Development Director Cheryl Giattini at (239) 395-2768.
Sanibel Sea School Educators Inspire Green Girls in STEM

In March and early April, Sanibel Sea School hosted the Green Girls in STEM, a program offered by The Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati. The women at Sanibel Sea School met virtually with participants from 12 different regional high schools in Southwest Ohio to discuss different career paths in marine science as part of a program to explore environmental issues and careers.

During the session, the Sanibel Sea School team shared its mission and vision and approach to environmental education and conservation. After breaking up the session with a few, fun career-related activities, the staff shared their educational backgrounds, work experiences, and stories of how they landed a position with Sanibel Sea School.

Many of the Sanibel Sea School staff are also from landlocked states like Ohio, so they were thrilled to connect with the girls and share varied experiences and pathways to a career marine science.
After-School Canoeing with Sanibel Sea School

A four-session, after-school canoeing series has been added to Sanibel Sea School’s lineup beginning Tuesday, April 20. Participants will learn canoeing basics and hone their paddling skills while exploring the waters of Sanibel.

They will learn basic paddling strokes, how to maneuver the boat, safety techniques, and play fun on-the-water games. Sanibel Sea School has traditionally offered canoeing during select weeks of summer camp and has decided to host an entire series due to its popularity. 

“Canoeing is a great way to reach places on the water that we can’t otherwise get to,” said Education Programs Manager Shannon Stainken. “We’ll be keeping our eyes out for dolphins, manatees, and even stingrays.”
The after-school canoe program will be held on Tuesday from 3:30pm to 5:30pm. Participants can register for one session or sign up for the whole series.

All after-school sessions are $20 per student. Register today: After-School Canoe Signup. For more information, call (239) 472-8585 or email Scholarships are available.
Meet the Natives:
Rouge Plant

Rouge plant (Rivina humilis) is an underutilized, often overlooked, native plant that has great potential in the landscape. This herbaceous, small shrub provides a nice splash of color, particularly in shady or partly shady areas of your yard. Rouge plant gets stalks of white to pink flowers followed by showy red berries.

It can have both flowers and berries occurring at the same time and blooms and fruits throughout the year. The berries have been used to make dyes and in cosmetics, hence its name. Rouge plant would pair well with other shade-loving wildflowers such as blue Porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis), spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis) and scorpion-tail (Heliotropium angiospermum).
SCCF's Native Landscapes & Garden Center at the Bailey Homestead is open Monday through Thursday, 10am to 3pm. We will also continue to offer contactless deliveries and curbside pickup. Simply place your order online by midnight on Tuesday for pickup or delivery that Wednesday.

Please email our Garden Center Assistant Sue Ramos at with any questions or requests.

SCCF members will get their discount by entering this promo code: SCCFMBR10 
2021 Florida Legislature Session: Week 5

There are four weeks left for Florida’s 2021 legislative session. These are the highlights from the fifth week:

Florida Forever: The House has recommended $100 but the Senate is proposing $50 million. SCCF is advocating for a $100 million appropriation for the Florida Forever land acquisition program.
Water Quality and Ecosystem Restoration Bills heard in the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources were SB 1668 – Seagrass Mitigation Banks, which proposes the creation of a seagrass mitigation program similar to the land-based mitigation program that allows developers to purchase mitigation credits in exchange for construction impacts to environmentally sensitive properties. This proposal has a couple of weak spots. First, proposed mitigation banks may not be located in areas with the water quality needed for the survival of the seagrass. The other concern is that seagrass is located in waters considered sovereign submerged land owned by the state; therefore, the benefit to citizens by allowing use by for-profit enterprises is a matter of debate. This bill and its House companion, HB 1335, both have two committee stops before being considered by their full chambers. 
Another water quality-related bill is SB 1522 – Implementation of the Blue Green Algae Task Force Recommendations. This bill had been watered down through the amendment process, but two important features survived: the requirement of septic tank inspections at every five years and requiring a focus on Basin Management Action Plans (BMAP’s) to prioritize projects “in areas likely to yield maximum pollutant reductions.” The bill has two committee stops left. The House version, HB 1225, has not yet been heard in committee. 
The House Environment, Agriculture and Flooding Subcommittee addressed wildlife trafficking. HB 783 Racketeering of Aquatic and Wild Animal Life revises the term “racketeering activity” to include “certain actions relating to the illegal taking, killing, wounding, sale, purchase, or possession of wild animal life, freshwater aquatic life, or marine life, and related crimes.” This language pinpoints the issue of wildlife trafficking, which has caused problems across Florida (including on Sanibel), and creates additional tools to prosecute criminal organizations for animal-related crimes for monetary gain. 
According to the bill analysis, there is a significant black-market trade in Florida’s wildlife, freshwater aquatic life, and marine life. This includes eggs, body parts, and products. Trafficking in wild species is the fourth most profitable transnational crime behind the drug and arms trades and human trafficking. Criminal organizations are often involved in more than one illegal trade. 
The bill was unanimously supported 15-0 and has one more committee stop. The Senate version, SB 776, was also unanimously supported by the full Senate, and has a high likelihood of passing. 
Also discussed was the contentious HB 1601 Farming Operations. This bill, along with Senate companion SB 88, aims to strengthen the protections granted to Florida’s farms from “nuisance” lawsuits. In a clash between sprawl and traditional farming, proponents of the bill argue that as Florida becomes more crowded, people will increasingly live in more rural areas, so additional protections are needed to prevent frivolous lawsuits against farms for traditional practices.

However, the bill’s language has created much concern among environmental and civil rights groups. Its ambiguity creates opportunities for absolute protection from lawsuits in certain cases, as long as state and federal regulations are not explicitly being broken. It also limits the radius in which residents can file suits against farms for violations to half a mile from the source. It also excuses “particle emissions,” such as smoke and dust, as a result of normal “farming operations.”

Multiple amendments were suggested to reduce ambiguity and focus the bill’s language on the stated purpose of helping farms avoid unnecessary litigation, but they were all voted down. Numerous representatives and public groups spoke out against the bill because it can curtail public recourse, but it passed 14-4. This bill has one final committee stop and its Senate companion has been approved by the full Senate 37-1. 

Subcommittee meetings have ended and bills that have not yet been heard are unlikely to pass this session unless they are amended onto other legislation. Stay tuned for upcoming Action Alerts as these bills progress.
Please visit the 2021 SCCF Legislative Tracker for an easy guide to the environmental legislation filed this session. 
Coastal Resiliency Bills to Watch this Legislative Session
By Luke Miller
Environmental Policy Intern

During this year’s state legislative session, the Florida Senate and House of Representatives are hearing several bills related to coastal resiliency and sea level rise preparedness.

Arguably the most impactful bills of this session are SB 514 and its identical House companion, HB 315. These bills propose the creation of a statewide Office of Resiliency and a Sea-Level Rise Task Force within the Executive Office of the Governor. By passing this legislation, Gov. Ron DeSantis would appoint a Chief Resiliency Officer who will chair the task force and prepare the state for future climate-driven impacts.

According to a report by the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, “The task force must develop and recommend consensus baseline projections of the expected sea level rise for planning horizons designated by the task force.” Creating this task force would encourage statewide action on climate change-driven impacts, allowing for more coordinated resiliency policies that will help Florida weather the impacts for years to come. 

Another set of important bills is SB 1954/HB 7019. These bills will establish the Resilient Florida Grant Program within the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). This program would enable the DEP to provide funds to municipalities for resilience-related projects, assessments, and more. It would also develop a statewide data set to determine climate-related risks to our communities, and assessments that identify critically important infrastructure which must be protected.

Finally, these bills would create the Statewide Flooding and Sea-Level Rise Resilience Plan. Each year, the DEP will submit an outline for up to $100 million in funding for projects that will address flood and sea level rise risks. Local governments and regional entities may also submit proposals for similar projects through this plan. Florida’s coastal communities would reap huge benefits from continued investment in resilient infrastructure over the years and would be put in a better position to thrive in the future. 

Not all of the environmental bills in the legislature are as forward-looking as these, however. SB 1236/HB 617, for example, proposes a prohibition on “the adoption and enforcement of certain state and regional programs to regulate greenhouse gas emissions without specific legislative authorization.” These bills tie the hands of regional and local governments and organizations in the fight against further climate change.

It’s important to provide local governments with the ability to enact policies that reflect the values and interests of their constituents, and this legislation would prevent that. Bills like this one remind us that, as Florida residents, we must get involved with politics at the state level, reach out to our representatives, and make our voices heard.

The fight against climate change necessitates our collective action, and with enough support, we can ensure that our elected state lawmakers pass legislation that will provide a safe, natural future for the next generations of Floridians.

Click to get contact information for your representatives at the Florida Senate and the Florida House of Representatives.
Join Weeds 'n' Seeds Final Walk of the Season
Mark your calendar for the next Weeds ‘n’ Seeds Virtual Walk on Monday, April 19, at 9am. This group of amateur botanists enjoys sharing their enthusiasm for native plants. A leader will be on location, highlighting plants from the field, while another will be showing identifying characteristics through high-resolution pictures in studio.

If you haven’t participated this season, be sure to sign up today for the final walk of the season.

Pre-registration is required through Zoom, though you do not need a Zoom account (you will just need to enter your name and email address). If you are new to Zoom and would like a quick walkthrough of features or need to troubleshoot, join the meeting at 8:45am so we can do our best to assist.

Register in advance for Weeds 'n' Seeds on Monday, April 19 at 9am. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
Join Green Readers for Paving Paradise

The Green Readers, SCCF's nature-based book club, is reading Paving Paradise: Florida's Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss by Craig Pittman and Matthew Wait this month. Pick it up today and join the Green Readers for a discussion on Tuesday, May 4, at 7 pm.

With the recent changes that allow the State of Florida, rather than the federal government, to approve dredge-and-fill wetlands permits, this book is a timely selection by SCCF’s Environmental Policy Department. 

Carl Hiassen says of the book, "This is an exhaustive, timely, and devastating account of the destruction of Florida’s wetlands, and the disgraceful collusion of government at all levels. It’s an important book that should be read by every voter, every taxpayer, every parent, every Floridian who cares about saving what’s left of this precious place.”

You can follow along with ongoing discussion by joining The Green Reader's Facebook group.

Register in advance to join the Zoom book discussion on Tuesday, May 4 at 7pm. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
On March 23, SCCF and the Sanibel Community House hosted a conversation about building a green energy future to protect property values, sustain water and ecosystem health, and keep our economy vibrant.

During the virtual presentation, “Solutions for a Sustainable, Renewable Energy Future for Sanibel and the Region,” panelists explained how climate change is vital to our economic and environmental health and how it is intrinsically linked to our water quality issues.

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