Environment

In South Florida, where the Everglades meet the bays, environmental challenges abound. Sea level rise threatens homes and real estate. Invasive species imperil native plants and animals. Pesticides reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases, but at what cost? 

WLRN's award-winning environment reporting strives to capture the color and complexity of human interaction with one of the most biodiverse areas of the planet.

A new statewide poll shows environmental issues to be one of the top five issues facing Floridians. But not all parts of the state have the same concerns.

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

Survey teams this week completed an assessment of the condition of the Keys reef tract, from Biscayne Bay to Key West.

"It's very much like what's observable on land," said Sarah Fangman, superintendent of the 2,900-square-nautical-mile Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. "In some places, the impacts are pretty dramatic and visible and in other places they are much less. So we're finding the same is true underwater."

Even in the same location, the hurricane's impacts differ.

Peter Haden / WLRN

The water level in Lake Okeechobee appears to have stabilized.

Rainwater from Hurricane Irma has pushed the lake over an alarming 17 feet. It's risen more than 3 feet since the storm, the highest the lake level has been since Hurricane Wilma in 2005. That prompted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct daily inspections of the lake’s 80-year-old dike.

The Corps has been working to reinforce the eroded Herbert Hoover Dike for a decade. The $1.7 billion project is scheduled to take another eight years.

The Florida Cabinet has approved a conservation easement in the Lake Okeechobee watershed.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The endangered Key deer herd was already coming out of a tough year — the herd lost more than 100 animals to New World screwworm.

So when the eye of Hurricane Irma crossed the Lower Keys as a Category 4 storm, wildlife managers were worried. The Lower Keys is also the only place on the planet where Key deer live.

But recently completed population surveys came up with good news, said Dan Clark, manager of the four national wildlife refuges in the Keys, including Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge.

Kate Stein / WLRN

Resiliency is more than dealing with sea level rise, and Hurricane Irma made that point clearly, South Florida officials said at a post-Irma summit on Monday.

Not long ago, two Americans caused a scene in a Mozambique village. Locals were mystified by the tourists spending several days photographing a single tree.

"Sometimes we have to explain to people what we're doing but often they just think, 'Okay these guys are nuts,'" says New York photographer Len Jenshel.

Kate Stein / WLRN

Did you lose power for a week after Hurricane Irma? Are you frustrated with the king tide flooding on your street? Or maybe thoughts of climate change keep you up at night?

 

Caitie Switalski / WLRN News

A packed auditorium at Broward College Thursday heard from local experts about how climate change and sea-level rise will affect the future. 

Dr. Jennifer Jurado, Broward County's chief climate resilience officer,  and her Miami-Dade counterpart,  James Murley, gave a talk at the South Campus. 

Students like psychology major Aurora Trejos, 23, came to ask Jurado and Murley if the data is really as "doom and gloom" as it seems. 

Carl Juste / Miami Herald

Excess water from Hurricane Irma is still making its way through Florida, exacerbating the significant water management challenges the state's faced this rainy season.

Miami Herald

Federal wildlife managers in the Florida Keys have a message for residents: Please stop feeding the endangered deer.

Since Irma washed over Cudjoe Key Sept. 10, pushing a storm surge that submerged much of the Lower Keys including the National Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine, residents who have long tended to the deer like beloved pets began putting out water and food, fearful that saltwater contaminated foraging grounds.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott got an update from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials in Clewiston, Monday about the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee.  Scott’s visit came just a day after water levels in the lake surpassed 17 ft.

Updated at 11:40 p.m. ET

In the outbreak of powerful and destructive fires that have struck California since Sunday, there are now 22 large wildfires burning in the state. They've caused at least 23 deaths and scorched nearly 170,000 acres, officials said Wednesday.

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