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.

Florida Defends Land Sales; Sites In The Keys Removed From List

Sep 13, 2013
Randy Grau / myfwc.com

Numerous parcels within the Florida Keys have been removed from the list of state-owned properties under consideration for a massive sale to help fund future land-conservation efforts.

The announcement Thursday from the state Department of Environmental Protection came as Susan Grandin, director of the Division of State Lands, defended the overall proposal to sell targeted acres of conservation lands to raise money for the purchase of more critical sites.

STEPHEN M. DOWELL / MCT

Gov. Rick Scott decided that using live alligators as fundraising bait wasn’t such a great idea after all.

Without explanation, Scott’s re-election campaign on Tuesday abruptly called off a planned “private gator hunt” in New Smyrna Beach on Oct. 18 for donors willing to pay $25,000 a head. The invitations said: “Space is limited.”

"Everything down there is dead."

That's one stunning quote from Hawaii News Now's latest report about the devastating damage that's been done to the marine life off Honolulu's Sand Island by 233,000 gallons of molasses that were spilled into Honolulu harbor on Monday.

Florida Bans Importing Deer From Out-Of-State

Sep 6, 2013
cwd-info.org

In an effort to keep a potentially fatal disease from decimating the state's deer population, Florida is immediately closing its borders to the importation of out-of-state deer.

The ban comes as a number of deer farmers have reportedly ramped up importation to increase their stocks because of the expected prohibition.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Friday unanimously agreed to prohibit the importation of deer and other cervids in an attempt to keep Chronic Wasting Disease from reaching the state's deer population.

NOAA / Satellite and Information Service

We're now more than halfway through the Atlantic hurricane season and -- knock on wood -- no Atlantic hurricanes yet. Depending on how long this continues, 2013 stands a chance of setting a record for "Latest First Atlantic Hurricane" in history.

"It's a jungle if you're an eagle right now on the Chesapeake Bay," says Bryan Watts, a conservation biologist at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. "You have to watch your back."

Americans have long imagined their national symbol as a solitary, noble bird soaring on majestic wings. The birds are indeed gorgeous and still soar, but the notion that they are loners is outdated, Watts and other conservationists are finding.

Two alligators, each weighing more than 720 pounds, were caught in Mississippi this past weekend, setting a new state record for heaviest male alligator. Both animals measured more than 13 feet in length; it took hours to get the trophies into the hunters' boats.

The huge reptiles were brought down on the same day, setting a state record that stood for less than two hours before it was broken again.

The government of Ecuador has abandoned a plan that would have kept part of the Amazonian rainforest off limits to oil drilling. The initiative was an unusual one: Ecuador was promising to keep the oil in the ground, but it wanted to be paid for doing so.

Gov. Rick Scott was in Fort Myers Wednesday surrounded by state, local and federal officials to discuss his plan to deal with the escalating water quality problems in Southwest and Southeast Florida due to ongoing water releases from Lake Okeechobee.

Patience Haggin

This year’s heavy rainfall has sent water levels in the Everglades to their highest level on record for this time of year.

The high water has caused animals to take refuge on a few tree islands, where they are more vulnerable to predators.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission are calling for emergency action to have the floodgates opened immediately to lower the water levels in the conservation area of concern.

Of all the creatures in the sea, one of the most majestic and mysterious is the whale shark. It's the biggest shark there is, 30 feet or more in length and weighing in at around 10 tons.

Among the mysteries is where this mighty fish migrates and where it gives birth. Now scientists have completed the biggest study ever of whale sharks, and they think they have some answers to those questions.

A German tourist in Hawaii who was attacked by a shark last week has died of her injuries, according to hospital officials in Maui. Jana Lutteropp, 20, lost her arm in the attack during a snorkeling trip last Wednesday. She is the first person to die from a shark attack in Hawaii in more than nine years.

After Lutteropp was attacked less than 100 yards from the coast at Palauea Beach, she was helped by Rick Moore, a California high school teacher who plunged into the surf to swim her back to shore.

Hurricane Season A Bust? Not So Fast

Aug 21, 2013
FlickR/NASA Goddard Photo and Video

Almost halfway finished, the 2013 hurricane season has been a breeze in Florida.

But Craig Fugate, the federal government's top emergency manager, looks at things a little differently. His question: "Have we started playing college football yet?"

Fugate and Bryan Koon, director of the state Division of Emergency Management, held a news conference Wednesday to reinforce the message that Florida is just entering the thick of hurricane season in late August and September --- which, coincidentally is when college football starts.

Global sea level has been rising as a result of global warming, but in 2010 and 2011, sea level actually fell by about a quarter of an inch.

Scientists now say they know why: It has to do with extreme weather in Australia.

The sea level drop coincided with some of the worst flooding in that continent's history. Dozens of people died and torrents washed away houses and cars, forcing thousands from their homes.

Veterans Build New Army Of Divers In Shark-Infested Waters

Aug 16, 2013
Operation: Blue Pride

Once a warrior always a warrior.

For Sergeant Stephen Wayne Jackel Jr., who walks on two metal prosthetics below the knees - he’s found a new army to join after retiring from the United States Army at 34 years old. 

“We aren’t concerned about the army we’re going to build, it’s how long its going to take to build that army,” said Jackel Jr. 

That army being raised is not land-based brigade but a group of undersea soldiers, with severely injured veterans leading the way.

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