Sierra Critical Of DeSantis Wrongful Bear Shooting Bill OK

Petty bureaucrats typically sign bills and send out press releases that do not reflect well on their public stewardship late on Friday afternoons to avoid serious press coverage because they know the timing coincides with often empty newsrooms.
Gob. Ron DeSantis seems to have that technique down pat.
Friday evening, he signed a bill that Sierra Club has been monitoring that allows people to shoot Florida black bears whenever they allegedly feel threatened by these creatures who are primarily vegetarian.

Sierrra leaders quickly responded.

“Governor DeSantis has delivered a major failure for Florida’s environment by signing HB 87 into law. Since its inception, Sierra Club Florida has called on the Governor to put a stop to this extreme bill, and we condemn him for approving this absurd and dangerous legislation,.” said Susannah Randolph, Sierra Club Florida’s Director.

“This session, Floridians from all sides of the political spectrum united to send a loud, clear message: Kill bad bills, not black bears. Governor DeSantis’ signing of HB 87 further demonstrates that he has no interest in serving the will of the people, or taking real, tangible action to protect Florida’s environment.” said Javier Estevez, Sierra Club Florida’s acting political director.

The approval of this legislation fits into a pattern that the bear-hunting lobby has been pursuing that includes a proposed constitutional amendment, that Sierra also opposes that would make so-called “traditional” hunting methods such as using dogs to chase and tree bears in future bear hunts. into a “right” in the Florida Constitution.



Cronyism And Questions Delay Looser Green Swamp Regs

The reasons behind the effort to loosen lot density requirements in a good section of the portion of the Green Swamp Area of Critical State Concern in Polk County became clearer during Tuesday’s public hearing before the County Commision.
County Commissioner Neil Combee said the impetus came from some complaints from some fellow Green Swamp property owners who discovered the current regulations would not allow them to create lots to pass on to relatives.
That is because the regulations require 10 acres outside of wetlands ln the less heavily regulated portion of the Green Swamp.
The rest requires 20 acre lots, but one acre of uplands is enough to get a building permit, he said.
That results in situations where someone ay have only, for instance, a 9.8-acre development lot.
His solution to the situation is to simply water down the regulations and use road right-of-way to make up the difference.
Of course. there is another alternative that the bulk of Polk’s property owners who do not have the ear of a county commissioner can pursue. That is to apply for a variance to remedy conditions that prevent an otherwise legal use of one’s property due to conditions beyond their control.
Combee spent some time criticizing the emergence of the tougher regulations over the years in contrast to earlier times when all you needed was one acre as long as you had frontage on a county road.
That was what was known in pre-growth management days as the Rural Conservation zoning category.
One thing to keep in mind in this discussion is that the Area of Critical State Concern classification came about because local zoning regulations were considered too lax to protect the Green Swamp.
You also have to keep in mind that up until a few years before the state imposed the designation that there were not any zoning regulations in unincorporated Polk County at all.
This is an imposition that some people likely still chafe at and the history of growth management in Polk has often been about how to scale back on the regulations..
There was some improvement in the staff presentation Tuesday in which they finally attempted to depict how much of Polk’s portion of the Green Swamp is already protected by conservation easements or outright purchases. Nevertheless the maps were a bit piecemeal and a single comprehensive map would be more helpful
Another aspect of this issue was highlighted by longtime Green Swamp advocate Marian Ryan, conservation chair of Sierra’s Ancient Islands Group.
It is that although protecting water resources was the original justification for protecting the Green Swamp. subsequent research has also revealed its importance as a key hub in a statewide network of wildlife corridors.
She said that fact argues more for increasing protections, not loosening them.
At the end of the discussion and the questions raised by Sierra and others, the proposal was continued to the July 16 meeting where better maps and a more sophisticated approach to the lot-size issue may be on the table.

Heartland Conservation Land Deals Adding Up

This week the folks in Tallahassee announced more agreements to purchase conservation easements here in the Heartland, which contains the Peace River Basin, the Lake Wales Ridge and the Everglades Headwaters.
The latest purchases involve 12,128 acres in DeSoto, Hardee and Okeechobee counties involving the purchase of development rights at local ranches.
This is in addition to the 30,414 acres in conservation easements the state has purchased in recent years in the region.
The protection efforts, some of which are tied in part to the Florida Wildlife Corridor, are really starting to add up.
When you add in the purchase of Creek Ranch in eastern Polk County and the purchase in recent years of land for the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and the land that was already in private or public conservation ownership the map is becoming greener all of the time.
Polk’s newly reorganized land purchase program as a result of the successful 2022 referendum is expected to eventually add to that total.
Overall, this continues to be a real success story.

Pollinator Week Coming This Month

If you are gardening in the summer in Florida, consider planting or not digging up flowering plants in your landscape in honor of National Pollinator Week, which is coming June 17-24.
Pollinators are important for everything from the maintenance of healthy wildflower populations to aiding commercial fruit and nut tree production.
Although many people do not think much beyond bees when they think of pollinators, the list is longer.
Florida pollinators include many other kinds of insects including moths, beetles and flies as well as hummingbirds.
In other parts of the world, mammals ranging from bats to lemurs perform pollination duties.
According to pollinator advocates, nearly 80 percent of all flowering plants required pollinators to spread seeds, set fruit and maintain healthy populations.
This issue is particularly important in the context of documented declines in insect populations worldwide as a result of factors that include pesticides and habitat loss.
If you have flowering plants–including some you might consider “weeds” on your property, consider letting them alone, so they can continue to provide pollen to sustain butterflies, moth and other creatures that depend on nectar as a major food source.
This should extend to roadsides , which are often migration paths for pollinators.
This is particularly true in rural areas, where homeowners sometimes heavily mow the roadsides in front of their homes when less aggressive management could result in a more attractive landscape and great wildlife observation opportunities.

Updated Hiking Guide Offers Lots Of Information

Whenever you plan your next outdoor outing, a new updated guided to some of the hiking trails in the area could be a good way to help you plan your trip.
The book titled Hiking Central Florida: 30 Great Walking and Hiking Adventures by award-winning outdoors writer Tim O’Keefe includes some trails around here as well as some farther afield that you might be persuaded to visit after reading the book,
The 30 trails the book describes range from brief morning outings to more ambitious treks.
The entries contain not just the standard trail maps and driving directions, but also good descriptions of the trails, including seasonal issues with some sections of some trails, the cultural and environmental history of many of the locations and some wildlife visitors may encounter.
O’Keefe also includes separate articles om topics ranging from sinkholes to armadillos.
The guide appears to be aimed in part toward Florida visitors and beginners who don’t know what chiggers are and who have never encountered an alligator in the wild.
There is ample information on safe hiking practices, potential hazards to avoid and some necessary gear you might want to pack.
The only local outdoors venues included in this book are Disney Wilderness Preserve near Poinciana, Lake Kissimmee State Park east of Lake Wales and Tiger Creek Preserve south of Lake Wales.

Those accounts seem to be pretty current except for a reference to Whooping Cranes at Lake Kissimmee State Park. There was an experimental program several years ago to attempt to establish a non-migratory flock of these endangered birds in Central Florida It was unsuccessful and most the birds are no longer present. None of the survivors have been reported at the park.

Loosening Green Swamp Development Regulations Draws Pushback

A proposal by county planners that could potentially create more than 1,000 new lots for development in the Polk County section of the Green Swamp Area of Critical State Concern drew some pushback Wednesday during a hearing before the Polk County Planning Commission.
State officials classified 295,000 acres of the 512,000-acre Green Swamp–189,000 acres in Polk County and 106,000 acres in Lake County–in 1974 as an area of critical state concern because it contains the high point in the Floridan aquifer and serves as the headwaters for five rivers.
The designation arose over the concern that local officials lacked the ability or the will to adequately protect the area from unregulated development.
Wednesday’s hearing involved a staff proposal to adjust the density requirements, especially for property that contains wetlands, to make it consistent with land outside the protected area.
Ancient Islands Chair Tom Palmer questioned the impact because although staff had claimed the results would be minimal, they produced no maps depicting the effect of the proposed change.
Palmer also questioned why the staff used comparisons of county regulations in counties outside the critical area to advocate for the change.
Some Planning Commission members questioned why the change was even necessary, especially since no such change had occurred in Lake County.
Member Adam Bass also pointed out that the Green Swamp lies with the Florida Wildlife Corridor, and it seems inconsistent to encourage more development there.
In the end, the commission voted 4-3 to recommend approval to the County Commission, which will consider the proposed change on June 18 and Sept. 3.