FWC Membership Makeup Changing

The makeup of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is poised for changes

Gov. Rick Scott announced the appointments on Friday afternoon, which is a typical tactic used in recent years to avoid immediate press scrutiny.

The new commissioners, subject to Senate confirmation, are Sonya Rood of St. Augustine, who is listed as a farm manager, and Gary Nicklaus of Jupiter, the son of professional golfer Jack Nicklaus, a major Donald Trump supporter.

They succeed Liesa Priddy, who drew attention for proposing allowing people to shoot Florida panthers to protect livestock at southwest Florida ranches, and Ron “Gator” Bergeron, who recently was featured in the news over his dismay that the Everglades floods following hurricanes.

Another upcoming vacancy to be filled will be the seat held by Brian Yablonski, who is leaving the state to take a job with a conservative Property and Environmental Research Center in Montana with whom he had previously served as a fellow.

Some of the most controversial issues before the FWC for the conservation will involve efforts to continue to protect the Florida panther and the Florida black bear, both of which have large habitat needs in an increasingly urbanizing state.

Furthermore, there is a need for FWC to review the methods for funding the agency to consider tapping the growing ecotourism user groups rather than the shrinking hook-and-bullet crowd.


Polk Trail Expansion Subject Of Tuesday Meetings

Expansion of the local trail system will be the topic of two public meetings Tuesday.

First, the County Commission will consider accepting a $200,000 grant to be used toward completing the final leg of the Panther Point Trail, which is depicted in the illustration below as the brown trail along the south end of Lake Hancock.

Construction is expected to begin sometime next year in connection with the construction of a new boat ramp to provide access to the lake. The ramp will be located on Saddle Creek south of the lake and just north of the new Southwest Florida Water Management District control structure.

Jeff Spence, Polk’s director of parks and natural resources, said there are future plans to add a loop that would go to Bartow Eagle Lake Road and connect to Ernest Smith Boulevard.

The item is on the 9 a.m. regular agenda.

In addition, the Florida Department of Transportation will host a workshop from 5 to 7 p.m. to discuss a study that could lead to construction of a new 12-mile recreational trail between Auburndale and Haines City. The meeting will occur at the Lake Alfred Lions Club, 175 N. Nekoma Ave.

The plan for the proposed Old Dixie Trail is to connect the trailhead for the TECO-Auburndale Trail with the Haines City Trail.

The meeting will be conducted in an open house format with consultants and FDOT officials available to answer questions about the project. Maps and other graphics will be available for the public to view.


FWC May Ban Feeding Monkeys

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is scheduled to consider a proposal next month to make feeding members of Florida’s feral monkey populations a violation of Florida’s wildlife regulations.

It seems these feral primates are no longer just a curiosity for state park tourists around Silver Springs, but have been showing up in some communities in that part of Florida in recent years.

The rule is being sought because FWC officials are concerned about the potential for the spread of disease to humans if they have more contact with these animals.

The ultimate solution is to remove the animals from the wild, but that has been controversial, pitting environmental advocates against animal rights advocates.

There has been a licensed trapping program, which has also drawn criticism from the same groups.

FWC’s meeting will occur Dec. 5-7 in Gainesville. The monkey feeding rule is listed on the consent agenda, which will be considered on the first day of the meeting.


Solar Expansion Coming To Polk County?

Bartow officials announced plans to consider a change in the Silver planned development along U.S. 98 on the city’s north side to allow a solar farm and to include regulations to guide its development.

The plans will be considered at a public hearing at 6 p.m. Dec. 4.

This comes following an aborted attempts by Tampa Electric to seek changes in Lake Alfred’s development code to allow a solar farm in an area on that city’s north side zoning for residential.

TECO reportedly is still seeking land in Lake Alfred for a solar farm because city officials did agree to amend the city’s development regulations to allow solar farms under certain conditions.

The spread of solar farms represents attempts by Florida’s major electric utilities to diversify their energy portfolio and to rely less on fossil fuels whose combustion has been linked to climate change and sea level rise.

Environmentalists, Business Lobby Square Off In Constitution Fight

That didn’t take long.

South Florida environmental activist Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, earlier this fall proposed amendments to elevate environmental affairs to cabinet status the same as the agriculture industry now enjoys and to give citizens standing to enforce anti-pollution laws.

She argues this would emulate similar measures passed successfully in other states, such as Montana, where residents value their natural resources.

There are more details in The Ledger.

Unsurprisingly, Associated Industries of Florida, one of the top business lobbying groups in the state, is pushing to keep these proposals from ever reaching the ballot, WUSF reports.

AIF argues this would lead to unnecessary litigation that would hurt business. The group did not address how business pollution affects defenseless people.

If you’d like to participate by commenting, go to the public involvement link.

Polk Tries To Educate On Recycling; It Could Try Harder

Polk officials put on a televised work session Friday to try to respond to frequent, recurring criticisms of its new curbside recycling program that began Oct. 1.

The criticisms came after county officials decided to stop accepting glass and most kinds of plastic food and beverage containers because at the moment no one wants the stuff. And, even if Polk agreed to continue to accept these materials for public relations purposes, the material would still end up in the landfill and diminish the value of everything else in the recycling piles at the processing centers.

This reflects changes in world markets for plastic waste and the fact that U.S. entrepreneurs appear much less interested than their European counterparts in glass recycling.

There are two main causes for the public criticism of the changes.

One is the belief that everything can and should be recycled, which is false.

The other is the poor communication with the public about what’s acceptable and not acceptable. For instance, at Friday’s meeting was the first public acknowledgement that magazines should not be put in recycling carts even though the county’s web site said all paper products free of food contamination are accepted.

Meanwhile, Polk officials learned state officials are planning to back off of their 75 percent recycling rate goal, but what metric will replace it was not announced.

More later.

Polk Recycling Program Review Coming Friday

County commissioners are planning to hold a work session at 10 a.m. Friday in the commission chambers to talk about changes in the international recycling markets that Waste and Recycling Director Ana Wood contends led to her recommendation to make major changes in the curbside recycling program when the new contract began Oct. 1.

The meeting is open to the public and will be televised on PGTV.

Although Wood briefed commissioners on some of this last year when the contracts were being prepared, questions remain.

The Polk County Commission continues to get hammered from residents about the changes in the curbside recycling program.

They no longer accept any glass.

They only accept some plastic and have not been totally clear about the details.

They accept paper and cardboard, but not all paper and cardboard, though that’s not something you can find out unless you ask.

They may accept old recycling bins, but haven’t been eager to publicize that fact.

They weren’t going to provide recycling carts to customers who for a variety of reasons didn’t return the mail-in post cards until Jan. 1, but relented after enough people complained.

In other words, it has been a public relations fiasco.

Friday’s tentative program will include presentations by Wood, representatives from the private sector and someone who is being billed as an authority on the plastics market, which reportedly has been affected by relatively cheap oil prices and quality control issues.

Meanwhile, the private waste companies reportedly are attempting to proposed legislation that would stop cities and counties from requiring recycling of materials for which there is no market—glass is at the top of the list– and allow private haulers to send loads of recyclables that contain too much contamination to the landfill instead of the recycling center.

There are questions about the details of how all of this will work, but if the legislation passes—slightly different legislation died last year– as proposed, it could send a tidal wave of changes through curbside recycling programs statewide.