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Friends of the Everglades 2023 Legislative Preview

Florida’s annual 60-day legislative session begins March 7. In line with our 2023 Legislative Priorities, we offer the following analysis of bills that have been filed. JUMP TO: Demand cleaner water, now Restore more wetlands, send more clean water south oil Smarter, controlled development Stop sugarcane burning Other Priorities Priority: Demand cleaner water, now Poor water quality is the root cause of blue-green algal blooms and red tide, seagrass loss, manatee die-offs and other harmful outcomes. Improved water quality will safeguard marine life, human health and Florida’s economic vitality. To achieve this goal, we recommend the following positions on bills pending before the Legislature: Implementation of the Recommendations of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force — SUPPORT HB 423 (Cross) [...]

WATCH NOW — Why we’re concerned about Lake O’s toxic algae threat

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArvKcEdIufY With Lake Okeechobee just under 16 feet, we’re concerned about what that could mean in the months ahead. We’re already getting discharges east to the St. Lucie and west to the Caloosahatchee in an effort to bring that lake level down. Though the Caloosahatchee does need some dry season flows to keep salinity in check, the nutrient pollution that comes with those discharges can be problematic. Making matters worse — there’s an intense algae bloom predicted on Lake O this spring due to heavy rainfall from Hurricane Ian that caused the lake to rise, bringing nutrient-loaded runoff from the surrounding areas with it and putting stress on the submerged aquatic vegetation. With wet season only 3 months away, we’re [...]

Everglades Illustrated: This is how quickly discharges impact water quality.

Take a look at the photo above. This aerial image, taken by Ed Lippisch of Sewall’s Point, is part of a series he captured while flying over the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon in the early afternoon on February 8 — 17 days after Lake Okeechobee discharges conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers and supported by the South Florida Water Management District started in an effort to lower the lake.  The impact is striking. Dark plumes of polluted Lake O water invade the local waters traversed and lived along by residents of Martin County, drastically impacting water quality. Blue water seen here clearly illuminates the barren moonscapes of Stuart’s shallow-water sandbars, which were once lush with [...]

2023-02-13T16:50:37-05:00February 14th, 2023|Everglades Illustrated, St. Lucie Estuary|

Friends of the Everglades debuts Legislative Accountability One-Stop Shop

Each year, Florida lawmakers convene in Tallahassee to consider bills that will impact Floridians and the natural environment. The 60-day session, which begins March 7, offers lawmakers the chance to chart an impactful course for issues including water quality, conservation, and environmental justice. But it also leaves the door open for bad bills and special-interest influence. Unfortunately, we tend to see more of the latter in Tallahassee. Friends of the Everglades is committed to tracking it all. To make it easy for our supporters to follow along, we are proud to debut a new section of our website dedicated to just that.  Our new portal, Following the Florida Legislature, is your one-stop shop for regularly updated information related to [...]

Friends of the Everglades Legislative Priorities: 2023

About Friends of the Everglades: Friends of the Everglades was founded in 1969 by Marjory Stoneman Douglas, author of the seminal book The Everglades: River of Grass. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving America’s Everglades and its interconnected ecosystems. We are proud to advocate on behalf of supporters across the Greater Everglades region. 2023 State Legislative Priorities: JUMP TO: Demand cleaner water, now Restore more wetlands, send more clean water south Smarter, controlled development Stop sugarcane burning 1. Demand cleaner water, now: Poor water quality is the root cause of blue-green algal blooms and red tide, seagrass loss and manatee die-offs and other harmful outcomes. Improved water quality will safeguard marine life, human health and [...]

Your moment of Everglades Zen: One morning on Stuart’s Sailfish Flats

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qs-Ih6G7cE Watch the video above. Manatees drift lazily through shallow, jewel-toned waters, not far from paddle boarders out on a clear, sunny morning typical of the Florida winters that draw so many new faces (and license plates). Stuart’s Sailfish Flats generally encompass are a beloved area where the Indian River Lagoon meets the St. Lucie River. For years, this confluence of waterways has been recognized as both a recreational playground and an angler’s paradise — its aquamarine water and sandbars as famous as the once-lush seagrass meadows that historically served as a foundational ecosystem for a spectacular and renowned fishery. The water in this video is beautiful, but even as we appreciate these moments of zen, we are reminded [...]

2023-02-06T11:57:08-05:00February 7th, 2023|Everglades Zen, St. Lucie Estuary|

Bad Bill Alert: HB 41 would limit citizens’ ability to challenge development rules

House Bill 41, filed by Rep. Alina Garcia, emerged as one of the earliest Bad Bills of 2023.  Identified first by our friends at VoteWater, “the proposal looks to be yet another sop to developers, prohibiting local initiatives or referendums on land development regulations. State law already prohibits such initiatives or referendums on comprehensive plan or map amendments, except those specifically authorized in a local charter provision enacted before June 2011. HB 41 would essentially expand this to any local push to change land development rules, and make it retroactive.” You can read the full analysis by VoteWater by clicking here.

Spotlight On: Stormwater Treatment Areas

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iAQdfAEZi4 What's an STA anyway? On the fringes of the Everglades Agricultural Area, south of Lake Okeechobee, sit tens of thousands of acres of man-made wetlands called stormwater treatment areas, or STAs. These marshes, managed by the South Florida Water Management District, were designed to use native and non-native aquatic vegetation to clean water of damaging fertilizer runoff from surrounding agricultural land and the polluted Lake Okeechobee, before the clean, fresh water flows south to nourish the River of Grass. They are a crucial tool for Everglades restoration and for protecting coastal estuaries. The STAs are arguably the most effective Everglades-restoration projects ever built by man — because they emulate Mother Nature. That said, their full strength will be [...]

2023-01-31T08:44:44-05:00January 31st, 2023|Science-driven solutions, Spotlight On|

Bad Bill Alert: HB 359 would punish citizens who challenge comprehensive plan amendments

Residents against the Rural Lifestyle amendment protest ahead of the Martin County Commission meeting Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, in Stuart. As the paving of Florida continues and often haphazard growth leapfrogs across the landscape, a proposed new law would supercharge sprawl by punishing citizens who dare question it. House Bill 359, titled “Local Government Comprehensive Plans,” was filed this week by Rep. Wyman Duggan, a Republican from Jacksonville. The bill stipulates that anyone who loses a legal challenge to a comprehensive plan — or comprehensive plan amendment — must pay the winner’s attorney fees and costs. Current law allows the winning party to recover court costs in cases filed by citizens who allege a development order violates [...]