Environment

Florida’s environment is a focus of first day of 2022 Legislature

SOUTH FLORIDA – Many of the pressing issues will be on the minds of Florida lawmakers in Tallahassee today as they begin the 2022 legislative session – and one of the most troubling environmental problems left by 2021.

More than 1,000 manatees have starved to death in India’s River Lagoon over the past year, which is odd not only because of the number of dead dugongs but also because the lake is a 150-mile-long pool of three small lakes along the middle of the road. The Atlantic coast of Florida is among the most biodiverse regions of the Northern Hemisphere.

The red tide came and went, and it came and went, from Sarasota to Collier counties in an endless loop of beaches polluted with dead fish and the air filled with the pungent smell of a neurotoxin that affects people too. On top of the Calusahachie River, poor blue-green algae formed a slime after too much fertilizer-rich water was released too quickly into the waterway.

1000 Friends of Florida is a Tallahassee-based environmental group working towards sustainable growth, environmental and farmland conservation, economic and quality of life issues.

“Signs of danger are very clear, from devastating red tides and blue-green algal blooms to record deaths of Florida’s famous manatees to chronically congested roads,” the group wrote in an open letter to lawmakers ahead of Tuesday’s hearing. “If more deliberate steps are not taken to plan properly for Florida’s future, taxpayers will pay more to restore polluted waterways and more for dwindling public services. Our state’s environment and quality of life, the foundation of a healthy economy, will collapse.”

The 160 members of the 2022 Florida legislature have some contentious issues to contend with over the next two months: reproductive rights, growth and development as more than 1,000 people move to Florida each day, changes in the ways students are tested, Covid-19 and pandemic-related issues such as wearing Masks and vaccinations.

Governor Ron DeSantis kicked off lawmakers’ 60-day session with his state of the art address, which focused on his re-election pledge to award $1,000 bonuses to new teachers and first responders, a new statewide office to investigate voter fraud, and a ban on teaching critical race theory in schools. public as well as ensuring that undocumented immigrants do not receive any government benefits.

Technically, all lawmakers have to do during the two-month session is pass the nearly $100 billion budget proposed by DeSantis. But this is where bills and budget proposals enter the mix as lawmakers, lobbyists, business groups and citizens work to redirect some of those billions in other directions.

DeSantis’ focus on environmental spending in 2022 has been particularly significant this year. Florida is ecologically and ecologically troubled at the same time. Much of the governor’s nearly $960 million budget is devoted to improving water quality, restoring the Everglades, dead fish and decaying foliage after a blue-green algae bloom or red tide, or working to eradicate invasive species such as Burmese pythons or kudzu.

An additional half a billion dollars is earmarked for spending on “resilience,” a word used by the governor and others who challenge whether climate change and global warming are happening, but at the same time want to pay to prepare coastal communities for an imminent rise in sea level such as rebuilding beaches with more sand, and installing better flood control measures, repair and protection of coral reefs.

Florida is the only state in the lower 48 that has a shallow coral reef near shore. It stretches for more than 300 miles from the entrance to Saint Lucy on the east coast of Florida to the dry Tortugas in the Gulf of Mexico.

Issues related to climate change are also among the top issues mentioned on the Sierra Club Florida Chapter website on Tuesday.

“Florida residents’ risk from powerful storms and sea-level rise from climate change is a function of both past and future emissions. Florida must reduce its use of fossil fuels now by transitioning to 100% renewable energy statewide before 2050 Leaving our lands in their natural state, the environmental group writes, it keeps a massive amount of climate pollution away from the atmosphere and provides economic and quality of life benefits. We need to preserve the integrity of our remaining undeveloped lands by conserving open spaces and wetlands, enhancing regional wildlife corridors, and avoiding habitat fragmentation. “

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