Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Coral coming back, but high temps spell disaster

Elkhorn coral are "coming back like gang-busters," according to the Miami Herald (just what is a gang-buster?), but warmer water temperatures mean trouble for all coral. Coral around Key Biscayne are already showing signs of paling, which is a step toward bleaching -- and coral bleaching is bad. The article has the details.

This doesn't even seem like a hotter-than-usual summer, even though a few days have had record temperatures.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Birdwatching is a $36B business

Most wildlife watchers already know that their hobby is big business. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service backs that up with a new report that shows birdwatchers contribute $36 Billion to our economy.

That's a lot of money, but it didn't surprise me. I was surprised, though, to see the birding participation rate is only 17% in Florida. (The national average is 21%.) However, 79% of residents say they are birdwatchers. Go figure.

Florida has great birdwatching!

Check out the report – Birding in the United States: A Demographic and Economic Analysis.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Silent Sports Outfitter

EcoFlorida welcomes A Silent Sports Outfitter to the EcoFlorida Tour Guide and Outfitter Directory. Find more outfitters and tour guides there for your nature excursions.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Nationwide outdoors events encourage people to head into nature

June 13 is National Get Outdoors Day, a push by the U.S. Forest Service and other organizations to get people to explore public lands. There are only three locations in Florida holding events -- Florida's three national forests (Apalachicola, Osceola and Ocala). It's a good idea to encourage people to visit the forests -- I wonder if they will. It is summer, after all, and hurricane season here.

That might or might not stop people from participating in the Great American Backyard Campout on June 27. This is an annual event by the National Wildlife Federation to help foster a love of nature in kids. I don't know about you, but I'm not keen on camping here in the summer -- I prefer to camp in winter. And yes, I tent camp -- no air-conditioned camper or RV for me.

Have you or do you camp in Florida in the summer?

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$15,000 reward offered to find who shot and killed Florida panther

A female Florida panther was shot and killed in April in Hendry County, and wildlife officials are still trying to find out whodunit. State and federal investigators treat the crime just like a murder mystery, according to the St. Petersburg Times. (Hi, Craig Pittman!) Groups have now come forward with reward money -- $15,000 worth -- to find the killer.

It has been illegal to shoot a panther in Florida since 1958, the article said.

Florida panthers are highly endangered, with only about 100 of them living in the state.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sugar company buyout for Everglades restoration approved by board

The state of Florida's buyout of U.S. Sugar Corp. to restore the Everglades is a step closer to reality after the South Florida Water Management District approved of the deal last week, according to the Miami Herald and other sources.

The water district's governing board agreed to a scaled-back version of the original plan for the state to buy out the sugar company and take over the land. Florida lawmakers had threatened to disapprove of the deal back in December -- which still could happen -- and there is still the issue of funding. Previously, the state proposed to pay more than a billion dollars for 180,000 acres; last week, water managers approved of $536 million for 72,800 acres.

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Kayaking Florida's Forgotten Coast

Here is a nice feature on paddling around the Apalachicola area from the New York Times.

For a list of outfitters and tour guides in the area, check out the EcoFlorida Tour Guide and Outfitter Directory.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Florida's top camping spots

Naming the best sports team or car could spark an argument. Listing the best beaches or camping spots in Florida could also be fighting words!

But the Miami Herald took the plunge and recently published Florida's top spots for family camping. Some of the places I would have picked made the list: Fort De Soto, Bahia Honda, Myakka River, Lake Kissimmee, Blue Spring and Silver River. The truth is there are so many nice places to camp in Florida that it would be hard to narrow it down.

People are supposedly turning to camping more and more now because of the economy. What do you think -- true?

Image of Bahia Honda State Park from Florida State Parks Web site

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Peregrine falcon

The state of Florida is preparing to take the peregrine falcon off its endangered species list, according to Florida Today. The Audubon Society of Florida said it supports delisting but is still concerned to see the bird be protected.

Peregrine falcons spend winters in Florida and were delisted from the federal Endangered Species List in 1999. Find out more about them in the article.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Weeki Wachee Springs cave divers explore even farther in America's deepest spring

Many people consider space to be the final frontier, but cave divers are still exploring and learning things people didn't previously know about our subterranean world.

Cave divers took advantage of Florida's drought conditions to get through narrow passageways and explore more of Weeki Wachee Springs, discovered almost two years ago to be the deepest spring in the United States, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

The divers are trying to prove the spring is connected to another nearby through a series of underground channels.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

100 ways to see Florida in 100 days

Could you rediscover Florida in 100 different ways in 100 days? The Florida Department of Environmental Protection hopes people will, and they have a handy list of 100 ways to encourage you. The idea is getting people outdoors and pointing out you don't have to spend a lot of money to do so.

I think this is a great idea, but I'm a little wary of the word "rediscover." Maybe some folks need to rediscover their own state, but I don't feel I have to! Do you?


Almost Heaven Kayak Adventures

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Right whales face challenges in Florida waters

U.S. Navy exercises and the resulting concern for marine animals isn't new. Usually, you hear about sonar possibly causing marine mammals like dolphins and whales to beach themselves despite the Navy's insistence sonar doesn't do any harm.

Navy exercises off Florida's eastern coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, which are close to being approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service, could cause two million deaths of marine mammals each year, according to the current issue of Right Whale News, a newsletter produced by the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium. That number is the Navy's own estimate, according to the article.

Right whale proponents are alarmed because an undersea warfare training site could be located off Jacksonville -- key calving grounds for the North Atlantic right whale, which numbers only in the hundreds. And considering a record number of the whales have been entangled this winter (calving season) off the Florida and Georgia coasts where the whales give birth, according to The Boston Globe, this is even more bad news for the highly endangered species.

The Right Whale News article reported, "The Navy has rejected a long list of mitigation measures that could reduce the harmful impacts of its sonar training, including seasonal restrictions during the right whale calving period and geographic exclusions of the right whale calving ground." See the article for more details.

Image from North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium site

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Snorkeling Florida: 50 Excellent Sites interview with Brad Bertelli

I've been lax in posting this great interview with Brad Bertelli, author of the new book Snorkeling Florida: 50 Excellent Sites. (Bad blogger! Bad!) EcoFlorida often gets questions about where to snorkel, so I know snorkeling is popular. I even told Brad he should start his own Florida snorkeling blog! I don't know if he will take up that project, but he did kindly answer some questions and patiently wait for me to post them here.

Q: What inspired you to write Snorkeling Florida: 50 Excellent Sites?

A: Before moving to the Florida Keys in 2001, I wrote fiction. I had just graduated with my MFA from the University of Miami and sent my newly enhanced resume everywhere I could. As a result my first paying gig as a writer was with the “Florida Scuba News.” I’ve always loved snorkeling and suddenly I was immersed in the water culture of the Keys. What came to my attention was that while there were countless books on scuba diving in Florida, no one was writing about the snorkeling. There were snorkeling guides for Hawaii, Guam, the Virgin Islands, but very little directed solely at snorkelers. I wrote a book proposal to the University Press of Florida and here we are.

Q: What are some of the most memorable snorkeling experiences you've had in Florida?

A: I was sitting out back on the dock working on a story for the “Scuba News” when I saw a seahorse swim by. The crest of its head was cutting the surface of the water like the tiniest dorsal fin from a minuscule shark. I am endlessly thrilled whenever parrotfish are near. I like listening to them feed on the corals which sounds, to me, like celery being chomped. Swimming down the jetty at Destin Pass up in the panhandle I saw a flounder resting up on one of the rocks. I’d never seen a flounder before. The most memorable experience would have to be the baby manatee in King’s River that took my arm in its flipper and pulled my hand to the cradle of its soft chin.

Q: What is so great about snorkeling in Florida?

A: Warm crystal clear turquoise waters, coral reefs, sunken Spanish galleons, fresh water springs, rivers, manatees—I could go on. In terms of snorkeling in mainland North America, Florida is the only destination.

Q: Are there any misconceptions about snorkeling in Florida?

A: The biggest misconception about snorkeling in Florida waters are the prominence of man eating sharks. There are sharks in the water and relative precautions should always be followed. Don’t snorkel at dusk or dawn. Always snorkel with a buddy and never with an open wound. I was snorkeling at Looe Key when I had my first bona fide shark encounter. It was a five foot Caribbean reef shark. It was so close I had to resist the urge to reach out and stroke it. They are beautiful, magnificent fish and totally get a bad rap here in Florida. The odds of winning the lottery twice in the same year are greater than getting bitten by a shark.

Q: What is your favorite spring for snorkeling? Your favorite coastal area?

A: To be perfectly honest, these springs are my least favorite snorkeling environments and only because I hate cold water. For those who can take the cold, they can prove magnificent for their clarity alone, but the springs are not for me. Having said that, my answer is the springs Rainbow Springs. The spring is beautiful, but the Rainbow River is an excellent environment. As for coastal Florida, it all depends on my mood. The southwest coastline, the southeast coastline, and the panhandle all have something a little different to offer. Each offers the chance for an amazing adventure. Much of any individual experience revolves on being at the right place at the right time and that happens everywhere.

Q: What do you think about using snorkeling equipment that is offered on a snorkeling tour: OK, or bring your own?

A: If you have your own equipment, bring it. The biggest bother with rental equipment is leaky masks. Not all masks fit all faces and nothing can ruin a perfect day out on the water faster than a leaky mask. Should you fall victim to leaky rental equipment there are two options. First off, immediately ask for another mask. Sometimes this will work and sometimes it won’t. Some snorkeling charters stow their equipment back at the dock and some right there on the boat. Should exchanging your mask out for another not be an option, be sure to bring along a tube of lip balm. Determine where the mask is leaking and smear the balm on your skin in the general area. Be liberal.

Q: Where did you go the last time you went snorkeling?

A: The last place I went snorkeling was Founder’s Park on Plantation Key. It is only a couple miles from my house. I saw the biggest seahorse I have ever seen. It had its prehensile tail wrapped around the base of a feathery purple coral. Five minutes later I was surrounded by five manatees.

Q: Where is the best place to snorkel right from a beach?

A: Hands down, Bahia Honda State Park in the Keys is the best beach snorkel in the whole of the Sunshine State.

Thanks, Brad!

If you want to learn more about snorkeling in Florida, Brad's book Snorkeling Florida: 50 Excellent Sites is perfect.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Florida lawmakers may cinch U.S. Sugar land buy

The state of Florida's plan to buy U.S. Sugar Corp. to restore the Everglades has been revamped and approved by the South Florida Water Management District. However, some state lawmakers are threatening to prevent the conservation land sale and end the Everglades restoration deal, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and other sources. Those lawmakers want to get the public's opinion and have a say in the deal. In any case, one official said the water district could proceed with the purchase even without state money. So the saga continues . . . .

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Kayak Charters

Monday, November 17, 2008

Florida revamping plan to buy out sugar company

Back to the drawing board. The state of Florida's plan to buy out U.S. Sugar Corp for $1.75 billion to acquire the company's 187,000 acres and its assets is likely to be scaled back, according to the New York Times and other sources. In the latest version of the purchase, the state would get land to hold water and help restore the flow of water from Lake Okeechobee into the Everglades, but U.S. Sugar would remain in operation.

The details are still being worked out, but environmentalists are saying that producing sugar in the Everglades is counterproductive to Everglades restoration, and some are even saying the cost to treat the polluted water should be deducted from the final sale price.

A transaction this big is sure to take some time to figure out....

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Shurr Adventure Company

Please welcome Shurr Adventure Company in Chokoloskee to the EcoFlorida Tour Guide and Outfitter Directory.