The Nature of Florida with Oscar Corral

Environmental Journalist Craig Pittman talks about panthers, Florida springs and why there's so much poop in our waters

April 12, 2022 Oscar Corral
Environmental Journalist Craig Pittman talks about panthers, Florida springs and why there's so much poop in our waters
The Nature of Florida with Oscar Corral
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The Nature of Florida with Oscar Corral
Environmental Journalist Craig Pittman talks about panthers, Florida springs and why there's so much poop in our waters
Apr 12, 2022
Oscar Corral

Author and environmental journalist Craig Pittman, with his usual sense of wit and satire, talks about Florida's ongoing environmental struggles and the political backdrop that perpetuates them. It seems there is broad and strong public support across all political stripes to fix Florida's environmental problems. But political leaders generally ignore them. Craig explains why.  

Show Notes Transcript

Author and environmental journalist Craig Pittman, with his usual sense of wit and satire, talks about Florida's ongoing environmental struggles and the political backdrop that perpetuates them. It seems there is broad and strong public support across all political stripes to fix Florida's environmental problems. But political leaders generally ignore them. Craig explains why.  

00:00:02:10 - 00:00:16:20
Unknown
Welcome to the nature of Florida, the Sunshine State's only podcast dedicated to its wild and natural places and the fight to preserve them. I'm your host, Oscar Corral, a two time Emmy Award winning filmmaker and journalist. I've dedicated much of my career to making films about environmental issues.

00:00:16:21 - 00:00:32:18
Unknown
Tune in each week to hear from a broad range of voices from scientists to surfers, activists to mermaids who are working on the front lines to save what's left of Florida's natural beauty and its wildlife. Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of The Nature of Florida podcast.

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Unknown
With me here today is a very special guest, Craig Pittman, the well-known and famous environmental journalist from the Tampa Bay Times for many years, and also the author of many books, an award winning journalist. One of the books he's written.

00:00:47:11 - 00:01:03:12
Unknown
One of my favorites. Oh, Florida How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country. And his latest is Cattail The Wild, Weird Battle to Save the Florida Panther, which is up near and dear to my heart. I did a short documentary a couple of years ago about preserving Florida Panthers.

00:01:03:13 - 00:01:19:04
Unknown
We're going to talk about that a little bit today. Anyway, it's great to have you on today, Craig. Welcome. Thanks for inviting me. I appreciate it. Great. So let's get started. First, I want to ask you a little bit about your work covering the environment in Florida for so many years.

00:01:19:15 - 00:01:34:01
Unknown
I know that you were an environmental journalist for the Tampa Bay Times for about 30 years or so. 21 years? Yeah, 21 years. And before that, you covered other environmental beat on other newspapers. Tell me about just one.

00:01:34:05 - 00:01:46:14
Unknown
Just one. Sarasota. Sarasota. Yeah. Tell me about how you got into environmental coverage. What drew you to that? Well, you know, I grew up I'm from Florida. I grew up in Florida. So I guess I'm endangered species anyway.

00:01:47:12 - 00:02:01:00
Unknown
And growing up, you know, I would go camping and canoeing with my Boy Scout troop. My dad would take me hunting. So we'd go walk in the woods because, you know, in the south, you can't walk in the woods if you're a guy unless you're carrying a gun.

00:02:01:00 - 00:02:11:17
Unknown
That's the only way you can justify it. So, you know, we wouldn't necessarily shoot anything. We'd go walk in the woods carrying guns. I read a lot of thrillers, like my whole family there, where we read a lot of murder mysteries and stuff.

00:02:11:18 - 00:02:29:24
Unknown
And when I got to be 14, my great aunt took a big drawer, drag on her, put them all and said, I think you're ready for Travis McGee now. And she gave me a John D McDonald book. And Johnny McDonald, who was a Sarasota writer, famously wrote all these Travis McGee mysteries, but he would slip in environmental

00:02:29:24 - 00:02:49:12
Unknown
messages into them because he was a very early environmental activist battling the building of condos on on the Keys there in Sarasota and things like that. And so that sort of opened my mind to the idea that these places that I love to visit, that I love things that I love to enjoy with my Boy Scout troop

00:02:49:12 - 00:03:00:03
Unknown
, with my dad, were things that were not necessarily going to be around very long, you know, that they were Facebook artists, as MacDonald kept calling him, who would come in and pave over everything just to get a dollar.

00:03:00:05 - 00:03:13:20
Unknown
And so that was sort of my introduction to what was going on here in Florida. The first beats that I covered were local government politics, where I saw firsthand how things worked or rather didn't work a lot of times.

00:03:14:04 - 00:03:25:06
Unknown
And when I got to the Sarasota paper, I'd covered government stuff for a couple of years and I was kind of getting burned out and my boss said, What would you like to do instead? We really like you.

00:03:25:07 - 00:03:36:08
Unknown
We want to keep you. And I said, Well, we don't have anybody covering science in the environment and there's a lot going on in terms of that. You know, there's Mote Marine Lab here and so Botanical Gardens. He said, let's do that.

00:03:36:08 - 00:03:47:09
Unknown
So for eight months I covered environmental stuff and got to know a lot of the basics there and I had some great experiences. I got to go out with a couple of Turtle Watch volunteers one night. We're looking for sea turtles.

00:03:47:09 - 00:04:01:15
Unknown
Coming up, laying eggs. And that sort of whetted my appetite to do more of that. And when I got back then, Sarasota must have been booming. It must have been. It was the eighties. Oh, yeah. Build up. And, you know, it was great time to cover that.

00:04:02:02 - 00:04:18:07
Unknown
Exactly. And it was helpful to me too, to cover Selby Gardens then, because then later I circled back and wrote a story, wrote a book about them getting charged with wildlife trafficking because they they dealt in an endangered orchid they weren't supposed to have.

00:04:19:02 - 00:04:39:18
Unknown
And so that that became the genesis for the scandal, which, as far as I know, is the only book ever classified as true crime gardening. So, yeah, exactly. So then I got to the Times and at first I was in a bureau up in Palm Harbor and teamed up with another reporter to do some environmental coverage up

00:04:39:18 - 00:04:52:23
Unknown
there because there's a lot of development going on. And we did we did a we did a series of stories about the Anchor River and where it started and how it ended up in Tarpon Springs and how it had influenced the growth and development of the area.

00:04:52:23 - 00:05:07:18
Unknown
That was a fun story to do because basically we got paid to go out and run around in boats for a while. So that was nice. But I was covering courts and things like that after that. But then finally the environmental beat opened up and I applied for that and got it.

00:05:07:18 - 00:05:24:13
Unknown
And I think all the stuff I had gone through before that, you know, covering local government, I covered three sessions of the state legislature. I covered courts, prepared me for being ready to cover statewide environmental issues because, you know, so much that involved state and local government and how it works or doesn't work.

00:05:24:22 - 00:05:35:22
Unknown
And this being America, everything and everything eventually winds up in court. So I was comfortable dealing with with court stuff, too. So it's been it was a it was a great gig and I was happy to have it.

00:05:35:22 - 00:05:53:16
Unknown
I swear, covering the environment in Florida is the greatest job in American journalism. I saw a tweet you wrote just a couple of days ago that said that it was the best beat in in journalism. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it's a front it's a front row seat to all the all the beauty and all the all the

00:05:53:16 - 00:06:08:10
Unknown
ways that it's being destroyed also. Yeah. Yeah. And but occasionally you get to tell a story with a happy ending, too, which is which is nice when those come. People are very grateful about that. Well. Well, there's one story with a happy ending that I want you to talk a little bit about, because it's it's something that

00:06:08:10 - 00:06:29:11
Unknown
I. I think is. Pertinent to the whole state because it's a problem happening everywhere in the in back in the eighties, Tampa Bay was in pretty bad shape. Oh, yeah, it was doing really badly. And I think there was a big seagrass die off the bay was, you know, polluted and there was a big statewide consortium of

00:06:29:12 - 00:06:42:01
Unknown
groups that came together to to rescue the bay. And, you know, fast forward 30 or 40 years and the bay is in much better shape than it was back then. The opposite is happening in Miami, where I'm based out of Biscayne Bay.

00:06:42:01 - 00:06:55:18
Unknown
I don't know if you've heard about this, but Biscayne Bay is going to be a terrible seagrass die off and it's getting really bad. So tell me about that story with a happy ending. How did how was Tampa Bay rescued and is there hope for a place like Biscayne Bay in Miami today?

00:06:56:05 - 00:07:17:13
Unknown
I think there's a hope for all of them. The big thing they did in Tampa Bay was they said maybe we should stop dumping raw sewage into the bay. Hmm. It's. Oh, so they built the Howard off current wastewater plant, which was this top of the line cutting edge sewer treatment plant and stop dumping untreated sewage into

00:07:17:13 - 00:07:36:04
Unknown
the bay and instead started treating that stuff. So it's treated within an inch of its life, pretty much. And there there's a growing movement to use some of that cleaned up sewer water, what they call reclaimed water for sprinkling on lawns as opposed to using fresh water.

00:07:36:04 - 00:07:51:21
Unknown
Because, you know, the more freshwater you pump out of the ground just to just a sprinkle your lawn. That's bad for the aquifer. You know, we need that water for for drinking, not for keeping it. Yeah. And, you know, so so that was the big thing.

00:07:51:22 - 00:08:05:12
Unknown
The other thing, though, that is still causing some problems in Tampa Bay, that the big source now for the nitrogen and phosphorus and so forth that that goes in, obviously people are still for over fertilizing their lawns. So that's a problem.

00:08:06:09 - 00:08:20:19
Unknown
But the other problem is air pollution, people driving it. It produces these pollutants that go up in the air and then fall back down into the water. And so that's that's still a problem. That's continuing to be a problem.

00:08:20:19 - 00:08:36:18
Unknown
And so the less people drive and the less they drive fossil fuel powered cars, the cleaner the water is going to be. So, you know, those are two things that you really want to see happen. The the Tampa Bay Estuary Program is the consortium you mentioned.

00:08:36:18 - 00:08:56:20
Unknown
And their focus has been on trying to clean up the bay, trying to make it healthy. And their gage for that is the spread of seagrass because seagrass is sort of like the canary in the coal mine. And seagrasses now are beyond the level they were at in like mid 1950, which is the which is the that's

00:08:56:20 - 00:09:07:12
Unknown
the standard that they said is, you know, in the mid 1950s is when the cigaret style started. If we can get back to the point before that, we know we've got a healthy bay and they are they are beyond that now.

00:09:07:14 - 00:09:21:09
Unknown
So that's a good sign. That's great. I mean, can you believe Craig, could you believe that we are still dumping our sewage offshore in Miami? I mean, it's a sight out of mind. You know, it's crazy. Miami has the most precious beaches in the United States.

00:09:21:14 - 00:09:36:10
Unknown
People come here from all over the world to enjoy the beach as tourists and to go on our bay and fish and and kayak and water ski and jet ski, whatever they do. And we still treat our bay and our our beaches like a dumping ground.

00:09:36:11 - 00:09:48:02
Unknown
We still dump all our sewage offshore. Oh, yeah. Well, and and you see, you know, you watch the, the health department post these notices about, oh, we have to close the beach, close the beach because of the fecal coliform count.

00:09:48:11 - 00:10:02:02
Unknown
That means there's too much poop in the water. People, we find another place to put that, you know. You know, there's such a disconnect, you know, on the on that particular issue. It's not. So, yeah, Florida does a very bad job handling its poop.

00:10:02:02 - 00:10:19:09
Unknown
That's kind of the bottom line for an awful lot of the problems we have here. If we if we ever got serious about fixing that problem, it's not a glamorous environmental issue. It's not saving the rainforest. But it's if we fix that, we save Florida, honestly, you know, and add to that all the septic tanks that we

00:10:19:09 - 00:10:37:21
Unknown
have around the state that are that are causing problems, not just in the bay and the saltwater, but in the springs and other in the springs, too. Here's a story about about that. The under Jeb Bush, they set up a Florida Springs initiative in order to try and save the Springs, all because Jeb went on a canoe

00:10:37:21 - 00:10:47:08
Unknown
trip on the shore, took me in. A guy named Jim Stevenson was his guide. And Jim said, I've got the governor in a canoe. I'm not letting him get away without putting in a plug for saving the springs.

00:10:47:08 - 00:11:03:23
Unknown
So Jim talked him into starting this thing and so then Jim wound up being in charge of it. And so one of the things they did was they recommended they made a whole series of recommendations. One of the things they recommended was the legislature pass a law that says people who are on septic tanks need to have

00:11:03:23 - 00:11:19:07
Unknown
the septic tanks inspected because the generally the life of a septic tank is about 30 years and an awful lot of the more than a million. Septic tanks we have in Florida are older than 30 years, which is why they're probably leaking and they never get inspected, they write.

00:11:19:08 - 00:11:30:20
Unknown
And so the requirement that they get inspected and if there's a leak, they need to get it fixed so they pass the law. But the septic tank owners were outraged. Oh, my God, you're going to make us pay for something.

00:11:30:21 - 00:11:48:01
Unknown
Oh, good heavens. And they objected so strongly that the legislature cut the funding for it initially, and then they repealed the law and Rick Scott signed off on the repeal. And so when people were calling him Red Tide, Rick, it's like, well, that's kind of why.

00:11:48:01 - 00:12:02:23
Unknown
Because you agreed with repealing the law. That would have helped with that, because the septic tank waste fuels these red tide algae blooms. And even the sponsor of the bill, the bill to repeal it, says now, yeah, that was a big mistake.

00:12:02:24 - 00:12:15:21
Unknown
We shouldn't have done that, because now the state's having to pay for replacing the septic tanks. So you and I, the taxpayers, even though we may be on the sewer system, we're having to pay for replacing somebody else's septic tanks, which should be their responsibility.

00:12:16:16 - 00:12:37:22
Unknown
The whole environmental movement suffered under Rick Scott. I think I remember for the documentary I'm bringing out now about the Florida Springs, which we'll talk about in a minute. I remember doing research and getting some, you know, filing some public records requests and finding out that under Rick Scott, the budgets for water management districts and the DEP

00:12:38:06 - 00:12:53:15
Unknown
dropped by as much as 70% during his tenure while he was governor. And so that put a lot of environmental projects on the on the shelf and just never they never went forward. And he also canceled things like the Florida Springs Initiative and other other things.

00:12:54:14 - 00:13:14:07
Unknown
So in a way, the state is still kind of recovering from that. I'm wondering, you know, politically speaking, Craig, you know, what is Florida facing right now on environmental issues, our our people? And I know that there are there are you know, the Republicans as as our viewers should know, Republicans run the state of Florida right now

00:13:14:07 - 00:13:26:14
Unknown
. They have they control the governor's mansion, as well as the House and the Senate in Florida. So they pretty much have since 1999 and have since for about 20 years now. So basically, we've been a single party state for about 20 years.

00:13:26:23 - 00:13:44:17
Unknown
So anything that's going to happen in the state has to go through the Republican leadership. And there are I've interviewed many Republicans who are you know, they have the conservation mind, you know. Yeah. And they're conservation minded. And so they they want to do the right thing for the environment.

00:13:45:05 - 00:14:01:01
Unknown
But it seems like the political machine is so focused on development that sometimes, you know, the conservation minded Republicans lose out and their voices are lost in the in the shuffle. What is what is tell me about the politics of Florida right now for environmental issues.

00:14:01:15 - 00:14:20:18
Unknown
Well, here's here's the thing we run into and Jeb started this, which was if if you if you're supporting things that are bad for the environment. If you say yes, but I'm saving the Everglades and you throw a lot of money at the Everglades, then people are like, Oh, well, he's not so bad.

00:14:21:07 - 00:14:35:08
Unknown
And so so you can get away with an awful lot of other stuff as long as you say, Well, I support saving the Everglades. So we saw that with Jeb. We saw that with Rick Scott, and we're seeing it now with Ron DeSantis as well.

00:14:35:08 - 00:14:49:02
Unknown
Ron DeSantis, who supported building one of the biggest controversies in Florida couple of years ago, the legislature passed this bill to say, we want to build these three super expensive toll roads in Florida. The DOT sees absolutely no need for.

00:14:49:14 - 00:15:03:19
Unknown
And they that came up because Bill Galvano, who then was Senate president, is a lawyer from Bradenton, got a big campaign contribution from the Florida Road Builders Association. And so this is something they were pushing. They wanted it, nobody else wanted it.

00:15:04:07 - 00:15:18:13
Unknown
And Galvano sold this as being a big help for all the rural communities that had not gotten a lot of development. Those rural counties now are passing resolutions saying, we don't want these roads, we don't want development, we like the way we are.

00:15:18:19 - 00:15:33:14
Unknown
We don't want to you know, they say we don't want to East Coast, the West Coast, we don't want to be like Tampa. We don't want to be like Miami. We want to be, you know, Levy County. We want we don't want to be like those are the places and those tools are going to are going to

00:15:33:14 - 00:15:51:05
Unknown
cut through environmentally sensitive areas if they're built. Will they not include including panther habitat, including the panther habitat in South Florida spring sheds up in the north. So these are places these are roads that would that would really not just the construction of the road itself, but the development that they would bring.

00:15:51:06 - 00:16:11:11
Unknown
Yeah. Could trigger could further harm Florida's what's left of Florida's environment. Right. So after this bill passed, people were begging the governor, please veto this. And instead of vetoing it, he signed it. And his justification for signing it was people need roads, which is, you know, that's let's just say that's intellectually specious and on.

00:16:11:19 - 00:16:22:01
Unknown
But he could always say, but look at all I'm doing for the Everglades. I'm spending money on the Everglades. And John and I had good environmentalists as well. And also and also I want to wipe out the pythons in the Everglades.

00:16:22:01 - 00:16:37:24
Unknown
That's the other big thing he's been pushing, right? It's true. Everything that DeSantis has done for the environment has been focused on not everything, but many things have been focused around the Everglades. And, you know, having just finished this documentary series, which is coming out soon on On the Springs, it's called The Fellowship of the Springs.

00:16:38:24 - 00:16:54:09
Unknown
I interviewed a lot of people who felt frustration that all of the funding and focus of Florida's government for the environment was in South Florida, where we're in north Florida. I mean, you know, the springs are as as distinct and unique as the Everglades are in the South.

00:16:54:15 - 00:17:11:02
Unknown
I mean, they're as as unique as the geysers of Yellowstone National Park. They're these incredibly useful national and international treasures that we have in Florida. And yet they kind of get neglected people, you know, a lot of attention to them and they, you know, at least not at the leadership level.

00:17:11:02 - 00:17:25:08
Unknown
And they give them kind of a nominal amount of funding every year. And these springs are in bad shape. They're they're hurting here at the end. Which brings me back to you, because when I got started researching that documentary, I remember I read as much as I could about the Springs.

00:17:25:19 - 00:17:37:04
Unknown
And one of the best things I read about The Springs was a series you wrote in 2014 about what was happening at the Springs. This is seven years ago. So you were ahead of the curve. Tell me about about that series.

00:17:37:04 - 00:17:55:15
Unknown
What drove you to write about the springs and why why choose that? Well, I had done a story about problems that visitors were having. They were coming to these springs that were state parks and reporting that they were coming out with rashes because they come in contact with toxic algae blooms, specifically labia in the springs.

00:17:55:16 - 00:18:14:03
Unknown
And I thought, well, let's be in the springs. That's that's kind of weird. Why are they having problems with algae blooms? So I wound up talking to people, including Jim Stevenson, the guy I mentioned before, Robert Knight, who runs the Florida Springs Institute and other folks like that, some people with the Florida Geological Survey and discovered that

00:18:14:03 - 00:18:34:24
Unknown
this was actually a fairly widespread problem and it was a growing problem, and it was tied to not just the pollution in the spring shed area from farms and so forth, but also tied to the loss of flow from people overpumping water out of the aquifer that as a result the flow on that in the springs was

00:18:35:10 - 00:18:50:03
Unknown
was slowing down and in a couple of cases it even reversed. And so so I went, pitched it to my boss and said, we need to do this is a much bigger story. And he agreed was a guy named Roy LeBlanc, one of the best editors ever worked for.

00:18:51:01 - 00:19:04:06
Unknown
And Roy said, Yeah, let's, let's go for that. And so he gave me the time to work on it, which is that's the most precious gift you can give a reporter is time, isn't it? So and so I traveled to a bunch of these springs.

00:19:04:07 - 00:19:15:21
Unknown
I interviewed people, I interviewed, you know, like the canoe rental people and cave divers were a huge resource for me because these are the people who were going into the aquifer. And swimming around. It could tell me specifically.

00:19:15:22 - 00:19:31:17
Unknown
Yeah, I had a hard time getting into this spring five years ago, but now I can swim right in because the flow isn't as bad. It's not as strong anymore. And here's the reason I talked to some divers who went into Sulfur Springs in Tampa and the pollution there was so bad that it was actually eating away

00:19:31:17 - 00:19:48:19
Unknown
at the rubber on their suits. Yeah, it was nasty. And so I talked to people who were run a church camp up in North Florida that was built around a spring, and the spring flow had become so dormant, except in the rainy season that it was not healthy to swim in anymore.

00:19:48:19 - 00:20:04:03
Unknown
And they ended up having to build a separate aquatic complex, a pool and like $1,000,000 pool and slide complex in order to keep going as a as a as a church camp, because they just couldn't they couldn't count on the spring being there anymore.

00:20:04:03 - 00:20:20:05
Unknown
And it was a really sad story and and probably the best interred at this point. Rick Scott had ended that Florida Springs initiative that Jeb Bush had launched. And as a result of these stories, Rick Scott suddenly discovered, oh, we have springs, we need to do something about that.

00:20:20:05 - 00:20:35:17
Unknown
So he started throwing money at that, too. But here's the thing. This is this is kind of the point I was getting to mentioning DeSantis in the Everglades, is that our political leaders, if you point out there's a problem, they'll throw money at fixing things, but they won't do anything about the root cause.

00:20:36:02 - 00:20:49:02
Unknown
So, for instance, you know, we went through eight years of Rick Scott of denying that climate change existed. And now we have Ron DeSantis, who he won't say the words, but he's putting money into resilience, which is we're going to figure out a way to cope with rising sea levels.

00:20:49:07 - 00:21:04:22
Unknown
We're going to figure out how to cope with, you know, other aspects of climate change. But we're not going to do anything about the things that are causing climate change. We're not going to try and move away from, you know, fossil fuel powered power plants and things like that.

00:21:05:08 - 00:21:15:20
Unknown
So, you know, it's it's just it's a it's a total, you know, totally backwards way to approach things. But that's the way we do things in Florida. Why do you think that is, Greg? Why do you think Florida has that?

00:21:15:23 - 00:21:27:02
Unknown
Do you think it's because it's a single party state and there's little accountability? No, I think it's because it's easy. You know, we have legislators who go into office and they're not there very long because of term limits.

00:21:27:02 - 00:21:37:19
Unknown
And so they don't really have time to build up any expertize on a subject. And instead they wind up relying on mostly on lobbyists to tell them what's going on. And the lobbyists, of course, are not there to lobby for the environment.

00:21:38:02 - 00:21:56:19
Unknown
They're there to lobby for their well-heeled clients who tend to be developers and, you know, the utility industry and boat manufacturers and things like that. The environment doesn't have that much of a voice. I mean, there are lobbyists for environmental groups there, but they're seen as special interests by the lobby, by the legislators, not as, you know

00:21:56:19 - 00:22:13:10
Unknown
, someone who can tell you, hey, this is a way you can set things apart. That the interesting thing to me is the public is so far ahead of their, quote unquote, leaders on those things. So we've seen passage of constitutional amendments trying to tell the legislators, hey, these are the things we think are important.

00:22:13:17 - 00:22:28:01
Unknown
We think you should be spending more money on buying up environmental land, for instance, and the legislators ignore it and subvert it and try and get around it somehow every time, as if they feel like they know better than their constituents.

00:22:28:03 - 00:22:45:18
Unknown
Well, I remember voting on Amendment One a few years ago that was supposed to allocate three or $400 million a year to purchase environmentally sensitive land all over the state. And the state proceeded to ignore it and maybe allocate, you know, a few tens of millions of dollars, 50, 60 million.

00:22:46:02 - 00:23:00:23
Unknown
But the bulk of that money was not spent on acquiring land, was it? What happened? Right. What they that the legislature kind of ignored it and said, oh, well, we're going to count salaries in that and we're going to count, you know, replacing septic tanks in that.

00:23:00:23 - 00:23:12:23
Unknown
And so we're going to use that money for that, and we're going to call it complying with Amendment One, even though it doesn't really I mean, they've been doing the same thing ever since we passed the lottery. You know, the lottery is supposed to improve funding for education.

00:23:13:03 - 00:23:24:21
Unknown
And instead the legislators said, you know what, we're going to take that money and put it to education. But as a result, we're going to take money out of education that we were spending over there. So it ends up being a wash and it's been like that ever since.

00:23:25:07 - 00:23:39:19
Unknown
Why is the environment such a tricky issue in Florida, Craig? I mean, talk about how Florida has grown over the last 30, 40, 50 years. I mean, what's happened in this state? You go outside and, you know, places that used to be wild just ten or 15 or 20 years ago are suddenly booming with development.

00:23:40:01 - 00:23:57:10
Unknown
I mean, where is this sustainable? Where are we heading right now? Florida has a long history of undervaluing its environmental riches. For the longest time, you know, 30, 20, 30, 4050s. The idea is that stuff's valueless as it is.

00:23:57:10 - 00:24:12:17
Unknown
It's only worth something if we can build things there. You know, the early settlers, they didn't live they didn't live at the beach, didn't value the beach because you couldn't plow it. You couldn't plan anything, you know? And so gradually, people have started to.

00:24:12:20 - 00:24:34:23
Unknown
Figure out that maybe the environment has a value for tourists and possibly even for home buyers, but not as a thing itself. They still don't see it as, you know, that a Florida scrub is worth preserving just because it's a Florida scrub and not because it's something that appeals to birders coming to check out the Florida birding

00:24:34:23 - 00:24:51:14
Unknown
trail. And and so, you know it as a result. I talked to a guy named Dexter Filkins who grew up in Coco. Sure. Sure. He made this a herald in the New York Times. Eventually. Yeah. Yeah. He's with The New Yorker now.

00:24:51:14 - 00:25:03:10
Unknown
And he made the great observation that growing up in Florida is like being the kid in the Sixth Sense, because you're constantly seeing things that nobody else sees, things that aren't there anymore. You know? Oh, that used to be an orange grove.

00:25:03:10 - 00:25:19:06
Unknown
Oh, that used to be, you know, a forest where you could find, you know, all kinds of interesting birds. You know, that used to be a marsh where you'd see roseate spoonbills, and now it's all condos and parking lots and storage centers and things that, you know, they may add to the economy, but they don't add to

00:25:19:06 - 00:25:35:09
Unknown
the richness of life in Florida. Bob Graham, when he was governor, he used to have a phrase that he would trot out frequently, which was don't kill the goose that lays the golden egg. In other words, don't kill off the thing that attracts people to Florida or you'll end them coming to Florida.

00:25:35:22 - 00:25:50:23
Unknown
We haven't reached that point yet, but boy, it sure feels like we're close every single day. A big thing with that and this was he would use this phrase usually in conjunction with a discussion of an agency that doesn't exist anymore, which is the Florida Department of Community Affairs.

00:25:51:08 - 00:26:06:19
Unknown
For 20 years or so, we had this great state agency that was in charge of coordinating and overseeing growth in Florida and managing it and making sure that, you know, growth in one county, some new project in one county wouldn't screw things up in the next county over.

00:26:06:20 - 00:26:23:23
Unknown
And and they were not perfect. They made mistakes. They were human, but they were the ones kind of watching out for some of that stuff. And when when the legislature and Rick Scott got into office that were so pro-business, they didn't see any value in the environment.

00:26:24:07 - 00:26:37:21
Unknown
They killed it. They got rid of the the Department of Community Affairs. And so now the only agency that's kind of controlling growth in Florida is the Florida Department of Transportation. They build a road growth follows. And that's kind of where we're at these days.

00:26:37:21 - 00:26:53:23
Unknown
Nobody nobody is minding the store and making sure that the growth that we get is the kind that we want. What do you think is the most effective way for people to care about the environment? I mean, I'm from Miami and I know people who are from here who've never even been to the Everglades.

00:26:54:23 - 00:27:04:15
Unknown
What's the best way to get people to care? Plus, the extra challenge of being Florida, where a lot of the a lot of people who live here are newcomers. They're immigrants from another country, like my parents who came here from Cuba.

00:27:04:21 - 00:27:17:03
Unknown
Or there are people who come in from other states like New York or California or Chicago, Illinois. And they move here and they may not know about Florida's environment and what it has to offer other than beaches, Disney World and maybe the Everglades.

00:27:18:05 - 00:27:32:20
Unknown
What's the best way to get people to care? One thing I do a lot is I'm talk about our state park system. Our state park system is so great. It's actually won national awards four times, which is three times more than any other state has won it.

00:27:32:21 - 00:27:47:23
Unknown
I mean, that's how great we are. And it's got this surprising diversity to it. I mean, it's you know, you've got the beaches, beautiful beaches like Topsail Hill up in the Panhandle, Honeymoon Island, over and done Eden, which is actually the most visited state park in Florida.

00:27:48:16 - 00:28:03:03
Unknown
And you can't camp there and there's hardly any facilities, but that's what people find appealing about it. We've got falling water state park up in the Mariana area where there's actually a waterfall in Florida. You wouldn't think you could find a waterfall in Florida.

00:28:03:03 - 00:28:19:24
Unknown
I have never seen it. I got to see that. And it falls the water falls into a sinkhole so you never see where it ends up. So it's got that sort of air of mystery to it. We've got the Devil's Mill Hopper outside Gainesville, where it's a sinkhole that has developed different ecosystems at different layers as you

00:28:19:24 - 00:28:41:05
Unknown
go down on the on the boardwalk. And of course, I can't forget Weeki Wachee Springs, where, you know, which makes Florida it makes Florida the only state that has mermaids on the government payroll, you know. So so, you know, I always I would love mentioning that the a lot of the springs, the best springs are state parks

00:28:42:24 - 00:29:00:19
Unknown
. So there's just so much to choose from. There's some great hiking trails. There's a website called Florida Hikes that offers lots of advice on where to go hiking. And the people who run that website have published several guidebooks to hiking in Florida, including the Florida Hiking Trail, which is a statewide trail that starts down in the south

00:29:00:20 - 00:29:12:08
Unknown
and goes all the way up through the Panhandle. So anything you can do to to convince people to get outdoors and check out the state parks or check out the state trail system or the state forests, I think you're you're.

00:29:12:14 - 00:29:23:16
Unknown
Getting them there. If you can get them outdoors and get them to see what Florida is like in its natural state, to go canoeing or kayaking, even just to go out and see some beautiful sunsets and gorgeous rainbows.

00:29:24:12 - 00:29:37:19
Unknown
I think that gets them sort of started along the path of seeing, you know, what a special place this is. Plus, we have number of a number of festivals. And I was just talking to somebody today about the great Florida Birding Festival is going to be coming up in October.

00:29:38:07 - 00:29:55:17
Unknown
And they're going to having some some events here in Tampa Bay, including one at Apollo Beach, to sort of celebrate the marvelous bird population here in Florida, because we've got not just our own native birds, but we're a pass through for a lot of migrating birds that come from up north and are headed to Cuba and South

00:29:55:17 - 00:30:10:15
Unknown
America and so forth, as well as the monarch butterflies that stop off in St Mark's National Wildlife Refuge up in the Panhandle. I started this podcast because I think it's important for people to, first of all, to know what we have out there in Florida.

00:30:10:15 - 00:30:23:18
Unknown
A lot of people are like me. They grew up in an urban area and maybe they didn't have parents who took them often into nature. You're lucky you did. I did. I didn't. I really didn't. So I. I kind of came across it later in my life.

00:30:23:18 - 00:30:36:19
Unknown
And when I did, I just found it to be therapeutic. I found it to be even spiritual, you know, just a great, great way of soothing it to clear your mind. It's very soothing. And and I think that's that's so important.

00:30:36:20 - 00:30:48:04
Unknown
And so, look, I'm an urban kid. I grew up in Miami. And, you know, yeah, I went to the beaches a few times, and and when I'd go north, I'd get sucked into the gravitational pull of Disney. And I never made it north of Disney.

00:30:48:04 - 00:31:00:20
Unknown
I never made it to spring. I never made it to anything else. It was Disney. But if you went north. So. So, you know, and that's fine. I'm not I'm not, you know, hammering Disney or anything. But what I'm saying is there's there's there's definitely more to Florida.

00:31:00:20 - 00:31:14:23
Unknown
And what you said is about, you know, what you said about getting out there and viewing and experiencing these state parks is the best way to build empathy and to and to understand what we've got, because Florida's nature is incredibly precious.

00:31:14:23 - 00:31:25:05
Unknown
And it's it's just something that that you can't you can't build it. You can't pay for it. It's there. It's ours. And all we got to do is take care of it. And that's all we need to do.

00:31:25:05 - 00:31:37:10
Unknown
Just take care of it, just not destroy it. I mean, is that so difficult, you know? Well, apparently. I mean I mean, there was there was a time not too long ago where there was actually talk of building golf courses in some of the state parks, fortunately, fortunately.

00:31:37:10 - 00:31:48:07
Unknown
And grazing cattle and all these creeks. And yeah, and fortunately none of that happened. But boy, it was like for a while there, it was like really, really. That's what that's how you think you're going to improve on what's out there.

00:31:48:18 - 00:32:00:23
Unknown
Crazy, you know? All right. Well, Craig, anything you got it. Want to add before we sign off? Anything else you want to, um, is it okay if I plug my podcast? Absolutely. Go for it. I started a podcast with a guy named Chad Scott.

00:32:00:23 - 00:32:12:18
Unknown
We put new ones out every week. It's called Welcome to Florida. Our in our attitude is 900 new people move to Florida every day. Nobody's telling them what they've gotten themselves into. So we decided we're going to do it.

00:32:13:13 - 00:32:28:20
Unknown
And we've done interviews with a python hunter, a gator wrangler, a nudist guy who wrote a book on the villages, an expert on cockroaches, and Carl Hiaasen and Clyde Butcher, the photographer. So we're we're working on trying to cover the whole state.

00:32:29:09 - 00:32:46:15
Unknown
Wonderful. Well, I definitely tune in and it's a wonderful podcast. If you haven't heard it, check it out. Welcome to Florida, Craig. Thanks again for joining me and for your time. All right. Take care. This episode of The Nature of Florida podcast was brought to you in part by the Filburn Foundation, the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of

00:32:46:15 - 00:33:03:19
Unknown
Florida and Explica Media. If you're enjoying this podcast, remember to subscribe on our website. The Nature of Florida with Oscar Corral, Dot Bus, Broadcom. That's the nature of Florida with Oscar Corral, dot bus, Broadcom. Or find us on your favorite platform and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.