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Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer

Craig Pittman

Tampa Bay Times reporter Craig Pittman is a native Floridian. He graduated from Troy State University in Alabama, where his muckraking work for the student paper prompted an agitated dean to label him "the most destructive force on campus." Since then he has covered a variety of newspaper beats and quite a few natural disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires and the Florida Legislature. Since 1998 he has reported on environmental issues for the Times. He is a four-time winner of the Waldo Proffitt Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism in Florida and a series of stories on Florida's vanishing wetlands that he wrote with Matthew Waite won the top investigative reporting award in both 2006 and 2007 from the Society of Environmental Journalists. He is the author of four books: "The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid" (2012); "Manatee Insanity: Inside the War Over Florida's Most Famous Endangered Species," (2010); and, co-written with Waite, "Paving Paradise: Florida's Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss," (2009). His new book, < a href="http://www.amazon.com/Oh-Florida-Americas-Weirdest-Influences-ebook/dp/B019CB3UNQ"> "Oh, Florida! How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country,"hits stores in July 2016. He lives in St. Petersburg with his wife and two children.

Phone: (727) 893-8530

Email: craig@tampabay.com

Twitter: @CraigTimes

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  1. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county

    Water

    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    But to residents of mostly rural Jackson County, the stuff is just "garbage juice," and it carries a toxic taint that they don't want in their drinking water. Their allies include the NAACP, all five county commissioners and their Republican state senator....

    Residents in Jackson County are growing increasingly alarmed about wastewater  from landfills stored in deep wells. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection doesn't inspect the wells to ensure they are safe, instead relying on the companies who manage the wells. "So a profit-driven company pulls a sample and an entity they pay does the analyzing," said Jackson County Administrator Ernie Padgett. The paperwork then goes to the DEP and "they file it away in a cabinet." [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  2. Florida Cabinet votes to buy Blue Springs, saved by long-ago secret love affair

    Water

    Florida's Cabinet voted this week to acquire 407-acre Blue Springs Park in Gilchrist County, a jewel of a spring that's been privately owned since 1958.

    The spring was saved from development thanks to a long-ago secret love affair involving a St. Petersburg business mogul and his faithful assistant.

    The Cabinet approved the purchase for $5.25 million, which state officials said was 10 percent below the owners' asking price The parcel includes a set of six springs and a mile of land along the Santa Fe River....

    Blue Springs, a privately owned spring in Gilchrist County that the Florida Cabinet voted to buy on Thursday. It was once owned by the most powerful woman in St. Petersburg. [JOHN MORAN  |  Special to the Times]
  3. Cabinet votes to buy springs that were saved by love affair

    Blog

    Florida's Cabinet voted Wednesday to acquire 407-acre Blue Springs Park in Gilchrist County, a jewel of a spring that's been privately owned since 1958 -- thanks to a long-ago love affair involving a St. Petersburg business mogul and his faithful assistant.

    The Cabinet approved the purchase for $5.25 million, which Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said was 10 percent below the owners' asking price, according to WUFT. The parcel includes a set of six springs and a mile of land along the Santa Fe River....

    Privately owned Blue Springs Park was just approved for purchase by the Cabinet.
  4. Filling sinkhole taking longer than expected, Mosaic says

    Water

    Phosphate giant Mosaic expected to be finished by now with filling in the massive sinkhole that opened up at its Mulberry processing plant last August. But it's not.

    Company officials announced Wednesday that the hole beneath its phosphogypsum stack is wider than they had thought — 80 to 100 feet wide, instead of 45.

    That means it will take a lot more grout than expected, which means completely filling in the hole will take longer. No one knows how much longer....

    Mosaic officials said the hole beneath its phosphogypsum stack is wider than they had thought &#8212; 80 to 100 feet, instead of 45.
  5. South Florida water managers renew paid python hunter program

    Blog

    Impressed by the success of their pilot program, the South Florida Water Management District voted to keep on employing a team of paid python hunters to track down the big snakes that invaded the Everglades, according to the Miami Herald.

    The water agency bosses were delighted that the 25 hunters who were part of the pilot program bagged 158 snakes and about 2,000 eggs before it ended June 1, and wanted it to continue. That 158, incidentally, is more than any other organized hunt -- the state's "Python Challenge" in 2013 nabbed just 68, and the one last year got 106 (an amount that could be replaced by a single clutch of eggs from one female)....

    Dusty “Wildman” Crum caught this 16-foot-10-inch Burmese python in the South Florida Water Management District’s experimental python hunt. The snake had 73 eggs.
  6. Jim Kern started the Florida Trail five decades ago; he's still waiting for the Legislature finish it

    Essays

    Look how far you can get just by putting one foot in front of the other.

    Jim Kern has hiked trails all over the globe. He just got back from walking around Corsica. He's clambered across the mountains in Nepal and trekked through the jungles of Borneo. He's 83 and still pulling on his boots to wander the woods around his St. Augustine home whenever he can.

    TAMPA BAY TIMES ENVIRONMENTAL COVERAGE:

    ...

    Jim Kern on his island property surrounded by the waters and marsh of the Tolomato River North of Saint Augustine. The avid hiker has worked since the 1960s to get the Florida Trail on the list of National Scenic Trails and continues his efforts to get the state and federal funding to complete what he started. [Photo by Bob Self for For the Tampa Bay Times]
  7. Water agency withdraws rule for rewrite

    Blog

    Last month, despite overwhelming public opposition, the Southwest Florida Water Management District board voted 9-1 to allow the flow of Crystal River and Kings Bay to be cut by up to 11 percent to accommodate the needs of new development. Opponents, who argued that that amount was far too high and would harm the environment, threatened a legal challenge like the one that had previously been filed over the agency's similar action regarding the Rainbow River....

    A manatee swims in Crystal River as a tour boat floats nearby.
  8. Hurricane season starts with Trump appointees missing at FEMA and NOAA, the agencies that deal with hurricanes

    Hurricanes

    The 2017 hurricane season started Thursday with no Trump Administration appointees running the two federal agencies most involved in dealing with hurricanes.

    Five months after President Donald J. Trump was sworn in, no one has taken the reins at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is in charge of preparing for and then dealing with the aftermath of disasters such as a hurricane....

    President Donald Trump speaks before bill signings in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House on Friday. Hurricane season has just started, but the two federal agencies most involved in dealing with hurricanes - Federal Emergency Management Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - are still waiting for political appointees to take over. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
  9. Hurricane season starts with nobody in charge at FEMA or NOAA

    Blog

    The 2017 hurricane season started Thursday without anyone in charge at the two federal agencies most involved in dealing with hurricanes, National Public Radio notes....

    This year marks the 25th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, the last Category 5 storm to hit Florida
  10. To catch a poacher: Florida wildlife officers set up undercover gator farm sting

    Wildlife

    To catch a ring of poachers who targeted Florida's million-dollar alligator farming industry, state wildlife officers created the ultimate undercover operation.

    They set up their own alligator farm, complete with plenty of real, live alligators, watched over by real, live undercover wildlife officers. It also had hidden video cameras to record everything that happened.

    After two years of undercover work, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced Wednesday that it arrested nine people on 44 felony charges. They're accused of breaking wildlife laws governing alligator harvesting, transporting eggs and hatchlings across state lines, dealing in stolen property, falsifying records, racketeering and conspiracy....

    To catch a ring of poachers who targeted Florida's million-dollar alligator farming industry, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission set up an undercover operation. They created their own alligator farm, complete with plenty of real, live alligators, watched over by real, live undercover wildlife officers. It also had hidden video cameras to record everything that happened. That was two years ago, and on Wednesday wildlife officers announced that they arrested nine people on  44 felony charges alleging they broke wildlife laws governing alligator harvesting, transporting eggs and hatchlings across state lines, dealing in stolen property, falsifying records, racketeering and conspiracy. The wildlife commission released these photos of alligators, eggs and hatchlings taken during the undercover operation. [Courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission]
  11. Wildlife officers bust 9 in alligator farming industry case

    Blog

    Officers from the Florida FIsh and Wildlife Conservation Commission went undercover in the state's alligator farming industry in 2015 and, have now arrested nine people on 44 felony charges and documenting 10,000 illegally harvested gator eggs, the agency announced Wednesday....

    An alligator hatches from an egg.
  12. Florida's ailing springs subject of clash over how much water to divert for development

    Water

    BROOKSVILLE — All over Florida, clashes are erupting over how much water can be diverted from the state's springs to keep development going. The latest battleground was Tuesday's meeting of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

    Despite opposition from more than 30 speakers, the water district's board voted 9-1 to allow the flow of Crystal River and the 70 springs that make up Kings Bay to be cut by up to 11 percent....

    A manatee swims near the entrance to Three Sisters Springs on Kings Bay.
  13. Egmont Key makes historic preservation list because it is threatened by climate change

    Environment

    ST. PETERSBURG — Every year the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation picks 11 properties to highlight as the most threatened historic properties in the state.

    This year, three of those sites are in the Tampa Bay area.

    And one of them — Egmont Key — made the list because it is threatened by climate change.

    "This is the first time a site has made the list due to the threat of sea level rise," said Clay Henderson, the president of the trust's board of trustees. "We see this as a new threat."...

     Egmont Key off the coast of Fort DeSoto in Tampa Bay. Each year the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation picks 11 properties to highlight as the most threatened historic properties in the state.&#10;This year, Egmont Key became the first property to make the list because authorities said it is threatened by climate change and rising seas. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
  14. Ex-DEP boss picked for wildlife commission

    Blog

    In 2011, when Gov. Rick Scott picked Charles W. "Chuck" Roberts III to sit on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission,, the selection made news because Roberts had had several run-ins with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. ...

    Mike Sole
  15. New storm surge model means new hurricane evacuation maps for Tampa Bay (they're just not ready yet)

    Hurricanes

    New, up-to-date storm surge data from the National Hurricane Center has thrown a monkey wrench into Tampa Bay's evacuation planning just two weeks before the start of hurricane season.

    More residents are likely to be in evacuation zones than ever before. But at this point, emergency management officials from around the bay area said they do not know yet which residents and which areas will be affected....

    Hurricane Hermine, a Category 1 storm, brought high water to Pass-a-Grille Way in St. Pete Beach last September.