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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=""> "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


Twitter: @CraigTimes

  1. Catch a Florida python, win a T-shirt


    They tried hiring professionals. They tried training people to compete in a big roundup. They even brought in tribesmen from India.

    Now Florida wildlife officials who want to rid the state of invasive snakes are trying something even more offbeat: prizes for anyone in the public who picks up a python.

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced Monday that it's launching a "Python Pickup Program," in which anybody who captures a python in the wild can simply submit a photo of the snake he or she caught in order to win....

    The state has announced the Python Pickup Program, which rewards  participants with T-shirts and other prizes if they find and kill a Burmese python in the wild. The pythons are an invasive species that have wiped out large numbers of small animals in the Everglades.
  2. USF scientists headed for Cuba to study what it looks like before any oil spills


    ST. PETERSBURG — Florida scientists will ride their research vessel to Cuba next month to take measurements of its coastal waters before any oil spill ruins them.

    One of the major problems with the 2010 BP oil spill, scientists say, is that no one — not the government, not the oil companies, not even universities — had taken baseline measurements of what conditions were like in the Gulf of Mexico before the Deepwater Horizon disaster....

    The R/V Weatherbird II will carry scientists to Cuba on May 9. The goal is to take measurements of the nation&#8217;s coastal waters before any oil spill might ruin them.
  3. Deepwater Horizon: Seven years after explosion and oil spill, study finds cleanup workers got sicker


    On the seventh anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the health impacts that the spewing oil had on the people who came into contact with it are still raising questions about how the cleanup was handled.

    The latest studies by the National Institutes of Health found that the thousands of workers who came into contact with the oil that coated the coastlines of four states in 2010 were more susceptible to health woes during the cleanup, according to Dale Sandler, chief of the NIH's epidemiology branch....

    &#65279;An estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon explosion in April 2010.
  4. No new Florida bear hunts until 2019, wildlife commission says, citing public opinion


    Florida will not hold another bear hunt until at least 2019, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission decided Wednesday.

    A motion to hold a hunt this year failed on a 4-3 vote. Then the commissioners voted unanimously to ask their staff to update the agency's bear management plan, including a possible hunt, two years from now.

    The votes came amid the continued uproar caused by the decision in 2015 to approve Florida's first bear hunt in 21 years after a series of bear maulings. That hunt went forward despite overwhelming public opposition and repeated questions about whether the science behind the decision was adequate....

    Wildlife director Nick Wiley said support was too weak.
  5. FWC: No Florida bear hunt for the next two years


    UPDATE: Florida will not hold another bear hunt until 2019 at the earliest, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission decided Wednesday.

    A motion to set quotas for bear hunters in each region of the state for this year failed on a 4-3 vote. Then the commissioners voted unanimously to ask their staff to report back with an update on their bear management plan, including a possible hunt, in two years. That motion passed unanimously....

    Florida held its first bear hunt in 21 years in 2015, and ended it after just two days.
  6. Feds say Florida bears are not endangered


    On the eve of a Florida FIsh and Wildlife Conservation Commission meeting where bears are on the agenda, the federal wildlife agency has weighed in with an announcement that Florida's bears do not qualify as endangered....

    The 2015 bear hunt was the first in Florida in 21 years.
  7. Desalination plant, reservoir helping Tampa Bay endure Florida's fiery drought


    Florida's drought has become so dire that the Southwest Florida Water Management District is about to alert homeowners to watch for watering restrictions.

    The board, also known as Swiftmud, is expected next week to declare a phase one water order. That means it will alert the residents of the 16 counties it oversees that they should get ready to scale back their water use.

    In the Tampa Bay area, a drought such as this one used to mean pumping more water from the aquifer to replace the lack of rain. The result would be dried up lakes and wetlands, sometimes causing permanent damage....

    Aircraft from the U.S. Forest Service and the Florida Forest Service were used to help fight a massive wildfire on April 9 in Hernando Beach. Lightning most likely ignited a fire that fanned into flames aided by windy and dry conditions.
  8. Ranch shootout leaves cowboy and his brother dead, one person injured


    PLANT CITY — In a quiet pasture on peaceful Saturday afternoon, a simmering family dispute erupted in gunfire.

    When the shooting was over, two brothers lay dead and a third person was wounded.

    Hillsborough County deputies, who were called to the scene about 2 p.m., said the two brothers were Milton Varn, 62, and Perry Varn, 66. George Terrell Long, 71, took a shot to the shoulder, and 61-year-old Joanne Varn witnessed the shooting. She was not hurt....

    A Hillsborough County Sheriff patrol car is seen blocking a private dirt road off of Varn Road Saturday, April 15, 2017 in Plant City. Brothers Milton and Perry Varn were shot and killed during a family dispute in the middle of one of their pastures. The Varn family owns hundreds of acres of farm land in Plant City.
  9. Computer model predicts change in fortunes for once-endangered manatee


    Florida's manatee population is likely to double to 12,000 over the next 50 years, according to a controversial computer model — a sharp departure from the days when biologists feared manatees might go the way of the dodo.

    The latest forecast, released Tuesday, comes from a U.S. Geological Survey computer model that led the federal government last month to take manatees off the endangered list and instead classify them as threatened....

    &#65279;Over the next 50 years, the manatees population is expected to double to 12,000, according to a U.S. Geological Survey model.
  10. More than 100 wildfires scorch Florida, a sign of how dry we are


    Last year, Florida was waterlogged. This year, Florida is on fire.

    More than 100 active wildfires are burning across the state right now, according to the Florida Forest Service. Twenty-seven of them are scorching more than 100 acres each.

    "We're usually not this active this early in the season," the service's assistant fire chief, Ralph Crawford, said Monday.

    So it has gone in Tampa Bay, where firefighters spent Monday battling brush fires that flared up in Hernando and Pasco counties. A fast-moving grass fire Friday in St. Petersburg shut down the Interstate 275 interchange at Gandy Boulevard just as rush hour started, tying up traffic for hours....

    Wildfires caused low visibility in stretches of Hernando and Citrus counties Sunday. More than 100 active wildfires are burning across the state right now. [Florida Forestry Service via Twitter]
  11. Bears again on wildlife commission agenda


    Bears are back on the agenda of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission when it meets this month in Tallahassee. But whether that means a return of bear hunting remains to be seen.

    In 2015 the FWC held its first bear hunt in 21 years,, a controversial decision prompted, in part, by a series of maulings  The hunt was supposed to last a week, but wildlife commisison officials ended it after just two days because hunters killed so many bears so quickly.  Among the dead: 36 lactating females, meaning they were still caring for cubs that were now orphaned....

    Richard Sajko of Valrico talks Saturday about how he killed one of the two bears on the back of his pickup truck at the first black bear hunt in 21 years at the Rock Springs Run Wildlife Management Area near Lake Mary
  12. Detectives say brains behind fraud scheme was already in Pinellas County jail


    LARGO — Pinellas sheriff's detectives didn't have to look very hard to find the man they contend cooked up a scheme to use fraudulent credit card transactions to buy supplies for jail inmates.

    He was, they said, pulling off the scam while he was an inmate at the Pinellas County jail.

    Detectives on Tuesday arrested the inmate, Robert Bryan Kinzinger, 47, and his girlfriend Theresa Farr, 56, of 1219 Rosewood St. in Largo....

    Robert Kinzinger, 48, is accused of arranging fraudulent credit card transactions while locked up in the county jail, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. [Courtesy of Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  13. Fight over building Lake Okeechobee reservoir shows how delay in Everglades restoration has hurt Florida


    The Everglades goes by several names. The Seminoles called it Pa-hay-Okee, meaning "grassy waters." Marjorie Stoneman Douglas dubbed it "the River of Grass."

    These days legislators are probably calling it the World's Biggest Headache.

    On the one hand, politically powerful Senate President Joe Negron wants to pass a bill that would acquire land owned by sugar companies to build a reservoir to hold excess water from Lake Okeechobee, using it to bring a better flow back to the Everglades....

    Last summer, water full of algae lapped along the shore of the St. Lucie River in Martin County after water was released from Lake Okeechobee.
  14. Manatees no longer classified as an endangered species, but still a threatened one


    Florida's most famous endangered species, the manatee, no longer deserves to be called endangered, say federal wildlife officials.

    They announced Thursday that they are dropping manatees from the endangered list and reclassifying them as merely threatened.

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took this momentous step the day after celebrating "Manatee Appreciation Day" on its social media accounts....

    Last year, 104 manatees were run over and killed by boaters in Florida, the first time that number has topped 100 since the state began tracking it in the 1970s.
  15. Federal officials: Manatees no longer classified as an endangered species


    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Thursday that the federal government are taking manatees — which have long been considered endangered since the first endangered species list came out in 1967 — down a notch to merely "threatened."

    Federal officials called it a success story for the Endangered Species Act. The action was driven by a lawsuit by the libertarian group Pacific Legal Foundation, representing a group in Crystal River that opposes new protections for manatees there....