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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. 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]
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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, at the mouth of Tampa Bay, is threatened by rising sea levels. In 1875, it was 50 percent larger, surveys show.
  5. 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
  6. 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....

  7. Against all odds, Florida Legislature approves Lake O reservoir bill, but will Congress do its part?

    Environment

    Against all odds, the bill to build a new reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to alleviate toxic algae blooms passed both houses of the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law Tuesday.

    Believe or not, the next step could be even harder: Convincing Congress to say yes, too....

    Boats docked at Central Marine in Stuart are surrounded by toxic algae blooms in June 2016. The Florida Legislature finally came together and passed a bill to build a new reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to alleivate the problem. But the next step may be even harder: Convincing Congress to pay for the other half of the $1.6 billion price tag. [The Palm Beach Post]
  8. Florida Forever? More like Florida Never after Legislature spends zero dollars on land-buying program

    Environment

    Once again, the Florida Legislature has turned the politically popular Florida Forever program into Florida Never.

    The budget that legislative leaders have approved — but which Gov. Rick Scott has yet to sign — calls for spending zero dollars on the Florida Forever program to buy up environmentally sensitive land.

    That's not what the voters had in mind when they approved Amendment 1 in 2014 by an overwhelming margin, environmental advocates say....

    Adams Ranch, a candidate for protection in 2015 within the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. Osceola County, Florida&#13;&#13;The Adams Ranch in Osceola County, bordering Lake Marian, is also part of the Everglades Headwaters National Conservation Area. Rural and Family Lands has funded conservation easements on more than 2,000 acres of the property, ensuring this land will never be developed. Additional easements from USFWS and Florida Forever could protect more of the 30,000-acre ranch. [CARLTON WARD JR.  /   Special to the Times]
  9. Pollution notice bill inspired by sinkhole passes Legislature

    Blog

    A bill irequiring industry and government to notify the public quickly of any pollution problems has passed both houses of the Legislature and is headed for Gov. Rick Scott. Scott, who called for the change in the law, will definitely sign it.

    The bill, SB 532, was inpsired by the sinkhole at Mosaic's Mulberry phosphate plant  and St. Petersburg's sewage disaster....

    An aerial of a massive sinkhole that opened up underneath a gypsum stack at a Mosaic phosphate fertilizer plant in Mulberry has dumped at least 215 million gallons of contaminated water into the Floridan aquifer.
  10. Pentagon wants to maintain current moratorium on offshore drilling in Gulf of Mexico

    Blog

    The Pentagon says maintaining the current moratorium on oil and gas activities in the Gulf of Mexico beyond 2022 is “essential for developing and sustaining our nation's future combat capabilities," according to a letter sent to U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach.

    The Department of Defense "cannot overstate the vital importance of maintaining this moratorium,” Anthony M. Kurta, the acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, wrote in the letter, released Monday by Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson's office....

    Last month marked the seventh anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
  11. Enviro groups join Tri-State Water War by suing Corps

    Blog

    Earthjustice, representing three environmental groups, has sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over its management of the river system at the heart of the long-running Tri-State Water Wars.

    The suit, filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the National Wildlife Federation, the Florida Wildlife Federation and the Apalachicola Riverkeeper, contends the Corps failled to properly protect the environment with its plan for managing  freshwater flows through the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River system in the coming decades....

    Apalachicola's oyster industry has been hurt by the battle over the river
  12. Catch a Florida python, win a T-shirt

    Wildlife

    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....

    This 13-foot-long Burmese python was captured in the 2013 &#8220;Python Challenge,&#8221; when more than 1,000 hunters caught just 68 snakes.
  13. USF scientists headed for Cuba to study what it looks like before any oil spills

    Water

    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 University of South Florida research vessel the RV Weatherbird II and its crew will head to Cuba to study what the Gulf of Mexico looked like before the 2010 BP oil spill disaster. They'll set sail May 9 and work with Cuban scientists. [SCOTT KEELER, Times]
  14. Deepwater Horizon: Seven years after explosion and oil spill, study finds cleanup workers got sicker

    Environment

    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....

    A Brown Pelican tries to raise its wings as it sits on the beach at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast after being drenched in oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in June 2010. An April 20, 2010 explosion at the offshore platform killed 11 men, and the subsequent leak released an estimated 172 million gallons of petroleum into the gulf. [Associated Press]
  15. No new Florida bear hunts until 2019, wildlife commission says, citing public opinion

    Wildlife

    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.