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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. Florida water agency says it's OK to cut river flow 5%

    Blog

    Despite strong public opposition, the board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District voted unanimously Tuesday to allow so much pumping from the aquifer that it could lower the flow of the Rainbow River by 5 percent.

    The vote, taken after four hours of testimony, sets a "minimum flow" for the river, which is popular with tubers, rafters, canoeists and kayakers.  (See video.)...

  2. Iowa senator wants answers on Florida ALF sex tape

    Blog

    The case of a Florida assisted living facility employee who was charged with shooting video of two residents having sex and posting it on Snapchat has caught the attention of Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley....

  3. Florida panther kittens found north of Caloosahatchee River for first time in decades

    Wildlife

    Last year, state wildlife biologists said that they had spotted what they believed to be a female panther north of the Caloosahatchee River for the first time since 1973, a promising sign for the future of an endangered species that has been cooped up in the state's southwestern region for decades.

    But they couldn't be sure of that unless the panther had kittens.

    Now they're sure....

    Caption: &#9;Florida Fish and Wildlife  Panther Kitten   This was one in a series of photos that verified the presence of a nursing female and at least two panther kittens north of the Caloosahatchee River in southwest Florida. These kittens are presumed to be the offspring of the first wild female panther documented north of the river since 1973.  Credit: &#9;Florida Fish and Wildlife
  4. MMA fighter charged with critically injuring USF student on St. Patrick's Day

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — A University of South Florida engineering student got into a fight with three men on St. Patrick's Day. One punched him. The student fell and hit his head on the pavement outside Detroit Liquors, at the corner of Central Avenue and Second Street downtown.

    Now he lies in the hospital with life-threatening injuries.

    Police spent a week trying to track down who hit Brian Neal, 26, who is in his third year of studies. They found surveillance video and spread it on social media. ...

    Zachary Kenneth Allen, right, is seen in this undated promotional poster from Facebook.com. Police arrested Allen, of Largo on charges he punched and critically injured a University of South Florida Tampa engineering student on St. Patrick???&#130;??&#132;?s Day. Brian Neal, 26, is still in the hospital with life-threatening injuries.
  5. Woman charged with recording ALF residents having sex and sharing it on Snapchat

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — An employee of an assisted living facility secretly recorded video of two residents having sex together last year and posted it on social media because she found it amusing, Pinellas County sheriff's deputies said Wednesday.

    Alexis Gloria Rebecca Williams, 20, of St. Petersburg, was charged with one count of video voyeurism and one count of video voyeurism dissemination. Williams was a medical assistant at the Bristol Court Assisted Living Facility at 3479 54th Avenue N....

    Alexis Gloria Rebecca Williams is charged with video voyeurism.
  6. Body found off Shell Key identified as missing Chinese student

    Accidents

    ST. PETE BEACH — Authorities have recovered the body of the missing Chinese college student who jumped from a charter boat last week and was swept into the Gulf of Mexico along with another man.

    A boater found the body of Jie Luo, 21, shortly before 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday floating in Bunces Pass, just south of Shell Key Preserve. Pinellas County sheriff's Marine Unit deputies recovered the body and were able to identify him as the missing charter boat passenger....

  7. Joe Negron's Lake Okeechobee bill could decide Enterprise Florida's fate

    Blog

    ST. PETERSBURG — The success or failure of Florida Senate President Joe Negron’s signature issue — building a reservoir on sugar-owned land south of Lake Okeechobee — may boil down to what happens to Gov. Rick Scott’s signature issue, saving Enterprise Florida.

    That’s the take from Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, who spoke to the Tampa Bay Times editorial board on Tuesday....

    Water full of algae laps along the Sewell's Point shore on the St. Lucie River under an Ocean Boulevard bridge last year during the toxic algae blooms that affected Lake Okeechobee.
  8. Pinellas sheriff: Body identified as one of two men who disappeared into Gulf of Mexico last week

    Accidents

    ST. PETERSBURG — The body found off Egmont Key on Monday was identified as Andrew Charles Dillman, 27, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, who was one of two men who disappeared last week they were swept into the Gulf of Mexico. A boater reported seeing the body floating in the water around 2 p.m., deputies said, about three miles west of Egmont Key.

    Dillman was a crew member aboard the Jaguar, a 71-foot vessel chartered by college students, who jumped into the water on Tuesday to rescue Jie Luo, a 21-year-old Chinese student studying at Colorado State University. Both ended up being carried away by the fast flowing tide in Pass-a-Grille Channel....

    The 71-foot charter boat that two passengers disappeared from in rough waters off Pass-A-Grille Channel on Tuesday evening is the Jaguar, which is operated by FYC Yachts in St. Petersburg. The search and rescue mission became a recovery operation on Friday. Deputies said Monday that a body was found off Egmont Key but did not say if it was connected to the missing men. [SCOTT KEELER  |  Times]
  9. Environmental groups sue federal agencies over effects of phosphate mining

    Wetlands

    Four environmental groups filed suit Wednesday against the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for authorizing 50,000 acres of phosphate mining in central Florida that the groups said violates the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.

    The suit, filed in Tampa federal court, takes aim at the two federal agencies over their approval of three new mines and the expansion of a fourth one in Manatee, Hardee and DeSoto counties....

    An aerial of a massive sinkhole that earlier this month opened up underneath a gypsum stack at a Mosaic phosphate fertilizer plant in Mulberry dumped at least 215 million gallons of contaminated water into the Floridan aquifer in August. Concerns about that sinkhole, in part, promoted environmental groups to sue federal agencies in federal court over the effects of phosphate mining. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  10. With no EPA, is Rick Scott's DEP up to the job?

    Blog

    The leader of President Trump's Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, wants to hand much of its duties back to the states. That would put the job of protecting Florida's natural bounty almost entirely in the hands of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

    That raises the question: Is DEP up to the job?

    In the six years since Rick Scott was elected governor in 2011, the size of the state agency charged with protecting the environment has shrunk by more than 600 employees, dropping from about 3,500 to 2,900....

    Michael Castle, a park ranger at Hillsborough River State Park and Gov. Rick Scott check to see if a campground at Hillsborough River State Park was ADA compliant in 2012. The governor wanted to see what a day in the life of a park ranger was like. Now Scott's Department of Environmental Protection, which runs the state's parks, may have to take on more environmental duties if the federal Environmental Protection Agency is diminished
  11. If the EPA goes away, is the state up to the job of protecting Florida's environment?

    Environment

    The leader of President Donald Trump's Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, wants to hand much of its duties back to the states. That would put the job of protecting Florida's natural bounty almost entirely in the hands of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

    That raises the question: Is DEP up to the job?

    In the six years since Rick Scott became governor in 2011, the size of the state agency charged with protecting the environment has shrunk by more than 600 employees, dropping from about 3,500 to 2,900....

  12. For a Better Florida: Liquid heart of Florida is in trouble and Legislature split on what to do

    Essays

    The liquid heart of Florida is in trouble. It's causing problems for both coasts.

    And the two houses of the Legislature have very different ideas about how to fix the problem. The situation pits two of the state's main industries against each other — coastal tourism versus rural agriculture.

    The basic problem is one that's been around for years. Lake Okeechobee, the second-largest freshwater body in the United States, is full of pollution that feeds toxic algae blooms. ...

    Algae laps along the shoreline of the St. Lucie River last year, when heavy rains forced the release of tainted water from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie esturaries. The releases spawned massive blue-green algae blooms. The House and Senate have very different ideas about how to solve the problem.
  13. Florida could allow timber harvesting at two parks, including Sarasota's Myakka State Park

    Environment

    Two years after officials first talked of boosting the moneymaking efforts of the state park system, a pair of parks are finally going to try it.

    State officials have proposed allowing timber harvesting in one, Myakka River State Park near Sarasota. They have proposed allowing timber harvesting and cattle grazing in another, Savannas Preserve State Park in Port St. Lucie.

    In each case, a draft management plan for the park said those moneymaking uses have now been found to be "compatible with the park's primary purpose of resource-based outdoor recreation and conservation."...

    Timber harvesting might soon be coming to Myakka River State Park.   [Times files]
  14. Blink and you'll miss the old attractions of Florida, disappearing fast

    Human Interest

    I know I wasn't the only one bummed out last month by the news that Florida's version of Stonehenge, the Airstream Ranch, was being torn down.

    Now the only cool stuff left to look at when you're stuck in a massive traffic jam on Interstate 4 are Dinosaur World and the Mickey Mouse power pole. Oh, and whatever crazy thing is happening in the car next to you — drivers shaving, flossing, loading their guns; you know, the usual....

    The Airstream Ranch along Interstate 4 in Dover was taken down last month to make way for an RV dealership.
  15. Annual Florida manatee count breaks record for third year in a row

    Wildlife

    For the third year in a row, the annual attempt to count the manatees swimming in Florida's waterways has broken the previous year's record. Scientists reported finding 6,620 manatees this year, up from the 6,250 last year and 6,063 the year before.

    During cold weather at the end of January and the beginning of February, a team of 15 observers from 10 organizations flew around looking for manatees huddled together at power plants and in springs. ...

    Manatees swim in Kings Bay in Citrus County. Douglas R. Clifford  |  Times