Manatees frolic painting by Christopher Still
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BP Trial Continues: Local Groups Look at Restoration Efforts

A federal judge has refused to grant a motion releasing BP from charges of gross negligence meaning the oil company could be liable for fines of nearly $20 billion following the 2010 oil spill that killed 11 employees and dumped more than four billion gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Even with no end in sight for the trial, local organizations have been working to determine how funds can be spent to restore ecosystems across the Gulf of Mexico, including those not directly affected by the oil spill. The three National Estuary Programs on Florida’s Gulf Coast are working with local governments to compile a joint list of priority restoration projects (See Bay Soundings, Fall 2012).

The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council will develop a comprehensive restoration plan, depending upon funds available from the BP fines. A preliminary list is available online at

TBEP Announces 2013 Mini-Grant Winners

The Tampa Bay Estuary Program recently awarded $104,463 to 20 community groups for projects that directly involve citizens in restoring and improving Tampa Bay. This year, special $10,000 awards for in-the-ground habitat restoration projects also were available, thanks to a matching grant from the Tampa Bay Environmental Fund.

Funds for the Mini-Grant program come from sales of the Tampa Bay Estuary license plate — also known as the "Tarpon Tag."

Hillsborough County grants include:

  • $4,998 to the East Lake Park Homeowners watershed education and wetlands treatment project
  • $10,000 to the Ecosphere Restoration Institute for Ulele Springs, Tampa’s first source of drinking water
  • $5,000 to Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful for “Live It, Love It, Preserve It!,” educational presentations on environmental topics
  • $5,000 to Lowry Park Zoo for a 200-gallon invasive marine species exhibit housing aquatic invaders such as lionfish, green mussels and Mayan cichlids
  • $3,302 to Dowdell Middle Magnet School for Camping by the Bay, for 40 students in four trips to the Hillsborough River State Park Youth Camp
  • $4,915 to Community Stepping Stones for Beautiful Building Blocks: Food Web, an art exhibit that highlights the intricate details of the marine food web
  • $5,000 to Sierra Club Inner City Outings which will bring at-risk, inner-city youth to Crystal Springs Preserve to learn about habitats, ecosystems and food webs.

Manatee County awards include:

  • $4,850 to Around the Bend Nature Tours, for low-impact development field trips focused on new pathways for stormwater
  • $5,000 to Manatee School for the Arts for a biology education program, field trips and labs
  • $4,500 to Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch for Flippers and Feathers, an education booklet emphasizing ways in which residents and visitors can protect turtles and birds
  • $5,000 to Audubon of Florida to design and print a boating and angling guide to Terra Ceia Bay and Lower Tampa Bay.

Pinellas County awards include:

  • $3,474 to the Clearwater Audubon Society to build a floating wooden raft for least terns at Honeymoon Island State Park
  • $10,000 to Pinellas County Parks and Conservation Resources to recreate 75 feet of shoreline habitat at Fort DeSoto Park’s North Beach
  • $4,632 to Friends of Boyd Hill Nature Preserve for a survey that will use biological data on gopher tortoises and eastern indigo snakes to guide habitat restoration efforts
  • $4,898 to Pinellas County Department of Environment and Infrastructure’s Watershed Management Section for the Lealman Water Quality Education Initiative, including materials translated into Vietnamese to help prevent pollution of nearby Joe’s Creek
  • $3,000 to The Pier Aquarium for Monitoring Madeira: Synergism of Science to Foster Tampa Bay which allows students at Madeira Beach Fundamental Middle School to monitor water quality
  • $4,938 to the Florida Turtle Conservation Trust to create a demand for blue crabs caught in crab pots using bycatch reduction devices (BRDs) that allow diamondback terrapins — a shy estuarine turtle found in Tampa Bay — to escape unharmed
  • $4,202 to Riviera Bay Civic Association for Operation Healthy Water
  • $10,000 to Tampa Bay Watch, Inc. to create 650 linear feet of oyster shell shoreline at Elnor Island.
  • Region-wide awards include:
  • $1,750 to Keep Pinellas Beautiful for its “Adopt an Intracoastal Island Maintenance Program” to remove debris too large to be handled by kayakers.

Applications for the 2014 mini-grants must be completed by Oct. 1. For more information, visit

Gopher Tortoise Grant Now Available

The Gopher Tortoise Council has established an environmental education grant to support educators and organizations committed to developing educational projects about the gopher tortoise and the fascinating world in which it lives. The grant also honors Donna June Heinrich, an environmental educator whose life was dedicated to conserving wildlife and their associated habitats.

Deadline for 2013 applications is August 31. Applications may be downloaded from Applications which contain the following will be given preference:

  • Projects that reach diverse and new audiences
  • Projects that focus on the importance of the conservation of intact upland ecosystems
  • Projects that encourage community involvement
  • Projects that have matching funds.

For more information, contact George L. Heinrich at

Paddling Group Creates Environmental Toolkit Training

A “light” version of the Florida Master Naturalist program is now available to groups of 10 or more through the Florida Paddling Trails Association (FPTA).

“We want to help people interact positively with nature — to explore with purpose,” notes Hank Brooks, a Safety Harbor resident and founding president of FPTA. “Once people learn to respect habitats — and the wildlife that depends upon them — they’ll take better care of the environment.”

The program includes two half-day sessions: four hours of interactive classroom instruction followed by a three-hour paddle or walk the next day. The cost is $20 for non-members and includes a laminated wildlife guide. For more information, visit or contact