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Why Protecting Nature Can Be Complex, IRNA on NPR, and more!

April 6, 2024 Weekly Newsletter

Manatees, Power Plants, and the Challenges of Protecting Nature

Florida's iconic manatees, affectionately known as "sea cows," are facing unique and complex conservation challenges. One area may surprise you! The push for cleaner energy – a crucial step toward fighting climate change – is inadvertently threatening the survival of a species that has come to rely on an unexpected source of warmth: power plant discharge waters.

In the cooler months, Florida's manatees seek out warm water to survive. Historically, they found this in natural springs. But over time, development altered habitats, leaving many manatees dependent on the warm water discharged from power plants. Places like Tampa Electric's Big Bend Power Station have become artificial winter refuges for these gentle giants.

This reliance reveals a paradox: the drive for cleaner energy, typically seen as entirely positive, could have unintended consequences for the manatees. If power plants transition away from fossil fuels, these warm-water havens could disappear.

This isn't the only challenge facing manatees. Pollution and habitat loss, including devastating seagrass die-offs in the Indian River Lagoon, have put enormous pressure on the species. The potential loss of warm water from power plants adds another layer of complexity.

Conservationists are now seeking to find alternative warm-water sites. This means exploring ideas like artificial warm-water refuges and restoring access to natural springs. These are costly and complicated initiatives, showing how interconnected the problems facing our natural world often are.

The case of the manatees highlights the challenge of balancing sometimes conflicting environmental goals. Both protecting manatees and moving to cleaner energy are vital conservation efforts. Yet, sometimes, actions taken to achieve one goal can unexpectedly undermine another.

This situation mirrors the complexities within many environmental issues – well-intentioned actions can have far-reaching, unforeseen consequences. It challenges us to think beyond immediate solutions and consider the broader web of impacts across entire ecosystems.

Florida's manatees remind us that conservation is rarely simple. Protecting nature demands a deep understanding of complex problems, collaboration between various stakeholders, and a willingness to address these challenges with innovation and funding. We must learn to balance our human needs with the needs of the natural world, finding solutions to protect species while pursuing a sustainable future.


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Together, we're weaving a tapestry of positive change, stitching a brighter future for Indian River County. Your support is the thread that binds us, making our vision a reality. Every contribution, big or small, is an investment in our collective well-being. Thank you for being a vital part of the movement.



We're excited to share that the IRNA was recently featured on WQCS's radio show, "In Focus"! It was a great experience, and we're thankful to Kevin Kerrigan, a new subscriber to our newsletter, for being such a fantastic host.

During the interview, we talked about IRNA's work to protect clean water and healthy waterways in Indian River County. Kevin asked insightful questions that let us explain the challenges we face and the different ways we're working to make a difference.

Big thanks to Kevin and WQCS for putting together a great show and giving us the chance to share our passion for the environment with the Treasure Coast community.

If you missed the live show, you can still catch the recording here. We had a blast, and we hope you'll enjoy listening!


A baby manatee somehow got separated from its mom in a Florida canal. Rescuers used a net to bring the mammal onto the shore. Then, they used a towel to drag the manatee, weighing between 60-70 pounds, through the grass and into a van. The tub filled with water was too small for the manatee, so it was laid flat on the van floor before being transported to Sea World for rehabilitation.


Joy of Discovery with Young Explorers (Vero Beach Magazine) - Saint Edward's School ecology students are participating in a hands-on research project at the Jones Pier Conservation Area, gaining scientific field experience and a deeper appreciation for the Indian River Lagoon's biodiversity.

New facility to generate renewable natural gas in Indian River County (TCPalm) - Indian River County will earn $400,000 annually by partnering with Nopetro Renewables, who will build a $40 million facility to convert landfill gas into renewable natural gas for consumers and clean-air vehicles.

Council wants more input on Three Corners (Vero News) - The Vero Beach City Council decided to personally meet with developers for the Three Corners project, altering the initial plan which exclusively involved a selection committee, highlighting the council's desire for direct involvement and oversight in the developer selection process.

Mindful of turtles, dune replenishment plows ahead (Vero News) - Despite starting late in the season, the dune replenishment project is making progress while employing careful sea turtle monitoring to minimize disruption to the nesting season.

Wave park, racetrack, thousands of homes to double Fellsmere populace? (TCPalm) - The city of Fellsmere is poised for significant population growth in the next five years due to a surge in new development projects, potentially doubling its current population.

Man in Stuart killed by Brightline train Monday crossing tracks (TCPalm) - In Stuart a man was fatally struck by a Brightline train after reportedly slipping past lowered crossing arms and stepping onto the tracks.

Railroad crossing safety: Florida signal activation failure statistics (TCPalm) - Railroad crossing signal malfunctions are rare on the Treasure Coast, but concerned citizens can report issues like failed activations using the Emergency Notification System (ENS) sign posted at each crossing.


Incredible Edible Native Plants: Discover Florida's Delicious Flora

Did you know your yard might be full of hidden culinary treasures? Join Stacey Matrazzo, executive director of the Florida Wildflower Foundation, on April 8th at 6 p.m. at the North County Public Library to learn about the amazing edible and medicinal qualities of Florida's native plants. You might find a whole new appreciation for those backyard "weeds"!

About the Speaker

Stacey Matrazzo is a passionate advocate for Florida's wildflowers and native plants. She holds degrees in environmental studies and is a certified Florida master naturalist. With 15 years of experience leading plant hikes, she's an expert on Florida's flora. The Florida Wildflower Foundation works tirelessly to preserve and promote native wildflowers. Learn more about their important work and how you can help at


Deep Dive: If the STAs were reserved for lake water, Lake O might be below 13 feet now ( - The South Florida Water Management District could significantly lower Lake Okeechobee's water level and reduce harmful estuary discharges by sending more lake water to Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs) instead of primarily using them to clean polluted runoff from the Everglades Agricultural Area.

Is $25 million for FGCU water quality study a boon or a boondoggle? (James' Blog) - The recent $25 million grant to Florida Gulf Coast University's Water School for water quality research has spurred debate, with some seeing it as a chance to address known pollution issues and others fearing it's a distraction tactic to delay meaningful environmental action.

DeSantis’ office quietly backed Florida ban on wind energy (WLRN) - Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' office played a behind-the-scenes role in crafting legislation that bans offshore wind turbines in state waters.

Jane Goodall’s legacy of empathy, curiosity, and courage (Grist) - Jane Goodall's life and work offers a legacy of hope and inspiration, centered around the idea that every individual can make a difference in the world.

Miami-Dade tweaks code to avoid flooding the homes next door (Miami Herald) - Miami-Dade is updating its building code to ensure new elevated construction doesn't exacerbate flooding on neighboring properties.

The end of single-family-only home suburbs? Miami-Dade zoning rule impact could be ‘sweeping’ (Miami Herald) - A Miami-Dade zoning rule change aims to increase housing density in single-family areas, potentially impacting the character of these neighborhoods.

US saw huge growth in solar and wind power over the last decade (Grist) - Solar and wind energy have grown rapidly in the US over the past decade and now account for nearly a quarter of the nation's electricity.


Empowering Change Through Education and Communication

It can sometimes feel like the fight for our environment is the work of scientists, advocates, and experts alone. However, each of us plays a vital role! It all begins with educating ourselves. The more we learn about issues, the more we understand its causes, its impact, and what we can do.

The next step is critical: sharing what we've learned. Did you know that family and friends are often seen as the most trusted sources of information on climate change? That outranks even scientists! This makes casual conversations, sharing resources, and open discussions with loved ones some of the most powerful tools we have.

It's a cycle! Educating yourself empowers you to educate others. The more we all share our knowledge, the greater the ripple effect of awareness throughout our communities.


UN weather agency issues 'red alert' on climate change after record heat, ice-melt increases in 2023 (AP News) - A new World Meteorological Organization report highlights record-breaking climate extremes in 2023 and warns that global efforts to limit warming are increasingly inadequate.

Struggle to SURVIVE (Fort Myers Florida Weekly) - Florida manatees face an ongoing struggle for survival as efforts to restore seagrass beds and address other threats continue.

Court approves 3M multi-billion dollar settlement over PFAS in public drinking water systems (CBS) - 3M will begin paying billions of dollars to US public drinking water systems contaminated with PFAS chemicals as part of a recently-approved settlement.

PFAS Is an Almost Impossible Problem to Tackle—and It’s Probably in Your Food (Inside Climate News) - The widespread presence of PFAS chemicals in sewage sludge used as fertilizer poses a serious threat to food safety and public health.

The Biden Administration Adds Teeth Back to Endangered Species Act Weakened Under Trump (Inside Climate News) - The Biden Administration restored protections for endangered and threatened species that were rolled back under Trump, reintroducing measures against economic considerations in listing decisions and acknowledging climate change as a threat.

International Court Issues First-Ever Decision Enforcing the Right to a Healthy Environment (Inside Climate News) - In a landmark decision, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that Peru is responsible for the harm caused to residents of La Oroya by pollution from a metallurgical complex and must take steps to remedy the environmental damage and provide medical care to victims.

Discovery Could End Global Amphibian Pandemic (Environmental News Network) - Scientists have discovered a virus that infects the fungus responsible for a devastating global amphibian pandemic, potentially offering a way to save frog and toad species.

Bird Flu Is Picking its Way Across the Animal Kingdom—and Climate Change Could Be Making it Worse (Inside Climate News) - The current highly pathogenic strain of bird flu (H5N1) is spreading rapidly across farmed and wild animal populations, with climate change and environmental destruction potentially contributing to the severity of the outbreak.

With States Leading on Climate Policy, New Tools Peer Into Lobbying ‘Black Box’ (Inside Climate News) - Brown University's Climate and Development Lab launches, a novel online tool offering insights into lobbying efforts on state-level legislation, aiming to enhance transparency in environmental policy-making.


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