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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service presents honors awards to conservation partners

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service presents honors awards to conservation partners

Increasing the survival rate of frosted flatwood salamander larvae in Florida, protecting longleaf pine habitat for federally listed species like the gopher tortoise and eastern indigo snake, and spearheading Operation Herpsaspetz, to uncover an illegal scheme to capture, sell, and transport 750 North American Wood turtles worth nearly $345,000.

These are just a few of the many conservation efforts for which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southeast Region honored its partners and employees Regional Director’s Honor Awards marking extraordinary conservation accomplishments in 2015 and 2016.

“Many people and organizations have worked diligently behind the scenes to help conserve the Southeast Region’s fish, wildlife and plant diversity and the variety of habitats they depend upon,” said Cindy Dohner, the Service’s Southeast Regional Director.  “We commend their efforts and thank them.”

The following individuals and organizations received awards:


International Crane Foundation: Dr. Richard Beilfuss, President and Chief Executive Officer; Dr. Erica Cochrane, Conservation Measures Manager; Lizzie Condon, Whooping Crane Outreach Coordinator; Dr. Julie Langenberg, Vice President, Conservation Science, Baraboo, Wisconsin:  The International Crane Foundation (ICF) spearheaded a “Keeping Whooping Cranes Safe” campaign focused on reducing human-induced mortality of these highly endangered birds. This campaign was piloted in Alabama, an important wintering area for whooping cranes in the eastern migratory population. Through partnerships with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state, and non-government organizations, the ICF has produced radio and television public service announcements, billboards, workshops for kindergarten through high school teachers, outreach events, and even a whooping crane mascot to raise public awareness to the plight of these birds and the need to actively work for their recovery. ICF has been a key partner in expanding participation in the annual Festival of the Cranes held at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama for more than 3,000 attendees.


Nick Wiley, Executive Director, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Tallahassee:  Nick Wiley also is 2016-2017 President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.  He is a recognized leader-among-leaders in conservation across the nation.  Nick chaired the Federal-State Joint Task Force on Endangered Species Act (ESA) Policy, which recommended ways to strengthen the partnership between federal agencies and states in implementing the ESA. He led the development of a new kind of ESA Section 6 Agreement that allows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and FWC to avoid duplication in ESA permitting, and the FWC Imperiled Species Program, which gives the State of Florida a stronger authority for protecting species, thus preventing the need for them to be federally listed.   Nick provided several million dollars to the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee NWR to help control invasive exotic plants, such as melaleuca and lygodium, and invasive animals, including pythons and snakehead fish, all of which pose significant threats to migratory birds, listed and at-risk species, and other native wildlife. Nick also has partnered closely with the Service on NWRS land protection and managing of hunt programs, working towards common sense solutions on an array of controversial issues.

Alto “Bud” Adams Jr., Landowner of Adams Ranch, Inc., Fort Pierce:  Bud Adams’ cattle ranch has been actively operating for 76 years and is the 12th largest cow-calf ranch in the country. Bud’s influence and support as a leader in the ranching community were critical in the creation of the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge. To date, Bud has placed 663 acres in conservation easements as part of the refuge; 2,330 acres in the Florida Rural and Family Lands program; and he is working with the State of Florida on several thousand additional acres in easements. These lands will continue to conserve and protect important natural resources in South Florida in perpetuity.

Julie Morris, Florida and Gulf Coast Programs Manager, National Wildlife Refuge Association, Nocomis:  Julie Morris has been instrumental in establishing, building and maintaining high-trust relationships with stakeholders throughout the Everglades Headwaters landscape. She has brought together federal and state agency representatives, ranchers, sports men and women, and non-government organizations in a cooperative approach across key landscapes to protect valuable natural resources, connect wildlife corridors, and keep working lands working. Julie’s collaborative spirit has fostered a partnership approach that has added 30,000 acres in conservation easements to the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area since its establishment in 2012.

Dr. Frank Mazzotti, Professor, University of Florida, Davie: The Burmese python, Nile monitor lizard, and veiled chameleon are among the invasive species that are a threat to the South Florida landscape and to the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Dr. Mazzotti is an expert on invasive reptiles and a key player in efforts to prevent their introduction and to control their spread in South Florida. He is a leader in working extensively with local, state and federal agencies and private sector organizations and individuals to actively respond to this serious threat.

Julie Scardina, Corporate Director Animal Ambassador Programs SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Orlando:  Under the direction of Julie Scardina, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment turned the Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial into an environmental educational opportunity through in-park special events and social media outreach that engaged more than half a million people. SeaWorld’s communications gave people an understanding of the serious challenges migratory birds face and how we all benefit when birds thrive.  SeaWorld also has been an invaluable partner in the Service’s manatee conservation efforts rescuing 32 manatees and releasing 23 manatees in 2016.


St. Marks Frosted Flatwoods Salamander Research Team: Wildlife Biologist William Barichivich, Wildlife Biologist Katherine O’Donnell, Wildlife Biologist Susan Walls, Wetland and Aquatic Research Center U.S. Geological Survey, Gainesville: When surveys revealed a precipitous decline in frosted flatwoods salamanders on St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and across the species’ range, staff from the refuge and the U.S. Geological Survey took action with other partners and experts through a structured decision making workshop to address the needs of the salamander. William Barichivich, Katherine O’Donnell, and Susan Walls were instrumental in inventorying and monitoring population levels and developing a successful larval headstart program. The methods developed for this program have increased the survival rate of larvae.  The Team has worked successfully with partners and experts from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Panama City Ecological Services Field Office, the Apalachicola National Forest, The Nature Conservancy, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and Eglin Air Force Base to implement management techniques to conserve this species.

Florida Department of Transportation State Environmental Office: Marjorie Kirby, Administrator of State Environmental Programs; Xavier Pagan, Administrator of State Environmental Process, Tallahassee: Marjorie Kirby and Xavier Pagan have championed funding and support for two additional U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff members to work with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) on programmatic consultations and streamlining solutions for routine transportation projects, for projects and research to develop new approaches for protecting species and habitat, and for bold and innovative ideas to address species concerns and mitigation issues. They regularly coordinate at a statewide level with staff from the Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to ensure that species considerations are appropriately addressed and considered in project design allowing for enhanced species benefits and compatibility with road projects. Examples include the work they did with their District 1 FDOT staff on negotiating and installing State Road 80 underpasses and fencing to facilitate panthers and bears crossing under the widened sections of road, and funding/staff support for research on Perdido Key beach mouse crossings that will be considered in a multi-state bridge project. Both Majorie and Xavier were key participants in the GreenLinks project, a shared vision of landscape-level conservation priorities among partners in transportation planning in northwest Florida.


Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division: Dr. Jon Ambrose, Chief of Non-game Conservation, Social Circle; Matt Elliott, Program Manager of Non-game Conservation, Social Circle;  Steve Friedman, Chief Real Estate, Atlanta; Jason Lee, Program Manager Non-game Conservation, Brunswick; Brent Womack, Wildlife Biologist Game Management, Armuchee: The Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division has taken the lead on working with partners to establish new and expanded conservation lands at strategic locations across Georgia. As a result of the Division’s capability in partnering, planning, and application of best available science, thousands of acres that benefit federally-listed and at-risk species have been added to state-owned public lands. Examples include the expansion of the Paulding/Sheffield Forest Wildlife Management Area (WMA) to more than 15,000 acres providing open pine woodland for a variety of species and protecting the headwaters of the Etowah River, which is critical habitat for the endangered Etowah Darter and other listed pecies; significant efforts to expand the Lower Altamaha River conservation corridor creating greater connectivity with conservation lands from Georgia’s coast to the Okefenokee swamp and Fort Stewart, as well as, providing habitat for migratory birds, many listed and at-risk species, such as the southern hognose snake and Florida pine snake, and spawning areas for native fisheries; and the establishment of the Alapaha WMA that includes the state’s largest concentration of gopher tortoises.

Susan Meyers, Monarchs Across Georgia, Lilburn: Georgia Susan Meyers is a leader in conserving monarch butterflies and other pollinators through her hands-on work in schools and communities across the State of Georgia. She supported the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the expansion of the Rosalyn Carter Butterfly Trail, oversaw the funding and creation of 20 new monarch habitats in schools and community gardens, and led an effort that put native pollinator gardens in 50 state parks. She has taught 150 teachers the basics of monarch conservation and reached 50,000 students, parents and community members through her workshops and outreach events. Susan also was instrumental in connecting the Service with numerous other partners working to create, connect and conserve landscapes for monarchs and pollinators.

Reese Thompson, Landowner, Vidalia:  Reese Thompson has been a major contributor to the restoration of longleaf pine in the Southeast by the way he has managed his own lands and the model he has provided for other landowners. Reese has restored thousands of acres on his own land and been a champion for management of at-risk and listed species, such as the gopher tortoise and eastern indigo snake, demonstrating through actions that species can be conserved on working forests. Reese is a leader among private landowners, working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, the Longleaf Alliance, the Orianne Society, and Partners for Conservation to not only improve management on his property, but also to host field days to educate others and to advocate publicly for ecological restoration and public-private partnerships. Reese works closely with adjacent landowners to keep the larger forested landscape as forest. His knowledge and insight helped the Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service adapt conservation measures that are practical for landowners to implement under the Gopher Tortoise Working Lands for Wildlife Initiative.

Dan Forster, Director Government Relations, Archery Trade Association New Ulm, Minnesota:  As the past director of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division and past president of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Dan Forster has long been a guiding force in southeastern species and habitat conservation. Dan played a key role in land acquisitions for many listed species, including the indigo snake, red-cockaded woodpecker, and Etowah darter and at-risk species, including the gopher tortoise, gopher frog, and Florida pine snake, leveraging funds from multiple partners including the Department of Defense, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, industry, foundations, and private landowners to focus on shared conservation goals. Conservation along the Altamaha River is a great example of Dan’s leadership in restoring habitat connectivity and providing large corridors of habitat for various species. The Altamaha is the last major undammed river in Georgia that provides natural flood regimes and through Dan’s leadership over 100,000 acres of habitat along the lower Altamaha River has been conserved.


Louisiana Turtle Smuggling Investigative Team: Scotty Boudreaux, Special Agent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Lacombe; Brian Cazalot, Postal Inspector U.S. Postal Inspection Service New Orleans; David Haller, Assistant U.S. Attorney U.S. Attorney’s Office New Orleans; Greg Kennedy, Assistant U.S. Attorney U.S. Attorney’s Office New Orleans; Brian Lomonaco, Special Agent Department of Homeland Security, New Orleans:  Working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement, this team of investigators is recognized for their unparalleled dedication to the international fight against wildlife trafficking and smuggling. Through Operation Herpsaspetz, they identified and dismantled an unlawful scheme in which some 750 North American Wood turtles worth nearly $345,000 were illegally captured, sold and transported over a three-year period from Pennsylvania through Louisiana and California to a final destination in Hong Kong. The investigation led to the arrest and prosecution of American and international suspects for violations of the Lacey Act, and Endangered Species Act, smuggling, money laundering, using fictitious names and addresses, and conspiracy violations. So far, the prosecution phase has yielded six and a half years of incarceration, 25 years of probation, and $51,000 in fines and restitution, in addition to monetary seizures of $134,000.

North Carolina:

Jeff Fisher, Chief Executive Officer Unique Places, LLC Durham; Tim Sweeney, Principal/Manager 130 of Chatham, LLC, Cary: A strong partnership between Tim Sweeney, Jeff Fisher, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has led to significant contributions to the conservation of rare plants and other native fish and wildlife species in the Box Creek Wilderness National Heritage Area in North Carolina. Tim, with Jeff ’s assistance, has donated 6,000 acres of conservation easements to the Service, with another 1,000 acres underway, to permanently protect southern Appalachian mountain bog habitats, advance the conservation of at-risk species, and contribute to wildlife corridor connectivity with other protected lands in the state. Tim has also purchased 175 acres of endangered Virginia big-eared bat habitat, permanently protecting a significant maternity colony.


Ed Carter, Executive Director Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Nashville: As Executive Director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Ed Carter has set the bar for his visionary leadership and invaluable contributions in support of the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS). In recognizing the existing and projected massive landscape changes reshaping the Southeast’s aquatic and terrestrial habitats, Ed introduced a compelling vision whereby state fish and wildlife agencies engage partners in defining a conservation landscape of the future that sustains fish and wildlife. Ed led efforts to receive commitment and support from the 15 State Directors of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA), and the 12 federal agency leaders of the Southeast Natural Resource Leaders Group. His leadership also provided direction and support to the conservation science staff of six Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, the Southeast Climate Science Center, and the Southeast Aquatic Resource Partnership to achieve many significant accomplishments over the past five years. This enormous undertaking culminated in a SECAS Conservation Leadership summit convened at the 2016 SEAFWA Conference where state and federal leaders gathered to witness the amazing progress that has been made. Under Ed’s direction, the Leadership Summit participants helped to chart the course for the next five years.

Brett Dunlap, State Director U.S. Department of Agriculture, APHIS Wildlife Services Madison: Brett Dunlap was instrumental in developing a new program in Kentucky and Tennessee to meet stakeholder needs around livestock depredation while fulfilling Migratory Bird Treaty Act responsibilities for black vultures. Brett worked with the Farm Bureau, the livestock industry, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to craft a first-in-the-nation program that is being used as a model. It permits “take” of these migratory birds with authorization granted through the Farm Bureau, while at the same time establishes a process for consideration of non-lethal methods to resolve the problem. Brett played a major role in working with the livestock industry and various organizations that represent livestock producers to provide public awareness of the benefits of black vultures, as well as the non-lethal tools that could help the producers and minimize the need to take birds. To date, the program has helped more than 250 farmers and has resulted in a greater exchange of information.

Conservation Fisheries, Inc.: Pat Rakes, Co-Director, J. R. Shute, Co-Director, Knoxville: For more than two decades, Conservation Fisheries, Inc. (CFI) has dedicated itself to the preservation of aquatic diversity, providing critical data and technical assistance to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others for the protection and recovery of listed and imperiled fish species throughout the Southeast Region. CFI has worked with more than 60 species, developed propagation protocols, created and maintained “ark” populations of those most critically endangered fish, and reintroduced propagated animals back into their native habitats. Their work has led the way in helping populations of several imperiled species, such as the yellowfin madtom, smoky madtom and Citico darter and also helped focus restoration efforts in areas that benefit multiple species.

Gulf States:

Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Case Team: Dan Audet, Project Manager, National Park Service, Seattle, Washington; John Carlucci, Assistant Solicitor, Office of the Solicitor, Department of the Interior, Washington, DC., Kevin Chapman, Compliance Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta; Colette Charbonneau, Chief of Staff, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia; Clare Cragan, Attorney-Advisor,Office of the Solicitor, Department of the Interior, Lakewood, Colorado; Charman Cupit, Budget Analyst, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Jackson, Mississippi; Holly Deal, Attorney-Advisor, Office of the Solicitor, Department of the Interior Atlanta; Georgia; Benjamin Frater, Restoration Specialist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Fairhope, Alabama; James Haas, Chief Resource Protection Branch, National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado; Jon Hemming, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Fairhope, Alabama;  Amy Mathis, Natural Resource Planner, U.S. Forest Service, Prairie City, Oregon; Debora McClain, Deputy Case Manager, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Denver, Colorado; Ronald McCormick, Ecologist Bureau of Land Management, Washington, D.C.; Ashley Mills, Fish and Wildlife Biologist ,U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta, Georgia; Mark Van Mouwerik, Restoration Project Manager, National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado; Nanciann Regalado, Public Affairs Specialist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta, Georgia; Robin Renn, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Fairhope, Alabama; Kevin Reynolds, Case Manager, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta, Georgia; John Rudolph, Attorney-Advisor, Office of the Solicitor, Department of the Interior Washington, D.C.; Pam Rule, Program Analyst, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Knoxville, Tennessee; Gregory Steyer, Ecologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Amy Wisco, Program Analyst, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Lakewood, Colorado:  The Department of the Interior’s Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Case Team – composed of representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Office of the Solicitor – achieved extraordinary success in conservation following the catastrophic 2010 oil spill – the largest marine spill in U.S. history. Working together with state and federal partners on the Deepwater Horizon Trustee Council, this team helped lead the assessment of injuries to natural resources such as birds, fish, sea turtles and federally-managed lands while simultaneously creating and implementing a multi-faceted restoration program for the Gulf of Mexico. This collaborative approach across multiple bureaus within the Department of the Interior was extremely effective and efficient in providing clear, consistent and timely decisions and information and is considered a model for the Department’s engagement in future spills and other complex environmental challenges. This team’s efforts, from the completion of five Early Restoration Plans, which green-lighted $868 million dollars for restoration projects, to the completion of the Trustee’s Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan and Environmental Impact Statement, were pivotal in helping the United States and the five Gulf States reach the $20.8 billion global settlement with BP – the largest civil settlement in the history of the United States.


The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit fws.gov. Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr

Charles Murphy News 5/23

News Cast for May 23rd:

The Taylor Creek lock could close soon if the lake levels continue to recede. The lock is open on weekends only now.  The lake level is 11 point 16 feet. Water managers will close the lock once the lake dips below 11 feet. The only lock that would remain open around the lake would be the S-310 in Clewiston.

The city of Okeechobee could get 209 thousand dollars from the state budget this year for storm water conveyance work on South East 8th Street. The city also approved an over 82 thousand dollar contract to continue sidewalk rehabilitation work in the city. The mayor also proclaimed this week as Public Works Week.

Traffic citations issued by law men in Okeechobee decreased by 15 percent last year. DUI arrests were mostly stable dropping from 133 to 99.  Most of the dip in citations came from the highway patrol.  They wrote nearly 8 hundred fewer tickets last year in Okeechobee. City police saw a slight decrease from 1,229 citations to 1,176.

Glades County meanwhile had an over 30 percent increase in traffic tickets.  Most of that was due to more tickets written by the highway patrol, 2255. The Glades Sheriff’s office also picked up the pace with a 13 percent increase in traffic tickets.

An inspection of a boat found an occupant smoking methamphetamine at Nubbin Slough.  49 year old Dorothy Long of Fort Lauderdale was held on a felony charge Friday.

Deputies seized a pound of marijuana after a traffic stop related to a shooting in Avon Park on route 70 west.  The teens from Port St. Lucie, all underage, face felony charges.  The shooting victim in Avon Park declined to press charges.

The Florida commission on offender review holds an interview with one of Okeechobee’s most infamous criminals, the killer of a local teacher back in 1975.  The commission says the killer is not being considered for parole.

Sports Cast for May 23rd:

Hunter Sills took home the Brahman Award for boys’ cross country this year. He had a personal best, 1,722 seconds at the state finals this past fall. He says that was a great memory for him.

The cross-country team has gone to state in back to back years.

Sills says the Brahman Award was a great way to end his career.

Hunter plans to attend Indian River State College and transfer to the University of Florida to study horticulture research.

The annual Brahman baseball banquet will be held tonight at 6:30 in the High school cafeteria.


S-193 Lock at Taylor Creek to Close for Safety Reasons If Lake Okeechobee Falls Below 11 Feet

S-193 Lock at Taylor Creek  to Close for Safety Reasons If  Lake Okeechobee Falls Below 11 Feet 

Lake Okeechobee currently stands at 11.16 feet

West Palm Beach, FL  – If Lake Okeechobee levels fall below 11 feet, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) will close the S-193 navigation lock at Taylor Creek in Okeechobee County for safety reasons . The four other navigation locks on the north shore have been closed since the lake fell below 12 feet in April, while S-193 has been operating on a weekend only basis.
The imminent closure is a result of drought conditions that have reduced water levels in Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee Basin. Injury and lock damage could occur when boats pass through these structures at water levels below any of the designated safety limits.
Today, the water level in Lake Okeechobee is 11.16 feet:
  • OPEN WEEKENDS ONLY – Okeechobee County: S-193 structure, Taylor Creek.
  • CLOSED – Martin County: S-135 structure, J&S Fish Camp.
  • CLOSED – Okeechobee County: G-36 structure, Henry Creek
  • CLOSED – Glades County: S-127 structure, Buckhead Ridge.
  • CLOSED – Glades County: S-131 structure, Lakeport.
The S-193 lock at Taylor Creek in Okeechobee County will return to operations on Saturdays and Sundays between 5:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m when the lake returns to 11.51 feet. All other locks will reopen when the lake returns to 12.51 feet.


On the south shore, the S-310 lock at Clewiston in Hendry County will remain open even as low lake levels continue. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages the locks leading from the lake to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.


To get the latest information on Lake Okeechobee’s water volume, including daily levels, visit SFWMD’s website at www.sfwmd.gov/science-data/levels.


To get the latest information on navigation through SFWMD structures and waterways, visit www.sfwmd.gov/navigation.

Charles Murphy News 5/22

News Cast for May 22nd:

A Deputy shot and killed a man he was chasing in Yeehaw Junction Saturday night. Deputy John Stubbs stopped Carlos Garcia Petrovich on the Florida turnpike and Petrovich fled.  Stubbs later located him at the Pilot Gas Station on route 60. Stubbs allegedly chased after the man and a fight ensued where the deputy was bitten and attacked per the sheriff’s office. The Florida Department of law enforcement is investigating.

A lightning strike sparked a 145 acre brush fire north of Starvation Slough east of the Kissimmee River Saturday. No homes were threatened.

A large wild fire in North West Glades County burned for eight days but is now mostly contained.   The blaze spread to over 5 thousand acres at one point

The unemployment rate fell to 4.1 percent in Okeechobee in April, equal to the national average. Glades County reported 4.9 percent unemployment. Around the region Palm Beach had 3.9 percent, DeSoto 3.8 percent, Osceola 4.1 percent and Martin 3.9 percent.

Sports Cast for May 22nd:

Senior Carrie Wharin was honored with a four-year award for weight lifting and also for girls’ track. She was also honored for reaching regional in weight lifting.

She says the weight lifting helped her in track and volleyball. Wharin plans to study to become a teacher.

She says the sport of weight lifting is growing in popularity. Palm Beach Gardens defeated Glades Central 35-21 in the Raiders spring jamboree Friday night.

Moore haven lost to the Benjamin School 39-9 in their spring jamboree Saturday.

Delfino Mayorga kicked a field goal and Eric Hunter caught a touchdown pass for the Terriers.

South Fork softball lost in the state final 4 to Niceville 9-1.  Fort Myers High was the state champion in Class 7A.

There are no sports scheduled today.

Charles Murphy News 5/19

News Cast for May 19th:

The suspect in the disappearance of 9 year old Diana Alvarez faces 45 years in prison or child pornography possession after his conviction this week in federal court in Ft. Myers. 29-year-old Jorge Guerrero possessed illicit photos of the child on his cell phone. He also admitted to sexual activity with the child. Alvarez has been missing for nearly a year now.

A 16-year-old boy led Okeechobee deputies on a near 7 mile chase in a stolen car early Wednesday. Stop sticks slowed down a stolen BMW out of Martin County, the child was driving.  The car finally stopped near the Shrine Club on route 78. Deputies say speeds reached 110 miles per hour. The child faces grand theft auto, fleeing and attempting to elude and a host of traffic charges.

The city code board gave Jose Nunez of South West 11th Street 30 days to remove chickens and roosters on his property due to noise complaints. Resident Kari Berger has been asking the city for help since December. City code enforcement Chairman Jamie Gamiotea says if the problem isn’t solved the case can go to county court.

Sports Cast for May 19th: 

Demetrius Clark won the Co-MVP Award for Brahman basketball this year. The senior surpassed 1 thousand points for his career and averaged over 17 points a game, and 4.3 rebounds. He also helped the team qualify for regional play in back to back years. Clark says he never had to be pushed to play basketball.

He will continue his playing career at John Phillips College in Border Texas next year. He says he will have great memories of his playing days at OHS

Glades Day held off Miami LaSalle 29-22 in their spring classic football game last night.

Tonight Glades Central travels to Palm Beach Gardens for their spring game.

Moore Haven hosts their spring football game on Saturday at 6 pm.


P R E S S  R E L E A S E

Okeechobee County School District


MAY 17, 2017

Okeechobee County School District received recognition from the Florida Department of Education, Office of Healthy Schools, as a Gold level recipient of the Florida Healthy School District Award.  This award is for the period of May 2017 through April 2019 based on submission of the Florida Healthy School District Self-Assessment.  Okeechobee had received Silver recognition status during the 2015-2017 period and scored the additional points necessary to earn Gold for this period.   Every school had a Healthy School Committee that identified ways to promote the eight components of a healthy school on their campus.  The eight components on the self-assessment are:  Health Education, Physical Education, Health Services, Nutrition Services and Education, School Gardens, Counseling, Psychological and Social Services, Healthy School Environment, Health Promotion for Staff and Parent and Community Involvement.

Elementary students at one school participated in Brain Breaks, which incorporated activity into the instructional day.  Instead of sitting for an extended amount of time, students would stand up and move every few minutes, others participated in the Every Kid Healthy Week Challenge, planted vegetable gardens, or walked with pedometers to measure their steps.  Middle school and elementary students participated in the Track and Field events in a district-wide track meet.  The staff stepped up to the challenge also by participating in Zumba classes, using the district operated gym and a walking challenge.  Schools and departments across the district tracked their steps.  During the month of February, one hundred nineteen staff members from across the district participated in the Walking Challenge and logged twenty-three million steps.

Toni Wiersma, Director of Student Services, collaborated with Tiffany Collins, Administrator at Okeechobee Health Department, to support the school-based Healthy School teams to create opportunities for students and staff to participate in healthy activities. The schools and departments across the district worked to meet the requirements of the self-assessment.  The departments of Food Service, Maintenance, Grants and Special Programs, and Health Services managed projects that lead to outstanding scores in the following areas:

Health Services (88%) – Health Services remove health related barriers to attendance, performance and academic success.

Nutrition Services and Education (86%) – Children who are well nourished are able to achieve in school and healthful eating reduces the risk of life-long chronic health conditions.

Healthy School Environment (97%) – A healthy school environment reflects the physical plant as well as the social climate of the district, including safety, personal interaction and violence prevention.

Family and Community Involvement (96%) – Family and Community Involvement is key to garnering support and resources from community members and involving parents as partners.

Florida Coordinated School Health Partnership (CSHP) developed the Healthy Schools Award out of a desire to recognize and celebrate the hard work and success of school districts related to physical, mental and social health of students and staff.  The Assessment tool helps districts to determine how to remove health related barriers to learning and work toward being a Florida Healthy District.  Okeechobee County School staff and students embodied the goals of Healthy Schools Awards program and earned the highest level possible.  The Healthy Schools committees at each school are determined to meet the challenge of maintaining the Gold Level Award.

Gov. Scott: Florida Achieves Lowest Unemployment Rate in Almost a Decade

Gov. Scott: Florida Achieves Lowest Unemployment Rate in Almost a Decade

15,000 private sector jobs created in April

MIAMI, Fla. — Today, Governor Rick Scott announced that Florida’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.5 percent in April, the lowest since September 2007. Florida businesses also created 15,000 private-sector jobs in April, bringing the total number of new jobs added since December 2010 to 1,355,700. For more than five consecutive years, Florida’s annual private-sector job growth rate, which is 2.9 percent, has exceeded the nation’s rate, which is 1.7 percent. Governor Scott will make the announcement at the Miami International Airport and recognize LATAM Airlines, which has created more than 1,000 jobs for Florida families.

Governor Rick Scott said, “I am proud to announce that Florida has achieved the lowest unemployment rate in almost a decade at 4.5 percent. Florida businesses also created 15,000 new jobs during the month of April, which is further proof of our state’s continued economic growth. While Florida’s economy is on a roll, now is not the time to slow down our unrelenting efforts to bring more jobs and opportunities to our state.

“Businesses and site selectors have taken notice of the Florida Legislature’s decision to turn their backs on the incredible return on investment economic development programs like Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA have brought to our state. This is not only disappointing, but could put our future job creation efforts at risk. Even though our private sector job growth rate is exceeding the nation’s, it is currently lower than it has been over the past year. This is something we cannot ignore. We cannot allow Florida to fall behind after our years of successful growth. We will continue to work each day to fight for jobs so our state can become the number one place for families and businesses to succeed.”

As of April, Florida’s unemployment rate has dropped 6.2 percentage points since December 2010, while the national rate has declined by only 4.9 percentage points in the same time period. In the last year, 371,000 people entered Florida’s labor force, a growth of 3.8 percent, while the national labor force growth is only 0.8 percent.

Cissy Proctor, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, said, “Florida businesses have excelled over the past six years thanks to the policies of Gov. Scott and his administration. Unemployment continues to drop, private sector jobs are on the rise and Florida families are flourishing. We must not give up on our efforts to make Florida the best place to start and grow a business.”

Other positive economic indicators include:

  • Private-sector industries gaining the most jobs over-the-year were:
    • Professional and business services with 39,500 new jobs;
    • Trade, transportation, and utilities with 36,600 new jobs; and
    • Construction with 34,400 new jobs.
  • Florida job postings showed 244,758 openings in April 2017.
  • In April, Florida’s 24 regional workforce boards reported 19,033 Floridians, including 1,069 veterans, were placed in jobs.

To view the April 2017 employment data visit www.floridajobs.org/labor-market-information/labor-market-information-press-releases/monthly-press-releases

Commissioner Putnam Seeks Nominations for Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame

Commissioner Putnam Seeks Nominations for Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.– Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam today announced that the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame is now accepting nominations for the class of 2018. The Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame honors men and women who have made lasting contributions to Florida agriculture. More information, nomination forms and a list of past inductees are available at FloridaAgHallofFame.org. Nominations must be submitted by September 1, 2017.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services partners with the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame Foundation each year to recognize outstanding individuals nominated by Florida’s agricultural community. Inductees will be honored at the annual banquet during the Florida State Fair in February.

Nominations should be mailed to the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame at 100 South Mulrennan Rd., Valrico, Fla. 33594; Phone 813-230-1918.

Springtime spurs activity for Florida black bears, cubs

Springtime spurs activity for Florida black bears, cubs

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reminds the public to be aware that bears are becoming more active this time of year. There are important things people can do over the next few months to reduce negative interactions with Florida’s largest land mammal.

“Now is the time to expect bears to show up looking for food,” said Dave Telesco, who directs the FWC’s Bear Management Program. “If they can’t find food in your neighborhood, they’ll move on.”

With temperatures increasing, bears are out of their winter dens and are moving around in search of food. June also marks the beginning of black bear mating season in Florida. This causes bears to be more active as they search for potential mates.

Female bears that gave birth to cubs that were only 12 ounces at the end of January are beginning to move around more with their young, which may now be 5 to 10 pounds. As the cubs continue to grow, the family unit will roam and can be more visible to people.

While black bears generally are not aggressive, they have injured people in Florida. Never intentionally approach any bear. When walking dogs in bear country, keep them close to you – preferably on a non-retractable leash – and be aware of your surroundings. Dogs can trigger defensive behaviors from bears, especially females with cubs.

To keep bears away from your home and neighborhood, follow these simple tips:

  • Secure household garbage in a sturdy shed, garage or a wildlife-resistant container.
  • Put household garbage out on morning of pickup rather than the night before.
  • Secure commercial garbage in bear-resistant dumpsters.
  • Protect gardens, beehives, compost and livestock with electric fencing.
  • Encourage your homeowners association or local government to institute bylaws or ordinances to require trash be kept secure from bears.
  • Feed pets indoors or bring in dishes after feeding.
  • Clean grills and store them in a secure place.
  • Remove wildlife feeders or make them bear-resistant.
  • Pick ripe fruit from trees and remove fallen fruit from the ground.

It is illegal in Florida to intentionally feed bears or leave out food or garbage that will attract bears and cause human-bear conflicts.

As bears increase their movements this time of year, they also increase the number of roads they cross. For the safety of yourself and bears, remember to slow down when driving, particularly on rural highways at dawn or dusk. Watch for road signs identifying bear crossing areas. Each year in Florida, an average of 240 Florida bears are killed after being hit by vehicles.

Having conflicts with bears? Call one of the FWC’s five regional offices. Go to MyFWC.com/Contact, and click on “Contact Regional offices to find the phone number for your region. If you feel threatened by a bear or want to report someone who is either harming bears or intentionally feeding them, call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

More information is available at MyFWC.com/Bear, where you can access the “Guide to Living in Bear Country” brochure.

Help us help bears and other wildlife by purchasing the “Conserve Wildlife” tag at BuyaPlate.com

Charles Murphy News 5/18

News Cast for May 18th:

Okeechobee remembered fallen police officers Wednesday at the annual law enforcement memorial service. Sheriff Noel Stephen says the public should realize the protection law enforcement officers each day. There were 144 policemen killed in the line of duty last year in the nation.

Joshua Viray won his third Okeechobee schools spelling bee this week. The 6th grader at Osceola said the toughest word he spelled was in the first round. Viray wants to compete in the regional spelling bee again. His father Jeremiah, says his son works hard and sets high goals for himself. Aleska Cardona of Yearling was second and Chloe Soriano of Osceola was third.

Among arrests…

37 year old James Watkins was charged with failure to register as a sex offender after he moved in Glades County.

He was convicted of sexual misconduct with a minor in Indiana in 2 thousand 4.

35 year old Marvin Anderson of Moore Haven received one year in the highlands county jail for possession of cocaine with intent to sell near a church in Avon Park after a large gathering and disturbance last April.

An Okeechobee man had bones broken in his face after a brutal beating outside a local bar May 12th.  The victim had five plate put into his head.  Deputies are investigating.

Sports Cast for May 18th:

Okeechobee’s young defense got exposed to a bigger, faster and stronger Vero Beach but held their own against Sebastian River at last week’s jamboree. Defensive coordinator Tyrone Smith says he saw some bright spots. Williams had an interception in the Vero Beach game.

Coach Smith says the younger players were a little overwhelmed in their first high school game.

Moore Haven softball lost in the state 3A semifinals in a wild game to Lakeland Christian 9-7 Wednesday.

Moore Haven erased a 5-0 deficit with a six run rally in the fifth but couldn’t hole a 7-5 lead in the seventh as they finished the season with 18 wins.

Glades Day lost to Aucilla Christian of Monticello, 5-0 in the Class 2A state semifinals.

Spring football jamborees continue tonight as Glades Day hosts Miami LaSalle at 5:30 pm and Clewiston travels to Hollywood McCarthy at 6 pm.

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