Fall 2009
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Alumnus takes on issue of Florida’s vanishing wetlands in book
By Chase Jenkins

Craig Pittman

A new book co-authored by Troy University Alumnus Craig Pittman examines how the laws meant to protect the nation’s wetlands from urban development have failed.

In Paving Paradise: Florida’s Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss, Pittman and fellow investigative reporter Matthew Waite chronicle the loss of more than 80,000 acres of Florida wetlands to development and how the regulations meant to protect them have proven more illusion than law.

“The federal government is spending millions of dollars of the taxpayers’ money on programs that are supposed to protect wetlands—but they don’t,” Pittman said. “Instead, the program is set up to make it easy to get around the rules and wipe out more and more wetlands each year.”

Pittman, a native of Pensacola, FL, is no stranger to tackling tough environmental topics in print. Since 1998, he has reported on environmental issues for Florida’s largest newspaper, the St. Petersburg Times.

In 2004, he won the Waldo Proffitt Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism in Florida for a series of stories revealing a plan by Florida’s business leaders to transfer water from North Florida to booming South Florida.

He shared the 2007 Proffitt Award with Waite for the series Vanishing Wetlands, which the two have expanded into Paving Paradise. The book was published in March by the University Press of Florida.

Pittman and Waite analyzed satellite imagery to figure out just how many of Florida’s swamps and marshes have been covered over in concrete. They found that between 1990 and 2003, during the same time that official federal policy called for no net loss of wetlands, 84,000 acres of Florida wetlands were covered over by pavement and other urban development.

The book also explains a 12-step program that could ensure a detailed account of wetland protection in Florida.

Pittman, a 1981 graduate, honed his skills as reporter while a student at TROY as a member of the Tropolitan student newspaper.

“I had some truly superb teachers at TROY, including Professor Wagnon in the journalism department and Dr. Mitchell in philosophy and religion,” Pittman said. “They taught me a lot about how the world really works, and the importance of telling the truth at all costs.”

Pittman is now at work on a second book, titled Manatee Insanity: Inside the War Over Florida's Most Famous Endangered Species, slated for publication in 2010.

Jenkins, who graduated in August, served as an intern in the office of university relations during the summer 2009 semester.

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