NATURAL RESOURCE CONSERVATION AND MANAGEMENT [ NRC ]
The county’s natural environment serves many functions contributing to the quality-of-life for residents and visitors. The protection of natural resources, which comprise the County’s ecological system, serve to preserve critical plant and animal habitats. It contributes to the community’s air and water quality; helps minimize flooding; offers unique character to a highly urbanized area; and provides parks, preserves and aquatic resources. The natural resource characteristics of Pinellas County are part of its general branding and significantly contribute to tourism and the local economy. Responsible land planning decision are essential to protect the County’s natural resources and promote resiliency from natural disasters and human-made impacts. The Natural Resource Conservation and Management chapter establishes polices help to preserve and enhance these valuable resources.’
- Reduce, reuse and recycle. Prevent pollution, save energy and help sustain natural resources for future generations.
- Throw it in the tackle box! Discarded fishing line can be a serious threat to birds and aquatic life like sea turtles and manatees.
- Skip the straw! Avoid single-use plastics when you can, reuse and properly dispose of or recycle them when you can’t.
- Give nesting, feeding, and resting birds much needed space! Coastal waterbirds nest, rest, and feed on our beaches and need us to share the shore.
- Help reduce the carbon footprint by biking to work.
- Getting into the aluminum recycling habit is one of the best things you can do for the environment. There’s no limit to how many times they can be recycled. Used aluminum cans are recycled, filled and put back on the shelf in just six weeks.
Goals, Objectives, Policies & Strategies
(Please see the strikethrough/underline revisions to the Goals, Objectives, Policies & Strategies, that include changes made since the initial posting.)
BE A LEADER IN ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP, SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES AND ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION.
Exemplify, promote and apply environmentally sustainable principles, programs and practices that support a more resilient community.
Promote (re)development that demonstrates a commitment to sustainability and resiliency.
Utilize the Land Development Code to promote sustainability, including:
- Advance the net reduction of impervious surfaces;
- Maximize and restore natural floodplain functions;
- Apply innovative stormwater management techniques through the implementation of the Pinellas County stormwater manual;
- Restrict and mitigate any adverse impacts to wetlands;
- Encourage and incentivize energy efficiency;
- Encourage and incentivize adaptive reuse of existing structures;
- Encourage and incentivize the use of renewable energy sources;
- Encourage and incentivize the use of Florida Friendly Landscaping™ 1 principles;
- Encourage and incentivize the retention of mature and native urban tree canopy and replanting of trees removed for development.
- Encourage and incentivize electric vehicle charging station infrastructure development; and
- Recognize and respond to potential long-term changes to floodplain conditions due to climate change and sea level rise.
Use development agreements to promote quality environmental site and building design.
County facilities and operations shall be a model for energy efficiency, sustainable design, waste reduction and recycling initiatives.
All new and remodeled County facilities shall be constructed to meet nationally recognized green building standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) or a similar County-endorsed program.
Develop a plan and schedule to ensure that all County-leased facilities are energy and water efficient.
All new or redeveloped County properties shall:
- Incorporate Florida Friendly Landscaping™ materials and designs including low flow irrigation;
- Use green infrastructure design principles to address stormwater management needs and to model innovative techniques;
- Consider resiliency in siting, design and construction;
Evaluate back up power sources;
- Evaluate renewable energy options;
Provide adequate space and receptacles for recycling; and
Evaluate the inclusion of infrastructure for electric vehicle charging.
Implement enhancements to the County’s purchasing policy that promote energy efficiency and sustainable standards and practices.
Provide training and technical assistance to County employees regarding energy efficient operations and practices.
Develop and implement a phased plan to transition the County fleet to electric vehicles and other alternatives that increase fuel efficiency, reduce emissions and minimize dependency on fossil fuels.
Protect, restore, enhance and manage environmental lands and resource-based parks in perpetuity.
Exercise stewardship of environmental lands and resource-based parks to:
- Maximize ecological, hydrological and open space value;
- Protect, conserve and restore natural ecosystems and native wildlife; and
- Contribute to a net environmental and ecosystem benefit.
Identify environmental lands and resource-based parks in need of land management plans.
Develop and implement land management plans for environmental lands and resource-based parks to conserve, restore, enhance and protect natural resources.
Strengthen municipal, not-for-profit, and volunteer partnerships to develop and implement land management plans.
Interdepartmental coordination on parks and environmental lands acquisition shall pursue the acquisition of environmental lands and resource-based parks with ecological, hydrological, and natural heritage value, as determined by criteria established by Pinellas County.
Prioritization of acquisitions should consider if lands:
- Protect environmentally sensitive habitat;
- Support protected or rare species and biological diversity;
- Provide or protect an important habitat or species function;
- Connect and close gaps in existing environmental lands and resource-based parks;
- Link open space areas and ecological corridors;
- Create a network of greenways and greenspaces;
- Equitably distribute environmental lands and resource-based parks throughout the County;
- Provide access to water;
- Provide or protect ecosystem services such as carbon storage, flood storage, recharge of regional wellfields, or space for habitat migration;
- Support or restore natural ecosystems, ecological functions, native vegetative communities, and native species habitat; and
- Protect and restore floodplains.
Secure and acquire environmental and resource-based park lands through cooperation with local and regional partners and using the environmental lands trust.
Consider the impact of land use decisions on environmental lands and resource-based parks.
Utilize the Land Development Code to prevent incompatible uses and adverse (re)development impacts on environmental lands and resource-based parks.
Direct incompatible land uses away from wetlands, wellfields and other natural resources.
Protect and enhance the urban and natural tree canopy to reduce stormwater runoff, improve air quality, decrease urban heat island effects, and provide shade and habitat.
Maximize retention and enhancement of the County’s urban and natural area tree canopy.
Utilize the Land Development Code to preserve and enhance urban and natural area tree canopy.
Coordinate with municipalities to preserve and enhance the urban and natural area tree canopy.
Implement an urban forestry master plan that includes post-disaster tree canopy restoration plans.
Plan for climate change and sea-level rise to promote physical and economic resiliency, carbon-neutral practices, and contribute to meeting international climate stabilization targets.
Support local and regional initiatives to respond to climate change and sea level rise.
Establish and implement a sustainability and resiliency action plan that identifies appropriate adaptation strategies that inform policies, and (re)development decisions, and creates a framework for goal setting and action plans across County departments, including greenhouse gas reductions, renewable energy usage, and a roadmap to prepare for hazards and respond to future climate conditions and sea level rise.
Monitor current science and data regarding climate change and sea level rise.
Collaborate with other governments and agencies to identify best practices for responding to climate change and sea level rise.
Ensure County projects are designed to accommodate changes in sea level rise and habitat migration.
Foster environmental stewardship and sustainable environmental practices through public education and outreach.
Collaborate with neighboring governments, agencies, educators, developers, businesses and residents to educate the public on local issues and sustainable practices.
Collaborate with the Pinellas County School Board, area colleges, environmental organizations and non-profits to develop and disseminate educational materials and programs that encourage actions to reduce waste, prevent pollution, increase compliance with environmental regulations, conserve resources, and increase awareness of environmental issues.
Display and disseminate information at beaches, parks, preserves, and other County facilities and websites to promote individual actions and responsibilities related to environmental quality and sustainability, such as tips to reduce waste and how to comply with environmentally-driven County ordinances.
Develop a marketing initiative promoting the use of locally produced products.
Support and promote volunteer programs that increase awareness of environmental issues and solutions.
Develop an informational initiative that connects environmental quality with social and economic costs and benefits.
PROTECT GEOLOGIC FEATURES, NATURAL AQUIFER RECHARGE AREAS, AND WELLFIELDS TO PRESERVE AND ENHANCE NATURAL FUNCTION AND CONSERVE GROUNDWATER QUALITY AND QUANTITY.
Administer the Comprehensive Groundwater Protection Program to protect groundwater recharge quality and quantity.
Identify and protect groundwater recharge areas.
Collaborate with the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to identify and prioritize groundwater recharge areas.
Coordinate with Tampa Bay Water to assess groundwater quality and the impacts of groundwater withdrawals.
Collaborate with Tampa Bay Water, SWFWMD, municipalities and adjoining counties to protect regional wellfields and recharge areas.
Designate major wetland systems and associated uplands for preservation uses.
Utilize the Land Development Code to ensure that (re)development protects the function of natural systems that contribute to groundwater recharge.
Administer the Pinellas County Wellhead Protection Ordinance to restrict land uses; use and storage of hazardous substances; and the direct or indirect release of pollutants into groundwater recharge areas.
Restrict the density and intensity of (re)development within wellfield protection zones.
Designate wellfields on County-owned property for preservation uses.
Utilize the County’s emergency response program to respond to accidental pollution events.
Consider the suitability of underlying soil conditions when making land use and development decisions.
Utilize the Land Development Code to ensure that soil conditions and limitations be evaluated in the review of land use and site plans.
Enforce the water shortage program in accordance with SWFWMD and Tampa Bay Water plans.
Provide timely and accurate information to the public during declared water shortages.
Enforce water use restrictions consistent with SWFWMD guidelines and County ordinances.
CONSERVE, PROTECT, RESTORE AND MANAGE NATURAL SYSTEMS AND LIVING RESOURCES TO ENSURE ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY.
Protect and conserve natural ecosystems, vegetative communities and species of conservation concern.
Protect, conserve, restore and manage natural ecosystems, native vegetative communities and native wildlife species.
Identify and delineate natural ecosystems, native vegetative communities and native wildlife habitats.
Designate natural areas for preservation uses.
Implement recovery programs for natural ecosystems, native vegetative communities and native wildlife habitats.
Coordinate with municipalities and adjoining counties regarding the extension of ecological corridors and greenway systems and the extra-jurisdictional impact of land development on existing corridors.
Share information with other local governments and agencies regarding the protection, conservation, restoration and management of natural ecosystems and native wildlife.
Implement post-disaster recovery plans for natural ecosystems and native wildlife.
Pursue best management practices to protect native plants and pollinators through:
- The incorporation of pest management policies and practices as they relate to vegetation management and pollinator conservation.
- The identification of appropriate locations for pollinator-friendly plantings to address methods of improvement in pest management.
Ensure that County projects are sensitive to the protection, conservation, restoration and management of natural ecosystems, native plant communities and native wildlife habitats.
Require County projects to:
- Protect and enhance native species and intact habitat;
- Ensure that native species constitute no less than 80 percent of a site’s landscaping; and
- Meet Florida Friendly Landscaping™ standards.
Reduce ecologically undesirable non-native vegetation.
Require the removal of ecologically undesirable non-native vegetation from (re)development sites, and in conjunction with County projects.
Ensure that (re)development is sensitive to the protection, conservation, restoration and management of natural ecosystems, native plant communities and native wildlife habitats.
Utilize the Land Development Code to ensure site development maintains or improves existing ecosystems, native wildlife species, and native vegetative communities.
When updating the Land Development Code:
- Evaluate the feasibility and need for buffers to protect species of concern;
- Evaluate the feasibility of regulatory techniques or incentives to help close the gap in the ecological greenway system; and
- Identify opportunities for new innovations, techniques and incentives that contribute to environmental improvement.
Protect, conserve and restore the County’s surface waters and dependent habitats and resources.
Cooperate with the FDEP, SWFWMD, the Tampa Bay Estuary Program and local governments to protect, restore and enhance surface waters and the dependent habitats and resources.
Protect and conserve surface water resources by preserving or restoring freshwater, marine and estuarine habitats.
Implement Pinellas County water and navigation regulations to:
- Ensure that development is consistent with objectives and policies pertaining to the protection, enhancement and restoration of freshwater, marine and coastal resources;
- Exercise locational restrictions and site-specific development controls that do not compromise the protection of coastal and marine habitats and dependent species; and
- Solicit municipal input regarding the protection of multi-jurisdictional surface water resources affected by development applications.
Utilize the Land Development Code to:
- Require erosion control to reduce sedimentation and turbidity in coastal, marine and freshwater habitats;
- Enforce alternatives to the hardening and bulkheading of natural coastal shorelines, natural stream courses and tidal creeks;
- Promote and incentivize the use of living shorelines;
- Prioritize water-dependent and water-related land uses in the coastal planning area and prohibit non-water dependent (re)development within natural intertidal areas;
- Require natural upland buffers adjacent to surface waters; and
- Prohibit dredging, filling increases to impervious surface or other development activity having significant and long-term impacts on marine and estuarine habitats except where a clear, significant, and overarching public interest can be demonstrated.
Protect marine and freshwater dependent species.
Continue land acquisition and management efforts to protect the viability of coastal and marine resources.
Identify, implement and enforce measures to protect important sea grasses. Assess the effectiveness of existing seagrass protection zones at least every two years.
Support the protection of manatees by:
- Implementing sea grass protection areas;
- Providing manatee signage;
- Coordinating with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Sheriff’s Marine Unit regarding the monitoring and enforcement of no-wake zones and speed restrictions;
- Targeting boater education efforts toward areas of high interaction between boaters and manatees;
- Collecting information required to identify critical use areas;
- Reviewing County regulations to determine if manatee protection is adequately supported; and
- Coordinating with the Tampa Bay Estuary Program’s Manatee Awareness Coalition and other agencies to determine appropriate measures for protecting manatees.
Support sea turtle protection and monitoring by:
- Providing funding;
- Partnering with volunteer groups, research organizations and enforcement agencies;
- Support public education to improve survivability; and
- Partnering with coastal municipalities to implement and enforce lighting ordinances.
Support and preserve shorebirds and their habitat through active partnership with, where applicable, federal, state, and local governments and non-profits to protect and preserve critical shorebird and seabird habitats.
Preserve, protect, restore and manage the natural resources of floodplains to maintain and enhance water quality, plant and animal diversity and aquatic productivity.
Maintain the ecological value and function of natural systems and living resources within the floodplains of the County.
Restrict (re)development in floodplains to maintain ecological character and natural function.