How we reported on the paving of paradise
The author of this chapter, the environmental reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, explains how he and his colleague at the then St. Petersburg Times investigated the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ issuance of permits for filling Florida wetlands under the Clean Water Act. They found that the Corps “had approved 12,000 wetland permits and denied exactly one” between 1999 and 2003. “The defense the Corps presented to criticism of its issuing of so many permits was to point back to the ‘no net loss’ policy. All those lost wetlands had been balanced out by new wetlands, in a process called ‘mitigation,’ and that made it all OK. So next we started exploring mitigation.” The journalists wrote two series for the St. Petersburg Times, the first on the loss of wetlands and the second on the mitigation process. They won state and national awards for both, and then adapted their work into Paving Paradise: Florida’s Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss, which was published by the University of Florida Press in 2009.