2022 has been a year of incredible growth and transition for Surfrider Foundation's Florida network. Whether helping to pass landmark state legislation reversing pre-emption on regulating smoking on Florida beaches, launching new Blue Water Task Force Labs, hosting regular beach clean-ups or opposing new oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico, Surfrider's Florida chapters and activists had a busy and impactful year for our beaches and waves. Here is a snapshot of our network's 2022 year in review:
After a year of staff transitions, Surfrider Foundation's Florida region gained two new team members in 2022. Evan Orellana, Florida + Puerto Rico Regional Manager joined the team in January and hit the ground running to support all of the incredible activities and campaigns led by the region's 11 chapters. Emma Haydocy, Florida Policy Manager joined the team in May and immediately got to work advancing Surfrider's campaigns and initiatives with stakeholders, agencies, and elected officials across the state.
Speaking of campaigns, even in the midst of so much transition the Florida Region led campaigns resulting in 18 victories in 2022. In Tallahassee, these victories ranged from protecting policy guiding Everglades restoration to fighting a bill that would have limited opportunities for solar energy in the Sunshine state to supporting statewide sea level rise planning. While all of the region's victories were important to Florida's coasts and waters, the passage of HB105 stands out as a legacy of years of advocacy and activism on behalf of Surfrider's Florida network to prevent the #1 item found on 30 beach clean-ups in 2022 from entering Florida's ocean - cigarette butts.
HB105 repealed the existing state pre-emption on regulating cigarette smoking in municipal beaches and parks. Regional staff then worked to create a toolkit for chapters to plan and implement local campaigns within their respective regions, resulting in 7 beach smoking ordinances passed and victories for beaches across the state. In addition to beach smoking bans, our chapters led local campaigns to regulate fertilizer use, ban balloons, and fight an ordinance that would have prohibited the planting of mangroves on publicly-owned waterfront in Miami. Needless to say, our grassroots network has been active and vocal in their advocacy in 2022.
Florida's chapters led not only in policy, but in programs that make an impact for beaches and people who love and use them most. Our robust statewide network of Blue Water Task Force labs housing community-driven water quality testing welcomed a new testing location with the Florida Keys Chapter, in partnership with Ocean Studies Charter School, to grow the program to eight labs in Florida. In addition to more lab and testing locations, our Space Coast Chapter published its first Blue Water Task Force Annual Report, providing invaluable data to inform clean water policy and decision-making in the region. We applaud all of our chapter's clean water efforts this year!
Fighting to protect our ocean emerged as a major theme of the year for Florida. Activists from coast to coast rallied and organized opposition to ten new oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico under the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's Proposed 5-Year Plan. Our chapters gathered industry opposition throughout the Florida peninsula by organizing a successful Sign-The-Surfboard Campaign, generated comments in opposition to new leases to the federal register, testified in agency hearings, and submitted a letter on behalf of all Florida chapter's calling for no new leases in the Gulf of Mexico. Our network also activated in support of expanding and strengthening protections to Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the only coral barrier reef in North America and federally marine protected area in the state.
As the days tick away to close out 2022 we are grateful for the passion, activism, and commitment of our Florida chapters, volunteers, partners and supporters who have made this year one of the best and brightest yet. For now, we are taking the time to rest, reset and recharge for a new year of victory and success for our ocean, beaches and waves. We cannot wait to hit the ground running in 2023!