Topher Forhecz

Topher is the host of All Things Considered and reporter at WGCU News. 

He formerly freelanced for WNYC radio in New York City. He holds a master's degree from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

Note: Audio to come.

Florida Power and Light is asking to amend Hendry County's comprehensive plan. It would create a new process for approving power plants. That proposal was put before a county advisory committee Wednesday.

FPL has been eyeballing a piece of land in Hendry County as the site of a possible power plant for years. It borders the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation. Last year, the tribe won a victory in court that stopped the possibility FPL could build that plant.

Craft breweries across the state are celebrating today as a new law takes effect allowing them to sell their suds in 64-ounce refillable containers known as growlers. The state failed last year to legalize what is considered the industry standard size.

One Fort Myers brewery started selling the growlers as the clock struck midnight.

  UPDATE: 

A representative from the National Institutes of Health wrote in an email HHS is currently investigating Primate Products.  

None of the Congress members who signed the letter accepted requests for an interview.  

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Primate Products President Thomas Rowell said today a subdivision of Health and Human Services is already looking into the company.

Note: Audio to come. 

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection may start cattle grazing in Myakka River State Park in Sarasota County.

Local community members are protesting any such plans.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved the first statewide bear hunt in more than two decades Wednesday.

The decision came after a heated meeting with opponents of the hunt who worry the commission is acting hastily.

The hunt will take place in late October and last seven days. By the FWC’s count there are roughly 3,200 bears in the state. The goal of the hunt is kill about 320.

An environmental law firm has filed suit over how the legislature distributed funds for a constitutional mandate. The mandate takes money from a real estate tax and puts it toward buying and restoring conservation and recreation lands.

The law firm said lawmakers put money toward things that are just related to the environment.

Convicted felons in Florida cannot vote. But, organizations including the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and Floridians for Fair Democracy are pushing a ballot initiative to change that. 

The president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition will be speaking at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Greater Naples on June 20.

The initiative is one step closer to becoming a reality.

The National Park Service is asking for public comment over a Texas based oil-company’s proposal to look for gas and oil in the Big Cypress National Preserve in Collier County.

There are currently two active oil extraction sites within the preserve.

Gov. Rick Scott and the cabinet have worked out a pending settlement agreement in a Sunshine Law lawsuit.

The suit was sparked over the firing of former Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey.

 The Fort Myers City Council voted Tuesday to allow a junkyard to expand.  Opponents said the city previously took measures to stop any more junkyards from coming to or expanding in the city. The approval was a long and contested battle.

The practice of breeding monkeys for research in Hendry County has reached such a level it’s led the media to say the rural area east of Fort Myers either is or may possibly become the biggest supplier of primates for research in the country.

The animals are used in behavioral, psychological and medical research.  

Environmentalists and locals are protesting the industry’s expansion here.  And now, the county is investigating two of the companies. One of which is also under investigation by the United States Department of Agriculture.

 

Primate Products, a primate breeding facility in Hendry County, was recently inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The inspection comes in the wake of undercover photos and videos taken at the company’s facility.

A People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or PETA “witness” worked at Primate Products for eight months until late May.

There’s yet another citrus disease out there. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released a sobering estimate for Florida’s citrus production this year. And the state is expected to produce about 8 million boxes less than last year. This is because the state’s citrus suffers from ailments like citrus greening and citrus canker.  Now, the new disease is spreading. It’s called citrus black spot.

Naples Municipal Airport may bring back scheduled commercial airline services. That means consistent flights from an airline. Officials asked for the public’s opinion through a recent survey.

Florida is known as the Sunshine State, but it ranks nowhere near the top when it comes to home solar systems.

A February article by Bloomberg Business says Florida is fifteenth in the country for those systems, trailing behind states like Texas and California.

The answer as to why Florida is not capitalizing on sunshine comes back to policy and cost. We’re joined by a panel of guests looking at solar power policies in Florida, how large state utilities are thinking about solar, and a coalition of people trying to get solar on the ballot.

Florida Gulf Coast University is hosting the 2015 Southwest Florida Sea Level Rise Summit on Thursday. Sea level rise is an issue Floridians hear a lot about on the west coast, but those behind the summit say they want to highlight what it will mean for the environment and businesses locally.

An environmental conservation organization and two scientists are suing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other government bodies alleging the Corps’ water practices in the Everglades are threatening an endangered bird species.

The National Park Service recently released its annual study detailing the economic benefits of local parks. The National Park System has more than 400 sites across the country. Overall, the country’s parks saw an increase in the number of visits from last year. This is also true for the Big Cypress National Preserve.

Note: Audio to come.

The legislature is considering tightening the rules on backyard gun ranges. This comes in the wake of several incidents across the state where residents were concerned about their neighbors opening fire in their backyards.

Gov. Rick Scott was in Fort Myers on Thursday celebrating the opening of the first Wawa gasoline and convenience stores in the area. He also fielded questions about meetings he held Wednesday with state senators over hospital profit margins.

Note: Audio to come.  

April is Fair Housing Month. It marks the enactment of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The act protects against housing discrimination based on things like a person’s race or gender.  Local representatives are taking the opportunity to host the Southwest Florida Fair Housing Summit on Tuesday.

As the Florida legislature nears the end of its 2015 session, the fate of a tax incentive program aimed at boosting business growth in blighted communities remains unclear.

A lawsuit filed against Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet over skirting the state's Sunshine Law is heading into mediation. News outlets across the state and others are involved with the lawsuit. They allege the Governor and the Cabinet violated the state’s open meetings law over the dismissal of former Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey.

The National Park Service recently released a list of how much delayed maintenance projects cost for parks around the country.

In Florida, the amount comes to almost $192 million. At Everglades National Park, operators are trying to figure out what to do as that number grows.

Lee County is reviewing the rules behind what gives Pine Island its character such as stretches of mangroves, low buildings and controlled development. It’s happening in the wake of several lawsuits, one of which the county lost last summer.

One landowner, whose presence has been eyed suspiciously by some Pine Island residents, has floated its ideas to county officials as to how the rules should be changed. That landowner is the large agricultural producer King Ranch.

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