Citizens are being misled by environmental groups about the progress of the Everglades Restoration Project.
By Jacob Engels
Whether you are a Republican or Democrat – liberal or conservative, Floridians can all but agree that protecting and maintaining a healthy Everglades is a top priority. Over the past 15 years, the Everglades Restoration Project has been working to maintain and improve the Everglades. Focusing on water quality, protecting wildlife and the ecosystem – the $10 billion dollar project is in its final stages.
But as it reaches a successful completion of 43 projects under the oversight of water and environmental experts, the Everglades Restoration is facing an unlikely opponent – environmental special interests and political operatives. Never-mind the fact that over 95% of the water in the Everglades is testing at a quality higher than or equivalent to premium bottled water like Fiji or Evian, the leaders of the Everglades Trust and Everglades Foundation are pushing for an additional land purchase – financed by Florida taxpayers.
In their plan, the state of Florida would have to purchase $500 million dollars more of land in the Everglades and spend an estimated $2 billion dollars restoring it. Why is this a bad thing?
First off, the very things that former operatives of Charlie Crist and Barack Obama are pushing for under the guise of “Saving the Everglades” are items and areas that are already being addressed under the current and almost complete plan. But if Florida completes a successful Everglades restoration, the executives and board members of these groups will no longer have ways to justify their high salaries and consulting fees. Seems it’s less about “Saving the Everglades” and more about “Saving our Pocketbooks,” for these political dealers.
It’s also worth noting that the Co-Founder of the Everglades Foundation, New York hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones has a history of polluting. Jones, who bills himself as an environmentalist – was once fined $2 million dollars for destroying wetlands in Maryland, In 1996 Tudor Jones was caught red-handed dumping raw septic into the Florida Bay. Some environmentalist!
Even leading scientists and environmental experts agree that raiding millions from the Amendment 1 fund to purchase tens of thousands of more acres in the Everglades is not needed for a successful completion of the Everglades Restoration Project.
Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News, also noted earlier this month that the crowd pushing the purchase of more Everglades land is playing fast & loose with the facts. “Eikenberg and the Foundation-Coalition-Trust are still twisting reality like a hairstylist with a French braid.”
And it seems like Floridians are starting to take note of these tactics and are fighting back against the proposed purchase of the 46,000 acres south of Lake Okeechobee . Since the beginning of March, we have seen missives from at least two South Florida Tea Party groups and another ad hoc group named Florida Citizens Against Waste.
The groups are each pushing their own petitions, asking the Florida legislature and cabinet officials to think twice before committing $500 million dollars or more towards more land.
“We must finish the final phase of successful Everglades Restoration and not divert money to the acquisition of 46,000 acres of farm land which will have little or no effect on Everglades restoration,” said Nicholas John Kakanis – the Director of Florida Citizens Against Waste.
His group is billing the purchase as a massive “land grab” by the state government, who along with the federal government, own more than 25% of land in Florida. That is more than most states and the most of any state this side of the Mississippi.
Under the “Stop The Land Grab” moniker, FCAW has circulated a Change.org petition.
“The science doesn’t support the purchase. State and federal agencies don’t want it. Agricultural producers oppose it, and those of us who want our tax dollars spent wisely oppose it.”
Just yesterday, the South Florida Tea Party, chaired by Everett Wilkinson, announced they would be organizing a protest at a South Florida Water Management District meeting on April 2nd. The board is set to discuss the proposed additional land purchase. Wilkinson has vowed to “burn a symbolic $2 billion” at the protest, what he says would be the hidden cost of using the disputed land for a reservoir.
The protest will be held at 9am at 3301 Gun Club Road in West Palm Beach. Several other groups who have expressed concern over using taxpayers dollars to fund such a purchase are also pushing people to attend and voice their opinion. Even though “there is no such thing as a free-lunch”, a benefactor for the Tea Party Miami, co-sponsoring the protest, is providing a free lunch for protestors starting at 11 am.
Protest and petitions aside, elected officials should realize that what has happened with the Everglades Restoration Project is a rare thing. We have scientists, environmental experts, water experts and the state and local governments working together.
We have achieved cleaner water, protected our wildlife and significantly improved the protections we have in place to keep the Everglades healthy. Why throw a wrench in that?
Bottom line…it’s time to finish this project and move on. If we need to discuss further improvements, so be it. But you can’t fairly judge the success or failure of something until it’s complete and we need to finalize the restoration as we set out to do almost 20 years ago.
Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org