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Scientists Join In As Environmentalists Step Up Campaign for Everglades Land Buy

The Everglades. Photo: National Parks Service
The Everglades. Photo: National Parks Service

More than 200 scientists from across the country are calling for more water storage south of Lake Okeechobee for Everglades restoration.

The scientists sent a petition to state leaders as environmentalists intensify their campaign for the state to buy 46,000 acres in the region.

The land is owned by U.S. Sugar. A state option on the land expires in October. Environmentalists want the land for a reservoir.

Tom Van Lent of the Everglades Foundation was among the scientists who sent the petition. He says the reservoir would help conserve water, and additional wetlands would cleanse it.

"That's not a new concept at all. That's been in virtually every National Academy of Sciences report to Congress in the last 10 years."

But U.S. Sugar says the land is unsuitable for a reservoir.

Spokeswoman Judy Sanchez says U.S. Sugar is willing to sell, but the state isn't interested.

"The Everglades restoration projects are already designed, most of them are built and the others are underway, and that property is not part of any designed and planned project for restoration."

The scientists sent the petition to Senate President Andy Gardiner, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Dan O'Keefe, chairman of the South Florida Water Management District.

Additional funding would be needed to build the reservoir.

Meanwhile television ads airing statewide including in Orlando are calling on Florida leaders to buy the land.

"There's a binding written contract to buy land south of Lake Okeechobee to provide clean drinking water forever. Buy the land. Save our drinking water. Time is running out."

The ads are funded by the Everglades Trust.

The state isn't planning on buying the land. Many leaders including Gov. Rick Scott say they want to invest funding in existing conservation lands rather than buy new land.

Amy Green covered the environment for WMFE until 2023. Her work included the 2020 podcast DRAINED.