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For Environmentalists, A New Opportunity For The Everglades

Gov. Rick Scott highlights his environmental spending proposals at Audubon's Center for Birds of Prey. Photo by Amy Green

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Environmentalists are pushing Gov. Rick Scott to resurrect a deal that would put U.S. Sugar land toward Everglades restoration.

They want to use Amendment 1 funding as lawmakers prepare for the start of the Legislative session next month.

The land includes a key 26,000-acre parcel south of Lake Okeechobee.

Eric Eikenberg of the Everglades Foundation says environmentalists want the land to restore a more natural flow of water south through the Everglades rather than east and west where it can damage coastal estuaries.

“If the governor is not interested in buying the entire 46,000 acres then we’ve encouraged him to buy the 26,000 acres. Or if that’s not something he’s fully on board with then we’ve encouraged him to do his own deal.”

The land was part of a billion-dollar deal brokered by the Crist administration to buy out U.S. Sugar and put that land toward Everglades restoration. The deal was downsized during the recession, but the state retained an option on some of the land, which expires in October.

The governor’s budget proposal makes no mention of the land but includes a 20-year, $5 billion spending commitment on the Everglades.

He told reporters while in Orlando touting his budget that he’s focused on unfinished projects like a billion-dollar restoration of the Kissimmee River. He says the projects will include ways to store water.

“But we’re going to need more. So I’ve asked the water management districts and (Department of Environmental Protection) to look, what else? What do we need to do next? But let’s do this in a logical process to get these things done.”

Amendment 1 puts $22 billion toward land and water conservation over 20 years.  Seventy-five percent of voters approved the state constitutional amendment in November.

U.S. Sugar had no immediate comment.

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Amy Green

About Amy Green

Reporter and Producer

Amy Green covers the environment for 90.7 News. She is an award-winning journalist whose work has been heard on NPR and seen in PEOPLE, Newsweek, The New York Times and The Christian Science Monitor. She began her career at The Associated Press. Her book on the Everglades, under contract with Johns Hopkins ... Read Full Bio »