Everglades Restoration: A $5 Billion Reality?
Monday, February 2, 2015
MIAMI, Fla. – Conservation groups are celebrating some progress in the longstanding battle to restore the
In November, 75 percent of the voters who went to the polls in Florida approved a constitutional amendment
allocating one-third of the state's excise taxes to acquire sensitive lands for land and water conservation.
Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg calls it a major victory for restoration efforts in the famed River of Grass.
"That investment now over the next number of years, over the next 20 years – if abided by, if implemented – we will be able to look back and say Amendment 1 enabled the Everglades to be restored forever, and it's an exciting time," he stresses.
With the funds now guaranteed in the state Constitution, as part of the Florida's upcoming fiscal year budget, Gov. Rick Scott has set aside an initial $150 million and has promised a total of $5 billion for Glades restoration over the next 20 years.
After lawsuits dating back more than a decade had accused the state and federal government of not doing enough to protect water in the Everglades, the governor says he's committed to seeing the long-stalled projects come to fruition.
"What I want to do as governor, is do everything I can to continue to improve the environment,” Scott says. “That's why we put all the effort in to get the Everglades litigation settled. We're very focused on finishing projects with regard to the Everglades."
Eikenberg hopes lawmakers will follow through on their pledge to use the newly-mandated funds properly.
"With this pot of money sitting there, we need to ensure that conservation is protected in Florida that those dollars go to those programs – they're not spent on other things that should be dealt with in the general budget," he stresses.
Eikenberg maintains some of those dollars should be used to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee. He says buying back those parcels, now used mostly for farming, would help restore the natural flow of water through the Everglades and the area's fragile ecosystems.
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