Supporters of Amendment 1, an environmental ballot measure that passed last year with a resounding 75 percent of the vote, are bracing for a legal battle with legislators over how to spend a $740 million windfall. The showdown looms with less than a week left in the regular 2015 session. Lawmakers have set aside no more than $20 million next year for Florida Forever, the state’s public land acquisition program. Environmentalists had expected at least $300 million when the ballot measure passed less than six months ago.
It’s been 19 years since investigative reporters Bob Malloy and Will Bourne wrote how money and political influence contributed to the demise of water quality and the seagrass/coral reef ecosystems of Florida Bay and the Florida Keys. The story reads like a Greek tragedy. Everglades Foundation founders George Barley and Paul Tudor Jones featured large in the 7,925-word epic. According to the story, Barley bought into bad science promulgated by Joseph Zieman, a University of Virginia seagrass biologist, and his colleague, Ron Jones of Miami’s Florida International University; Tudor Jones bankrolled the development of their wrong conclusions. Meanwhile, water quality in Florida Bay and the upper Keys worsened because of it.
Ah, for the freedom of a billionaire environmentalist. Is there a more hypocritical, more protected species on this planet? No matter how many times I see and write about one of these creatures spouting some crashingly sanctimonious Life Lesson he doesn’t live by — and getting away with it because he’s … well … an environmentalist — I’m blown away when it happens again.
Calling the deal too costly with too little benefit, the South Florida Water Management District board on Thursday effectively canned a 2010 deal to buy 46,800 acres of U.S. Sugar land that it once considered critical to restoring the Everglades and coastal estuaries. Instead, board members voted to back a $5 billion restoration plan mapped out by Gov. Rick Scott for the next 20 years that does not include the land.
Burmese pythons munch marsh rabbits in Everglades National Park faster than any native predator, confirming what biologists already suspected: The invasive snake is changing the balance of the park’s food chain. Two years ago, researchers determined that as the python population climbed in the park, the number of small mammals declined. But they couldn’t prove for sure that one caused the other.
In Tallahassee you can be a gutsy champion for the Everglades, or just another lame shill for Big Sugar. You can’t be both, though some politicians try to pretend. Check out Steve Crisafulli, the Republican speaker of the Florida House. He comes from a citrus family, once headed the Brevard County Farm Bureau and has his eye on becoming state agricultural commissioner.