We have in the past few weeks been discussing articles on the negotiations over the future of the Everglades in our blog. The New York Times article referred to in the editorial below and the editorial of the Orlando Sentinel columnist referred to below can be found at this link:
Recent Blog Posts on Everglades land purchase initiative
Thom Rumberger, Chairman of the Everglades Trust, weighs in below from the Orlando Sentinel 3-21-10 on his feelings regarding the possible purchase of a portion of the US Sugar company's land by the state of Florida:
In his commentary on Tuesday, Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas called the purchase of U.S. Sugar Corp. land "disastrous" ("Big promises, no cash sour Glades deal"). As chairman of the Everglades Trust, I would like to offer a different viewpoint.
Thomas, an otherwise excellent reporter and columnist, seems to rely largely on a recent "opus," as he calls it, in The New York Times. After intensive examination, research and consideration of all sides of this discussion, a subsequent Times editorial strongly endorsed the purchase plan, calling it a "good deal" for the Everglades.
The article Thomas cites was clearly set up to establish potential problems and concerns, but in the end, Times' editorial writers thought the benefits clearly outweighed those concerns.
The Everglades system is one of the world's greatest natural treasures, despoiled by decades of ill-conceived drainage and farming practices. At the heart of the problem are the giant cane fields feeding Florida's sugar industry. Buying this land takes it out of sugar production permanently. That alone would eliminate much of the agricultural activity that now poisons the River of Grass.
Under the ownership and oversight of the South Florida Water Management District, the property will be an ideal and cost-efficient location for water storage and treatment. This treatment is essential for removing harmful pollutants and nutrients from the water before it enters Everglades National Park.
In fact, Florida will be ordered by the federal courts to clean up this water, so we will either invest in the land necessary to accomplish that or pay for many more expensive and untested procedures for many years to come.
If this purchase plan fails, Florida taxpayers might be forced to purchase the property through an exponentially more costly condemnation action. If U.S. Sugar Corp. sells this property in parcels — as is likely if this purchase falls through — the state will face an even worse fiscal nightmare in dealing with multiple property owners.
On the other hand, if we act now to purchase the U.S. Sugar Corp. property, we can jumpstart the important work of Everglades restoration, not only saving money, but putting thousands of Floridians to work.
It will have the added benefit of providing and protecting the water supply for 7 million of our fellow citizens in South Florida.
After reviewing the proposal's terms and conditions and evaluating the appraisals and the economic benefits, we are convinced that this is our best chance to save America's Everglades.
It would be a heartbreaking irony if a faction of the sugar industry and its cohorts were to spoil this unprecedented opportunity.
Floridians want and expect better than that. When asked, an overwhelming majority of them say that restoring the Everglades should be one of the state's top environmental concerns. The current plan is a good one. It is good for the Everglades, it is good for Florida Bay, and it is especially good for taxpayers.
We feel that some action is of course better than no action but we believe a comprehensive long term plan should be designed and implemented and the Crist plan still smacks of a short term plan to slightly appease environmental groups and show Mr Crist as a friend of the Everglades, even though it is hard to tell if he really is or not?