A multi-billion dollar land sale could bring the Everglades closer to its natural state.
By Amy Leinbach Marquis
Nobody saw it coming. In June, Florida Governor Charlie Crist floored the environmental community when he announced plans to purchase 187,000 acres of sugar cane and citrus farmland from U.S. Sugar Corporation for $1.75 billion.
“It’s terrific news for the Everglades,” says John Adornato, regional director of NPCA’s Sun Coast offi ce in Florida. Securing the farmland south of Lake Okeechobee, he says, will help improve water quality and increase water flow to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.
In the last century, about half of the “River of Grass” has been drained and converted to farmland, housing, and urban development. Realizing the seriousness of this loss, Florida and the federal government announced plans in 2000 for the largest ecological restoration plan ever undertaken in the world. With the addition of U.S. Sugar land, the state can clean polluted water, store rainwater, and start recreating the landscape.
But Florida can’t do it alone—the state needs federal support to achieve its restoration goals. So far, Congress and the Bush Administration have failed on promises to match funds and advance projects.
“Restoring the Everglades is not only vital to our environment,” Adornato says, “but to our economy and quality of life in South Florida. We must leave a legacy for our children and grandchildren by saving one of the great special places in the world.”