Not all progress on Everglades restoration is tangible – moving and cleaning water, building things. Far from it. Over the years, one of the key challenges to restoration has been in engaging all Floridians, explaining what’s at stake and encouraging them to action.
In 2016, we witnessed a critically important constituency of stakeholders get organized and educated, demanding action for clean water. Fishing guides, boat captains, anglers, boat manufacturers and tackle shops. This army of small businesses, whose very existence depends on clean and plentiful water, now actively battle to save the Everglades and Florida's waterways. They are giants and they’re not slowing down.
Tapping into non-traditional, but extremely valuable, stakeholders has been harder. Hotels, tour companies, restaurants and retailers have been unwilling to join what has historically been viewed as an environmental fight. Those reliant on tourism feared taking a stand would highlight the problem and be bad for business today, even though being silent would kill it tomorrow.
But worse than being silent, the Florida Chamber of Commerce has become a big part of the political problem. Candidly, they’ve gone from advocating for the interests of big business (not a bad thing) to simply a money-laundering operation for special interests buying political influence. They prop up the status quo through massive moves of money hidden from public view (a very bad thing).
In stark contrast to the Florida Chamber, the Southwest Florida Alliance of Chambers IS taking a stand on clean water and a healthy Everglades. After the ecocide Florida experienced on both coasts in 2018, these businesses – 5,000 and counting – recognized their very survival is dependent on a healthy ecosystem. They educated themselves, understanding not just the issues but the solutions.
What changed? Carnage they could touch and smell. 2016 was bad. 2018 was God-awful.
We're talking about real businesses, the kind fueling the engine of Florida’s economy – people with hard data on the economic impact of inaction.
Together with other giants, these are constituents that lawmakers ignore at their peril. They've rolled up their sleeves and developed environmental priorities for the 2020 legislative session that align with the Governor's. They will hold their legislators accountable for addressing those priorities. They are Floridians and business owners who understand the price of inaction. We're grateful they’ve decided to join the fight.
We ask them, and you, to stick with us!
More people need to understand the ecosystems that sustain them. Not just for frolicking, peaceful contemplation or adventure, the invaluable Everglades are the source of drinking water for South Florida, stave off the effects of rising seas and sequester carbon better than anything else in Florida. So we save and protect them at all cost.
Clean freshwater must flow south through the River of Grass. Governor DeSantis ran for office on the promise to make this his top priority. He’s kept that promise, and then some. The plan is to have shovels in the ground this year. Stay tuned.
Another piece of the restoration puzzle, the Caloosahatchee reservoir should be online in 2023. The last administration had no plans for treatment of the agricultural pollution. This Governor does. So, all the ag basin runoff will be cleansed before it is released into the river. Smart.
The battle to save South Florida’s water from mismanagement and water hogs (Big Sugar is a good example of both) is epic. For spectacular ghost orchids, wildlife and humans, water is life.
We fight day in and day out at the 30,000-foot level, explaining what’s at stake – and at the 6-foot level against a handful of powerful interests who have no qualms about taking all of it. But make no mistake, this is a fight all Floridians must enter. Now Or Neverglades.
“Spurred by a deadly confluence of red tide and toxic blue-green algae blooms, local businesses educated themselves on water quality. They found a unified voice to push for stricter pollution limits. As the kids say, they got woke. And it had a tangible impact on Florida politics.”
Turns out, the tree-huggers and small business alliances have more in common than they think.
If there is only one thing you read this week, it should be this OpEd by Andy Mele of the Suncoast Waterkeeper. Not only does he call out Mote Marine Laboratory, which is neither accredited nor academic, but he lays out how the deception and misdirection continues. Very well done.
There are a number of problems facing the Everglades, from pythons to nutrient pollution. None compare to the biggest obstacle - a lack of clean freshwater. Physically and politically standing in the way of the solution for decades are two corporate owners 800-square miles of sugarcane: Florida Crystals and US Sugar. We call them Big Sugar.
So many pieces to the puzzle. What was supposed to be a 90-day process to get the permits issued from the Army Corps has languished for more than a year. The state is finally doing its part. It’s time for our partner – the federal government – to do theirs.
Call or email the Army Corps’ executive office. Message to Lt. General Todd Semonite: Get those permits approved for the EAA Reservoir. www.usace.army.mil/Contact/