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).