Everglades Land Bill Approved, But With a Caveat

This map provided by the Everglades Foundation pinpoints the location of the U.S. Sugar Corp. lands between Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. The company's properties are outlined in orange.

A massive real estate deal with U.S. Sugar Corporation that is envisioned as being key to protecting the Everglades and Everglades National Park has been approved, but with a caveat that provides Florida officials an escape clause.

Officially listed as a $1.34 billion deal, but one that could prove much more expensive according to critics, the deal was OKed on Tuesday by a narrow 4-3 vote from the South Florida Water Management District.

The 181,000 acres involved in the purchase is viewed as invaluable to the national park. It will, figuratively speaking, straighten a kink in the natural plumbing of the region. It's been developments such as the sugar plantation that have disrupted natural water flows from the lake into the park. Without them, the so-called "River of Grass" can't survive.

The Everglades Coalition’s Essentials for Everglades Restoration has identified nine restoration essentials and benchmarks that must be achieved if the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan is going to deliver benefits as it originally promised. Four of these essentials addressed the critical need for more water storage and treatment to truly restore our River of Grass.

But in debating the project on Tuesday, members of the management district pointed to hard economic times that will force the state to cut budgets, too little time to appropriately consider such a massive deal, and a deal that overwhelmingly benefits the sugar corporation.

The one salvation the management district attached to the deal's language was a clause that would allow the district to back out of the deal if it would bankrupt the agency.

Perhaps, though, this is not a done deal, as closing on it isn't scheduled to occur until Sept. 25, 2009.

Comments

First of all, the price of the land is too expensive, even in good economic times. At $1.34 billion for 181,000 acres, that's slightly over $7,400 an acre, wholesale. Realistically, the price is acknowledged to be about $3 billion, or more. That's well over $20,000 an acre, in very large swaths. For cane field.

I am tooo szzure!

And that's in good economic times, which these ain't. Oil has collapsed to $40 a barrel. Chrysler just closed every single one of its dozens of plants - shut down the whole shebang. Obama is talking a trillion dollar stimulus package. Millions of erstwhile middle class people are losing their homes.

I expect this deal to be scuttled, and for fiscal responsibility to intrude in other cases too where many would prefer that it not be a partner at the table.

There are those who are willing to make such an ecological deal as this - they simply don't care what the cost is - but it is being paid for it with other peoples' money, and those people do care.

The Everglades will survive, not as big as could be, but the biome will persist. And under perfectly natural regimes, the health of swamps such as this is very much a boom & bust affair anyway. The idea that the Everglades is a steady-state system, that it does not crash, burn, dry up, flood, drowned ... and rise up from the dead again & again, as the natural way of such places ... well phooey - it has for centuries & millennia.

Wait for the populace to wake up to the fact that sugar-consumption beyond a few pounds per year shortens the life and reduces the quality of what we have - then we'll get all of U.S. Sugar's land holdings and much more besides, for a fraction of today's price. ;-)

I could not agree with you more. I am a sixth generation Floridian and have lived in Hendry county my whole life. I was at the meetings this week, and I must say I am DISGUSTED with our government. These seven board members had their strings pulled all week by our 'great' governor. They were conned into doing what they did with the promise of God knows what. Meanwhile, our community is left with the real possibility that we have lost everything we (and those past) have worked our whole lives for. Without some sort stability in the lines of jobs, we cannot survive, and the only jobs we have are the mill. So, with all this said, I agree with you, why are they in such a hurry. Why could they not have taken some time to develop a plan to help us, the people who voted them into office? And yes, the Everglades will ALWAYS survive; it is a part of nature. It has its good times and bad, but it will be there in the end, however I cannot say the same thing for my community.

Ansley said:

Without some sort stability in the lines of jobs, we cannot survive ... Why could they not have taken some time to develop a plan to help us...?

Well, I offered my 'way over-priced' objection as "First of all", but Ansley's point certainly trumps the squandering of tax-payer money. This project is squandering good people & communities, as well.

You could say this is a bad habit that environmentalism has picked up - to pursue goals without regard to human costs. However, it's actually worse than that. Even some environmentalists themselves accede, that they view the humans and the communities and cultures, as the real problem, and that they are indeed the real intended target.

Besides the moral decadence involved, this attitude & behavior ... bears a remarkable similarity to Pres. Bush' war in Iraq, etc, generating massive hostility and providing motivation for the recruitment & organization of opposition forces.

That so conflicted & compromised a candidate as Sen. John McCain would do as well at the ballot box as he did, against the wildly enthusiastic support for Sen. Barrack Obama, delivers a message that environmentalism should be hearing & heeding. People didn't vote for McCain because they are comfortable with his leadership - in fact, they are not!

People voted for McCain, in large extent as a reflection of how deeply they despise environmentalism, in large extent due to its disdain for common (esp. rural) people.

In the end, I expect that attacking the foundations of society will boomerang on environmentalism. Hopefully, the economic crisis will intervene on behalf of the central Florida sugar-workers & communities.