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The Everglades Puzzle
The latest news on efforts to restore the River of Grass
Curated by John Wark
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Emma Marris: In Defense of Everglades Pythons

Emma Marris: In Defense of Everglades Pythons | The Everglades Puzzle | Scoop.it
The author of a book on human-disrupted ecology pities the Everglades' pythons.

 

Puzzle note: Emma's take on the invasive snake problem in the Everglades is practical and mature -- and deserves to be mirrored in our best thinking on all of the problems throughout the Everglades.

 

Here is what she says about the python problem:

 

"Yes, insofar as they threaten native species in the Everglades, I wish we could undo that mistake and remove them all. But it ain’t gonna happen."

 

I accept her view. And expert snake people I know have voiced similar views. Unless you're a purist and want to fight to keep the Everglades as it was at the turn of the cenury, how can you not agree?

 

I also think we benefit from exteding this attitutude toward all of the Everglades' problems. Farms and the overpopulated cities and webworks of roads and powerlines should be viewed similarly -- if you're waiting to see them all undone, "it ain't gonna happen."

 

Unfortunatley, if you pay attention to the environmental battle over restoration, purists are driving the agenda. They won't accpet "It ain"t gonna happen."

 

The result is the waste of billions of dollars and time.

 

Conservation is needed. Restoration is right. Best management practices are great. Standards are guideposts. But pay attention, cetrain special interests are out to eradicate farming north of the Everglades. This is their definition of restoration. And it is a purist's definition.

 

And that stand is simply ensuring a battle that drags on and on when there are clear, acieveable environmental goals we could be, and should have been, achieving all along.

 

The pity is that, as with the snakes, too few people at this point are being realitsic. Man has changed the ecology of the Everglades . We can bring it back, yes. But probably not all the way. Certainly, not to some mythical state of original purity. 

 

As Emma writes:

 

"Maybe I am going overboard on my “learn to love the inevitable changes” mantra. But it is really how I feel. If the choice is to fight for a pure Everglades and lose, or to work with nature as it changes and adapts to what we humans have done to planet Earth, respecting its dynamism and resilience as it shifts to new states, I vote for the latter. Just don’t call me a python hugger. That sounds painful."

 

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Billboard bidder sues South Florida Water Management District...

The top-ranked vendor in the South Florida Water Management District’s effort to build digital billboards on district land has filed a federal legal challenge against the district, claiming the district’s decision to scrub the deal was “arbitrary...
John Wark's insight:

Saw this one coming! SFWMD has yet to answer a whole lot of questions. Additionally, the water district's staff is sandbagging a request for the release of emails that might shed some light on all of this weirdness. Is executive director Meeker shutting down all public comment to protect her job? 

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South Florida water district official leaves to run Lake Worth...

South Florida water district official leaves to run Lake Worth... | The Everglades Puzzle | Scoop.it
Bob Brown, the second in command at the South Florida Water Management District, has resigned to become the manager of the Lake Worth Drainage District.
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Editorial: South Florida Water Management District billboard...

The South Florida Water Management District’s decision this week not to install electronic billboards on public land should not be the last word from the district and should prompt Tallahassee to end its practice of legislating in secret.
John Wark's insight:

And now SFWMD?

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Carl Hiaasen: Call this a sign of our sleazy times - Carl Hiaasen - MiamiHerald.com

Even in a state of perpetual sleaze, some dirty deals stink more than others.
John Wark's insight:

Now that Hiaasen has weighed in maybe the governor and Legislature will pay a little more attention to what's happening in the Everglades. 

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In Turnaround, Governor Wants to Spend in Florida

In Turnaround, Governor Wants to Spend in Florida | The Everglades Puzzle | Scoop.it
Up for re-election in 2014 and still deeply unpopular, Gov. Rick Scott announced the largest proposed budget in Florida history on Thursday — $74.2 billion, or $4 billion more than last year.
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Everglades Water Quality Much Improved, Says SFWMD | Sunshine State News

Everglades Water Quality Much Improved, Says SFWMD | Sunshine State News | The Everglades Puzzle | Scoop.it
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Luna family fights SFWMD to keep their land

OKEECHOBEE—Stuart-based attorney Tim Wright stood in the middle of Courtroom B and, without mincing words, accused water managers of committing extortion and lying.

 

Mr. Wright, and co-counsel Bruce Harris of Orlando, are representing Bonnie Luna Byars and BLB Holdings against the South Florida Water Management District’s (SFWMD) eminent domain claim on over 300 acres of property owned by the Luna family in northern Okeechobee County.

Other defendants in this case include Patrick Luna, Mrs. Byars’ brother, and Montoya Ranch, Inc., which is also owned by the Luna family.

The district wants to take 303.70 acres to help restore the Kissimmee River from its current channelized state, back to a meandering river...

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Water district venture: Billboards

The South Florida Water Management District is getting into the billboard business and has picked a company owned by a former board member and former business partner of the executive director to build the digital signs on district land.
John Wark's insight:

If there is no investigation into this lapse of ethics, there is a serious breakdown in the system.

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South Florida lawmakers bring back congressional 'Everglades Caucus' | Naked Politics

For all the partisan bickering that cripples Congress these days, there is one thing that Florida lawmakers have generally been able to agree on: the need to restore the Everglades. With a new congressional class coming in, two South Florida...
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Meeting to consider Everglades restoration plan

Meeting to consider Everglades restoration plan | The Everglades Puzzle | Scoop.it
After several restoration projects on the fringes of the Everglades, a state and federal team has begun work on a plan to revive the sawgrass sloughs and tree islands at the heart of the vast marsh....
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Billboards coming to water district land

The South Florida Water Management District is getting into the billboard business, opening publicly owned land to towering digital advertisements. The agency that handles flood control and...
John Wark's insight:

Not a word in opposition from the defenders of the Everglades? Really? Kind of unusual. These are big electronic, super bright, bill boards IN THE EVERGLADES! Let's see, now. Hmmm, why would environmental groups and the Everglades Foundation be silent on this?

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There'shope for theGlades | KeysNews.com

There'shope for theGlades | KeysNews.com | The Everglades Puzzle | Scoop.it
There'shope for theGlades Key West Citizen - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 1 comment The re-election of President Barack Obama last week has left Everglades advocates bullish about the future of restoration efforts.
John Wark's insight:

But it all depends on Congress setting aside funding and BP "RESTORE" funds being alloted the state, etc.


The recent abandonment of the original CERP plan for restoration of the Everglades was probably a mistake. It has resulted in a fractured and much more costly approach to creating "flow ways" for water. It's a great idea. But outfits like the supercharged political-environmental organization the Everglades Foundation have doomed the approach, which it has championed, by using it to extract political revenge from sugarcane farmers it doesn't like.  

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Water district board member Delisi resigns for paying job with...

Water district board member Delisi resigns for paying job with... | The Everglades Puzzle | Scoop.it
South Florida Water Management District governing board member Dan Delisi has resigned and accepted a position as the district’s chief of staff.
John Wark's insight:

Now the question is who will fill the three open slots on the board? This is a super critical issue for the governor, Legislature and remaining board members to get right! Sets the whole tone for whether Everglades policy moves forward smoothly or bogs down. Especially given that the distirct's number one problem is it lacks money. 

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Maxwell: Politics shouldn't bog down Everglades progress - WaterWorld

Maxwell: Politics shouldn't bog down Everglades progress - WaterWorld | The Everglades Puzzle | Scoop.it
John Wark's insight:

Yes, Bill. But the question has always been whether there is money to pay for this plan, especially given the economy throughout the period of planning and adoption. Dedications and groundbreakings are very often window dressing, splashy assurances to the public that there's movement when there's not. Perhaps, as some have suggested, it would have been wiser to continue with the old restoration plan into which so many hundreds of millions of dollars had already been sunk? At least we'd have substantive progess to show on restoration.

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Valerie Anderson's comment, February 25, 2013 10:39 AM
the waterworld link is broken
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Everglades python haul low, but scientists envision wealth of new data - Environment - MiamiHerald.com

Everglades python haul low, but scientists envision wealth of new data - Environment - MiamiHerald.com | The Everglades Puzzle | Scoop.it
A month-long hunt for invasive Burmese pythons in Florida’s Everglades didn’t result in much of a haul, but scientists and outdoors experts say the data collected will be invaluable.
John Wark's insight:

Fifty pythons captured.

Now, if only someone could capture the truth on why the South Florida Water Management Distirct staff pushed so hard for approval of electronice billboards in the Everglades!

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Water Management District drops billboard plans

Water Management District drops billboard plans | The Everglades Puzzle | Scoop.it
Public backlash over allowing billboards on public land persuaded the South Florida Water Management District on Tuesday to drop its controversial money-making venture.The district, which handles...
John Wark's insight:

But so many questions remain unanswered.

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More judges, higher Everglades funding in Scott budget | Florida Politics | Sun Sentinel blog

Everything you need to know on the parties, politicians, policies, issues and elections in South Florida
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Budget: Governor requests more money for conservation land-buying, Everglades restoration | The Florida Current

Budget: Governor requests more money for conservation land-buying, Everglades restoration | The Florida Current | The Everglades Puzzle | Scoop.it
Florida news in the category Environment and Natural Resources
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Florida Governor, cabinet OK lease extensions for SFWMD

OKEECHOBEE—Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper knew, with only 5 minutes to present their cases, he and other environmentalists had little to no chance of stopping the no-bid lease extensions for two giant agricultural concerns.

 

And Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet didn’t surprise him.

That cabinet on Wednesday, Jan. 23, unanimously approved 30-year, no-bid leases for A. Duda & Sons and Florida Crystals in southern Glades County despite the objections of the environmentalists...

John Wark's insight:

[A belated note on this issue:]

 

Maybe he also knew he couldn't stop it because Audubon and other environmental groups have supported no-bid agriculture leases of this very type in the recent past?

 

This is one of the long standing problems with the tussle over restoration of the Everglades: environmentalists are inconsistent in their messaging and have provem singularly inept at successfully using their influence to bring together all the region's stakeholders -- urban areas, native Americans, farmers and environmental groups -- to work out an effective and equitable solution. In fact, they have played these interests against one another.

 

First, the inconsistency. It was perfectly okay with Florida Audubon and the Everglades Foundation that a highly controversial no-bid, low-ball, lease-back of land went to US Sugar a few years ago as part of the deal in which the state purchased a huge tract of US Sugar land for restoration.

 

But it's not okay today with the lands that are the subject of this story? What's different? The use is the same -- farming. Seems to me you're either opposed to no-bid leases or you're not. 

 

As to the inept ability of the environmental community to help work out a way forward. The Everlades Foundation is the big player here. Every other environmental group involved in Everglades issues follows the foundation's lead and also gets annual cash grants from the foundation.

 

The foundtion played a large role in the US Sugar land purchase by the state a few years ago. And the state and the foundation, and the rest of the enviornmental community all thumbed their noses at the other stakeholders who were publicly requesting to part of the deal, including Florida Crystals.

 

The state could have, and should have, included Duda and Florida Crystals in the negotiations back when the US Sugar deal was first being put together. The swapping and so forth that is being done today could have been accomplished then. And no doubt the restoration design that would have resulted would be superior to what we see today. It might also be further along toward completion. But politics -- environmental politics -- got in the way.

 

Environmental groups did not object that then Gov. Charlie Crist's former chief of staff's law firm represented US Sugar. And it was Crist that was going to stroke that big state check to US Sugar, remember. And they sure didn't have a problem with US Sugar looking out for itself and seeking to cut the best deal possible. Which it got. They even persuaded newspaper editorial boards statewide to adopt their position, which was in effect,  "Hey, it's a lot of money but it's an opportunity that's just too good to pass up. We either buy the land now or perhaps never." 

 

Hard to blame the company. But the environmental community that helped power the deal forward through back channels seemed intent on using the US Sugar deal to settle old scores. There was a feeling in the air that environmental groups were suddeny "winning" and were now going to get everything they wanted. It was sort of their Charlie Sheen moment, everyone drunk on tiger milk. 

 

Eric Draper at the time wholeheartedly supported spending an astronomical sum in state tax dollars on the US Sugar land purchase. Yet he told a newspaper that Florida Crystals land that would also be needed for successful restoration should be simply given free to the state. Pay US Sugar what ever it wants. Pick the pocket of Florida Crystals and block them from participating in negotiations.

 

Only, as Draper and everyone else with a stake in Everglades restoration well know, the best possible restoration plan has got to involve all of the stakeholders. You might ignore one's interest today, but you'll have to sit down with them tomorrow. That's just the reality.

 

Perhaps things will change now that the Everglades Foundation has a new executive in charge. Who knows?

 

What is known is that the deal still isn't done. There is the small matter of how the restoration effort is funded. The South Florida Water Management Distirct doesn't have the money. Though it does now have plenty of land. And it's counting on that being enough to hold up its end. Meanwhile, the state and water distirct hope the federal government will pay the bill.

 

The theme of the current restoration plan for the coming months and years might be summarized this way: "It figures -- but it doesn't add."  

 

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FL sugar farmers helping to clean up the everglades

FL sugar farmers helping to clean up the everglades | The Everglades Puzzle | Scoop.it
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You don't see many of these stories. But why not?

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SFWMD may buy more Glades County land; Glades

John Wark's insight:

Oh oh, more compaints about SFWMD 

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Water district wants to unload unneeded tracts, but they’re...

To sell or not to sell — that is the question facing the South Florida Water Management District, as it ponders what to do with land it bought for tens of millions of dollars above its appraised value to use in restoration projects it no longer...
John Wark's insight:

Surely there is a smarter way of doing things?

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Breeding brought back Florida endangered wood storks

Breeding brought back Florida endangered wood storks | The Everglades Puzzle | Scoop.it
Sometime in 2013, the wood stork might lose its 29-year status as an endangered species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a proposal Tuesday to reclassify the wood stork from endangered to threatened.
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Palm Beach County rolls out legislative to-do list | Palm Beach Politics blog

Stay up to date with all of the politics in Palm Beach County with the Sun Sentinel's team of political writers.
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Environmentalists urge Gov. Scott to resuscitate Florida's...

Environmentalists said Tuesday that the state should sharply increase funding to buy conservation land, reversing a downward trend that they say threatens the Florida Forever program.
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