This Thing Called Courage

Monday, July 07, 2008

Effort to Save Everglades Moves Forward


THIS IS FROM AN ARTICLE that run ten days ago in the UK Guardian. Funny that I read nothing about this in the American Press...maybe I wasn't looking hard enough.

The state of Florida today announced a landmark deal with the US sugar industry to buy 187,000 acres of farmland that would be used to restore the pristine wetlands of the Everglades national park.
The land sale, unveiled by Florida governor Charlie Crist, jump-starts one of the biggest environmental rebuilding projects in modern US history. Its $1.7bn opening price could swell in coming months as the once-powerful sugar kingpins negotiate their terms with the state.
Crist said the pact was "as monumental as our nation's first national park," adding that he hopes to sign a final pact by September, according to the Palm Beach Post newspaper.
The Everglades, a vast chain of marshes that is home to manatees, Florida panthers, Key deer and other threatened species, was declared a protected area in 1934.
But the health of the park dubbed the River of Grass has suffered greatly in recent years, hurt by polluted runoff generated by sugar farms that lie in the centre of the ecosystem.
The vital southward passage of water from Lake Okeechobee in central Florida to the Everglades also has become increasingly impeded by industry, posing another threat to the park.
The land sale, comprising about 300 square miles, would allow US Sugar to continue farming for six years before giving up its leases, effectively putting the country's cane sugar maker out of business.
Florida would then be free to accelerate its eight-year-old Everglades Restoration Plan. The rebuilding project was originally planned as a $7.8bn joint effort with the federal government, but funding to resuscitate the park has proven hard to come by.
Florida has dedicated about $2.4bn to the effort so far, with Congress allotting even less, according to the Associated Press.
In the wake of the deal, US Sugar is expected to cease operations in Florida, where cane harvesting brought the company an estimated $400m in annual profits. Sugar beet producers would in position to gain a foothold on the American natural sweetener market.
The sale also represents a stunning political victory for Crist, who is often talked about as a possible running mate for Republican presidential nominee John McCain. The governor is reported to have devised the land sale on his own to help US Sugar escape costly lawsuits and the state make good on its promise to rescue the Everglades.
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