Everglades Coalition supports historic buyout

The Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District is convening today and tomorrow to endorse an historic agreement to purchase 181,000 acres of U.S. Sugar Corporation's land in the Everglades Agricultural Area for restoration. This opportunity to purchase almost 300 square miles of the Everglades agricultural area creates exciting possibilities for the future of Everglades restoration, and the Coalition supports approval of this deal...

• Land acquisition key to restoration projects; Coalition looks to governing board for approval

WEST PALM BEACH, FL, Dec. 15, 2008 -- The Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District is convening today and tomorrow to endorse an historic agreement to purchase 181,000 acres of U.S. Sugar Corporation's land in the Everglades Agricultural Area for restoration. This opportunity to purchase almost 300 square miles of the Everglades agricultural area creates exciting possibilities for the future of Everglades restoration, and the Coalition supports approval of this deal.

"The Governor's vision of including the EAA in Everglades restoration is monumental," said Mark Perry, State Co-Chair and Executive Director of the Florida Oceanographic Society. "This acquisition will represent one of the most important opportunities to protect America's Everglades."

The Everglades Coalition's Essentials for Everglades Restoration identified nine restoration essentials and benchmarks that must be achieved if CERP 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. With this purchase, we will now have land needed to do this.

"If we do not take this opportunity now, there is no assurance we will ever have the land we need to store and clean water to send south into Everglades National Park," said Sara Fain, National Co-Chair, Everglades Coalition and Everglades Restoration Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. "With this landmark acquisition, we now have the ability to make better decisions about how to reestablish the historic River of Grass."

"As the state of Florida continues to provide great leadership and initiative for the Everglades, we look to our federal partners for a sustained commitment to support and fund the plan that will restore the health and natural sheetflow of America's Everglades, said Fain. "Only with a strong federal-state partnership can we truly achieve our goals."

On January 8-11, 2009, the Coalition will hold its 24th Annual Conference in Miami, FL, where we will discuss the importance of this acquisition and the new opportunities and challenges it creates.

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The Coalition says the health of the Everglades is not only vital to the environment, but also the economy and quality of life in South Florida. However, the group remains sympathetic to concerns in the community that this may have on the local economy. Given Crist's commitment to a multi-year transition, the Coalition hopes that in the long run, this will be a win-win situation for all involved.

The Everglades Coalition is an alliance of 51 local, state and national conservation and environmental organizations dedicated to full restoration of the greater Everglades ecosystem, from the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes into Lake Okeechobee, through the "River of Grass," out to Florida Bay and the Keys. We represent over 6 million members nationwide.

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