NOTE: This website has reported several inconsistencies and misreporting of facts about Lake Okeechobee, the sugar industry and reporting about algae blooms in estuaries in southeast and southwest this summer. Please find some of these related reports at these links for your perusal:
Florida’s Algae Blooms and Red Tide: Consider the Facts
Political Event Falls Short on Facts
Environmental groups expressed indignation this week after the Everglades Trust endorsed Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis.
But the support from the Everglade Trust, which backed DeSantis and Democrat Gwen Graham in their respective gubernatorial primaries, shouldn’t really have been that shocking.
DeSantis successfully used his opposition to Big Sugar — refusing to directly take money from sugar companies operating around Lake Okeechobee — against Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the Aug. 28 Republican primary.
With residents on both coasts long casting blame on sugar growers for toxic algae in waterways because of polluted releases from Lake Okeechobee — allegations the industry disputes — the anti-Big Sugar stance was highlighted by Everglades Trust Executive Director Kimberly Mitchell in a statement backing DeSantis.
“Ron understands the critical infrastructure projects that must be undertaken and expedited, with the ability to make them a top priority, and already has a track record of standing up to an industry that is physically and politically blocking the reconnection of Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades — Big Sugar,” said Mitchell, a former West Palm Beach city commissioner whose family has deep Republican roots.
Also, a majority of the group’s board of directors has GOP ties.
The Everglades Trust is chaired by Mary Barley, who also chairs the Save Our Everglades PAC, which gave DeSantis’ political committee $50,000 in August.
Another director is Kirk Fordham, who spent 18 years working for three Republican congressmen.
The third board member is former state House Speaker Jon Mills, a Gainesville Democrat who is also a dean emeritus and professor of the University of Florida College of Law.
Mills told the Gainesville Sun this week he disagreed with the other board members on the endorsement.
Still, conservation groups quickly expressed outrage that an organization claiming to support the environment could back a candidate who touts his “unique relationship” with President Donald Trump and has an environmental platform that offers few details about the causes of water pollution and doesn’t mention climate change.
DeSantis’ platform opposes oil drilling off the state’s coasts, pushes lawmakers to ban fracking, seeks to re-establish a task force on red-tide outbreaks and backs Everglades-related issues such as completing a reservoir in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
Florida Conservation Voters Executive Director Aliki Moncrief said the endorsement is a further attempt to “greenwash” DeSantis, a former congressman whose lifetime voting score from the League of Conservation Voters stands at 2 percent.
“On every environmental issue, from protecting our waters and wetlands to acting on climate, he sides with polluters over people every time,” Moncrief said.
Members of the Sierra Club’s Loxahatchee Group and Calusa Group reacted by calling DeSantis a “sham environmentalist.”
“Instead of offering solutions, DeSantis has simply praised Rick Scott, whose horrible environmental policies and rollback of clean water protections have contributed to the current crisis,” said Drew Martin, conservation chair for the Loxahatchee Group of the Sierra Club, which represents Martin, St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties.
Both groups earlier endorsed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum, and the Florida Democratic Party sent out an “FYI” on the spat, highlighting the comments from the Florida Conservation Voters and members of the Sierra clubs.
Source: News Service of Florida