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New organization opposes $500 million Everglades land purchase

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A group of Florida residents formed a new organization to oppose a $500 million taxpayer-funded purchase of thousands of acres of farmland recommended by environmental activists and the Everglades Foundation.

“Everglades restoration and protection are high priorities for all Floridians,” says Miami resident Nicholas John Kakanis, one of the founders of Florida Citizens Against Waste. “Taxpayers, farmers, businesses and water managers have devoted more than two decades and $10 billion in a cooperative and massive effort to restore a precious resource, and that effort is working.”

The newly formed group is asking residents to sign an online petition through its website, www.Stopthelandgrab.org, urging state legislators to reject the proposed land purchase.

Environmental groups, including the Everglades Foundation, are asking the state of Florida to exercise its option to purchase approximately 46,000 acres in the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee. The purchase option is set to expire in October, providing a limited window of opportunity to purchase land at market prices.

This particular 46,000 acres, the Foundation says, could be useful for additional storage, treatment or as lands that the state could trade with other agricultural interests.

Florida Citizens Against Waste argues that taxpayers, farmers, and businesses already spent more than $10 billion to restore and protect the Everglades, with another $5.5 billion planned. The land purchase would divert resources away from the “real work” of restoration.

“Court mandated Everglades water quality tests today surpasses federal standards,” Kakanis adds, “Experts have a science-based plan to complete the restoration project. Governor Rick Scott recently provided $900 million to finish the effort.”

Kakanis points to “environmental and political special interests” working to convince the Legislature to divert $500 million to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee. He calls it a “land grab” not part of the restoration plan, with no science behind it.

The move only adds to the government’s “already ample real estate portfolio,” he says. “This land would have little or no impact on Everglades Restoration.”

The group says the purchase would leave Florida taxpayers holding the bag for an unnecessary reservoir with potentially billions in future costs.

“Floridians deserve to know the truth about this land grab, and once they do know the truth,” Kakanis concludes. “We are confident they will let their legislators know that the state needs to spend our tax dollars finishing the real work of Everglades restoration — not buying more real estate.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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