111 years ago today, Teddy Roosevelt made the Grand Canyon a national monument. And Florida's new governor, Ron DeSantis, who calls himself a "Teddy Roosevelt conservationist," took a lesson from President Roosevelt when he told the "leaders" at South Florida Water Management District to GTFU yesterday.
In conservation circles, it's no secret that the state water management authorities leave a lot to be desired. Hell, even in non-conservation circles, it's a fairly well-known fact. When former governor Rick Scott took office, he removed all accountability from the state's five water management districts. See, the governing boards of these districts (Northwest Florida, Suwannee River, St. Johns, South Florida and — in Tampa Bay — Southwest Florida are the five management districts) — all get appointed by the governor, and when Scott took over he changed the rules so that his appointees reported not to the citizens they served, but to him. (Also, go ahead and click on the names of each of SWFWMD, read their vitals, and then ask yourself why there aren't any biologists but plenty of lawyers and agriculture reps on the board)
We can all see how that worked out in the Everglades, and by "all" we include our new governor, Ron DeSantis, who it appears will take a different approach to water management districts, at least in South Florida: He's kicking ass and taking names.
DeSantis called for the nine appointees on SFWMD to resign because he believes they "failed to understand the toll endured by communities by repeated algae blooms triggered by dirty lake water released into coastal rivers," the Miami Herald reported.
By "lake" he means Lake Okeechobee, and those repeated toxic algae blooms in South Florida followed repeated Lake O. discharges along the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, posing serious health threats to residents, killing wildlife and decimating many tourist- and fishing-based businesses.
"I just want good people who are willing to do the right thing," DeSantis said yesterday.
Two days after the gubernatorial election, SFWMD appointees voted to extend a lease for sugar farmers — who discharge a hefty dose of their nutrient-laden water into Lake O — despite requests from DeSantis' environmental transition team member U.S. Rep Brian Mast to delay the vote until DeSantis could review it.
In a move that perhaps speaks volumes about where the board's loyalties lie, they ignored the request and voted to give Big Sugar its lease, despite evidence doing so could negatively impact the Everglades, local communities and Florida waterways.
The lease extension grants land use to Big Sugar instead of for the reservoir that would help decontaminate the water before it flowed into the Everglades.