On Monday, Governor Rick Scott toured a couple of the state's most environmentally sensitive areas (of which there are many) in conjunction with what would seem like an uncharacteristic announcement.
He first visited Audubon Corkscrew Sanctuary in Naples, then Audubon Center for Birds of Prey near Maitland, to tout a proposal that, if the legislature approves it, would add more than $200 million to the state budget expressly for environmental protection.
This includes bringing the grand total for Everglades Restoration to $355 million: $50 million to Florida Forever, an imperiled environmental lands program; a $40 million increase in state park funding; $35 million in additional funds for beach renourishment, and more, the Tampa Bay Times reported Monday.
The proposal is far from becoming a reality — and it's a far cry from Scott's past actions on the environment, which one might best describe as...choppy.
Scott has been a notorious climate change denier and exacted dramatic cuts to the state's water management districts within his first year. His administration neglected to enforce rules that were put in place to keep polluters at bay and avoided talking about water releases from Lake Okeechobee that are believed to cause harmful algae blooms on either coast. He has appointed developers and other potentially self-interested types to boards aimed at preserving and protecting land, water and wildlife. In 2014, as he was seeking reelection, the Times wrote an editorial accusing Scott of having "a callous disregard for the state's natural resources and no understanding of how deeply Floridians care about their state's beauty and treasures."
Perhaps Scott, an early and enthusiastic supporter of that tree-hugger president of ours, Donald J. Trump (hope we don't need to tell you that was sarcasm?), is turning a new leaf.
Or it's a way to appeal to Floridians ahead of a likely run for U.S. Senate in 2018.
Scott is probably going to challenge incumbent Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat. And in his possible attempt to unseat Nelson, who has been a strong environmental advocate over the years (even if his voting record isn't perfect), Scott has to have figured out by now that Floridians love them some pristine lands brimming with thriving wildlife.
Cynical political ploy or not, Florida's environmental community may not be looking the ol' gift horse in the mouth.
The Times writes that Audobon's Eric Draper praised the proposal and Scott's "commitment" to Florida's springs and how the governor is "stepping up for land conservation and for parks" — and that as an environmental advocate, regardless of whatever the motive behind it may be, he'll take it.