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DeSantis unveils agreement to purchase wetlands in Everglades

By Staff | Jan 22, 2020

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at Lovers Key State Park in November. DeSantis has announced the purchase of 20,000 acres of wetlands in the Everglades. NATHAN MAYBERG

Gov. Ron DeSantis has announced the largest wetland acquisition in a decade.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has reached an agreement with Kanter Real Estate LLC., which will allow for the purchase of 20,000 acres of critical wetlands in Water Conservation Area 3 within the Everglades Protection Area in Broward County.

“One of my administration’s top environmental priorities has been expediting Everglades restoration,” said DeSantis.

“Today we take another step in the right direction by reaching this agreement between DEP and Kanter Real Estate that will allow for the purchase of 20,000 acres of critical wetlands. This significant purchase will permanently save these lands from oil drilling. I’m proud of our progress but also recognize this is just the beginning. I will continue to fight every day for the Everglades and Florida’s environment.”

The Kanter property is in the heart of the Everglades in WCA 3, which is part of the Everglades Protection Area – one of the most important wetland systems in the Everglades ecosystem. With this acquisition, there would be nearly 600,000 acres of wetlands in WCA 3 that would be permanently protected in public ownership for restoration and recreation.

“This acquisition will help ensure that the largest contiguous wetland in the state remains in a more natural state for future generations,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein.

The property in question became the subject of a contentious legal battle in the courts between the owners, municipalities and environmental groups who tried to stop it.

Matthew Schwartz, executive director of the South Florida Wildlands Association, one of the leaders in the legal fight against the project, called the buyout “a huge relief.”

Schwartz said his group was “extremely distressed about the impacts this well and oil pad could have had on the Biscayne Aquifer, a sole source of drinking water for our entire region.”

“We applaud Governor DeSantis for his swift action in protecting these lands. This is yet another demonstration of his commitment to restoring America’s Everglades and ensuring that we achieve more now for Florida’s environment,” said The Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg. “We also stand in strong support of the Governor’s request for sustained funding at the $625 million level annually for the Everglades, springs, and clean water. Recurring funding is critical to expediting and completing key Everglades restoration projects like the Everglades reservoir that will send an average of 120 billion gallons of clean freshwater south to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay, reducing unwanted discharges to the East and West coasts.”

“Florida is making a hefty investment in the largest ecosystem restoration project in the world to ensure that clean water is available to rehydrate America’s Everglades,” said Audubon Florida Executive Director Julie Wraithmell. “Drilling for oil in the Water Conservation Area is incompatible with our commitment to restore this fragile ecosystem. This land is part of our water supply.”

“NPCA is thrilled that the Kanter property can now be acquired for restoration, and will be protected from oil and gas exploration,” said National Parks Conservation Association Senior Everglades Program Manager Cara Capp. “Floridians know that oil drilling and exploration in the Greater Everglades is dangerous and must be stopped – it threatens our water supply and fragile ecosystems, especially in the face of climate change impacts”