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Natural Awakenings

Shrinking Land: Florida Scales Back Everglades Restoration Plan

Jun 01, 2009 03:00AM

Budget tightening has Governor Charlie Crist significantly scaling back Florida’s $1.34 billion plan to help restore the Everglades by buying 180,000 acres from the United States Sugar Corporation. The more modest proposal is $530 million for 72,500 acres, with an option to buy the rest by 2019.

If the altered plan is approved by the South Florida Water Management District and the board of United States Sugar, 32,000 acres of land currently used for citrus would be available to the state for water storage and treatment within a year. The other 40,500 acres would continue to be farmed for sugar for at least seven years on a leaseback program.

Despite the smaller scope, Crist notes that it’s still the biggest land purchase in Florida’s history, representing acreage that’s twice the size of Orlando. Thomas Van Lent, a senior scientist at the Everglades Foundation, described the deal as “a pretty good down payment.”

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