For a group of environmental activists with a mission to save a swamp, the Everglades Foundation finds itself stranded on a political island. The group is standing alone in opposition to a high-priority proposal backed by Governor Ron DeSantis that would create additional oversight of leaky septic tanks, add more transparency and data collection to reporting on agricultural water management practices, as well as add a new wastewater grant program to minimize pollution.
None of these new programs currently exist. They are adopted in Senate Bill 712 from recommendations by the state’s Blue Green Algae Task Force. The bill, even in its amended form, already has the support of a handful of environmental and conservation groups, scientists and regulators, including Audubon Florida, The Nature Conservancy, the Marine Resources Council, the American Sportfishing Association, Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection and more than a dozen others.
Enter the never-satisfied Everglades Foundation.
In testimony before the Florida Senate’s Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government, the Everglades Foundation General Counsel Anna Upton attempted to throw a monkey wrench into the proceeding by telling state senators that a proposed compromise amendment would move the bill “backwards.”
State Senator Debbie Mayfield didn’t care much for the Everglades Foundation’s lone-wolf strategy, immediately ripping into their sole opposition to the proposal. Mayfield asked Upton if she’d rather have the new agriculture measurements removed from the bill completely, or accept a compromise that would shift data collection by state regulators from one year to two year intervals:
Mayfield: “Would you rather us take it out completely?”
Upton: “And have no data collection?”
Upton: “No. Absolutely not.”
Mayfield then went on to excoriate Upton for several more minutes, pointing out that none of the programs in the amendment currently exist, and rubbing Upton’s nose in the fact that she’d previously discussed the matter in a private conversation “10 minutes earlier.”
“This bill does not take us backward anywhere in the process,” Mayfield said. “It takes us forward. We’re trying to set something up that’s going to be a success.”