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AIF pushes back, slowly, on Glades study

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011 by John Kennedy

One of Florida’s biggest business lobbies fired back Wednesday at the Everglades Foundation — disputing a four-month-old report by the environmental group which touted the economic benefits of restoring its namesake, fabled swamp.

“This report is nothing more than wishful thinking with no credible basis for the claims made by the foundation,” said Barney Bishop, president and CEO of AIF. “It is impossible to support the foundation’s assertion that the state will see $4 for every $1 invested in Everglades restoration. Further, it is impossible to even prove the economic benefits will ever cover the costs of the federal Everglades Restoration Plan.”

The foundation in October released a report by Mather Economics which said construction, hydrology and other environmental work tied to the Everglades project was creating jobs and would continue to add value to the South Florida region for years to come.

The foundation aired a similar theme Monday when it released results of a statewide poll showing most Floridians want Everglades restoration to continue, despite Gov. Rick Scott’s recommendation to reduce this year’s funding form $50 million to $17 million.


Survey: Floridians want dollars for Everglades

Monday, February 28th, 2011 by John Kennedy

With environmental spending under fire in Tallahassee and Washington, a survey Monday showed two-thirds of Floridians support Everglades restoration, with a majority also opposed to reducing dollars flowing to the effort.

The Everglades Foundation released the survey, saying it supports the organization’s push for state lawmakers to steer clear of Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal to reduce restoration funding from $50 million to $17 million. Scott also wants water managers, including the South Florida Water Management District, to reduce property taxes by 25 percent, which environmentalists say could further drain dollars needed for Everglades work.

“Our message to the governor is that he can partner with the conservation community to create jobs and protect our water supply at the same time,” said Kirk Fordham, the foundation’s chief executive officer. “If we want to grow that supply of fresh water, the only solution out there is Everglades restoration.”

President Obama’s budget blueprint increases spending on restoration. But the Republican-led U.S. House has proposed sharp cuts in environmental programs and funding for the Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for much of the Everglades work.

The Everglades survey was conducted by the Tarrance Group, which does polling for Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, other Republican senators, and GOP members of the Florida congressional delegation.

The survey showed that 84 percent of voters rank maintaining Florida’s fresh water drinking supply as “very important.”  Seventy-nine percent agreed that to attract new business and industries to the state, access to a stable water supply is necessary.

The survey of 607 voters was taken Feb. 13-14. It has a 4.1 percent margin-of-error.

Appeals court order environmentalists to pay lawyers’ fees in Martin County case

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010 by Dara Kam

A state appeals court has ordered environmental groups to pay attorneys fees of Martin County, the Florida Department of Community Affairs and developers for appealing a land-use case, the Florida Tribune is reporting.

The website reports that the 1st District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee ruled against the environmentalists yesterday in a 2007 Martin County case.

Three years ago, the county reduced to two acres from 20 acres the minimum lot size required in a nearly 200,000-acre swath of designated agricultural land in western Martin County.

1000 Friends of Florida and the Martin County Conservation Alliance challenged the land-use change, saying it failed to establish predictable standards to protect environmentally sensitive lands.

The appellate court ruled that the environmentalists lack legal standing because they were not affected since there was no increase in development since the new standards went into effect.

Martinez pushes Florida Forever funding

Thursday, October 8th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Former Gov. Bob Martinez is pushing state lawmakers to restore funding to the Florida Forever land buying program with a press conference in Tampa next week.

Martinez, who was governor from 1987-1991, created Preservation 2000, the precursor to what is now called Florida Forever.

Lawmakers slashed funding for the program last year as they struggled to close a $2.8 billion budget gap.
They did, however, find the money to go forward with $250 million in bonds already authorized to allow the program to limp forward.

Gov. Charlie Crist had included $300 million in his budget for the program. The state has already spent more than $5 billion in the past two decades on buying and maintaining the land.

Martinez and environmental leaders are scheduled to hold the press conference on Wednesday at the Cypress Point Park in Tampa.

Atwater creates special springs committee

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Senate President Jeff Atwater created a special committee to look into water quality issues affecting the state’s springs.

Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, chose Sen. Lee Constantine, an Altamonte Springs Republican, to head the Senate Select Committee on Florida’s Inland Waters.

The committee will hold hearings on water quality and access propose legislation that “balance the need for protection with access and consumption,” according to a press release issued by Atwater today.

“We must become the leader in managing economic growth with water conservation demands and ecosystem protections,” Atwater said.

Former Florida Supreme Court justice Wade Hopping dies

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009 by Dara Kam

hoppingProminent lobbyist and former Florida Supreme Court justice Wade Hopping died today from complications from a stroke and esophageal cancer.

Hopping died a day before his 78th birthday and on the 30th anniversary of founding the Tallahassee law firm Hopping Green and Sams.

Hopping served as a Cabinet aide to Gov. Claude Kirk, who appointed him to fill an opening on the Supreme Court in 1968 but he lost reelection the following year. Supreme Court justices are now appointed by the governor and remain in on the bench by a merit vote.

Kirk, the first Republican governor elected since Reconstruction, credited Hopping and environmentalist Nathaniel Reed with helping to create both the state and national environmental regulatory agencies.

“I didn’t know how to spell conservation or environment but we learned about it,” Kirk, who lives in West Palm Beach, said. “Wade was in the middle of all of that with Nat Reed. With Wade’s help and Nat’s help we got (former President) Nixon to create the President’s Council on the Environment.” The council was the basis of what later became the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Kirk said.

The white-haired, white-bearded lobbyist was an institution in the halls of the Florida Capitol throughout his thirty years of working on behalf of businesses including Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Sugarcane Growers Cooperative of Florida and the Florida Marine Industries Association.

Recently, Hopping was instrumental in the state’s $310 million purchase of the 74,000-acre Babcock Ranch Preservation Area in Southwest Florida. The 2006 deal was the largest conservation lands purchase in Florida history.

He frequently drew swords with environmentalists but was a willing and capable compromiser, said Audubon of Florida policy director Eric Draper, who frequently worked against Hopping in issues before the legislature.

“Wade has been a fixture at the capitol for as long as I can remember. He was always pushing firmly with his clients’ agenda but always in a friendly and good-humored way. He was one of the business lobbyists that conservationists were most willing to work,” said Draper, who is running for Agriculture Commissioner. “It’s hard to imagine working on environmental issues without him on the other side.”

Hopping is survived by his wife of 38 years, Mary Hopping of Tallahassee. He is also survived by children Hank and Margaret Hopping of Chattanooga, Jud and Jackie Hopping of Fort Lauderdale, Kiff and Lynn Mendoza of Tallahassee, and Beth Mendoza and Maureen Murphy of Atlanta.

A funeral service is scheduled Thursday at the Faith Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee.

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