Jump to Navigation
Topical Breezes
Following the Currents that Guide Florida's Future
What top environmental concerns are facing the Legislature?
Joe Saunders
The legislative session for 2013 is months away, but that only seems like a long time if you're not one of the people working on it. Committee hearings -- where most of the real work of any session takes place -- are starting this week, and lawmakers and their staffs are already looking at full schedules as agendas begin to be set. This week, Florida Voices asked groups for their thoughts on what the Legislature should be looking at in terms of environmental protection. Tim Center, of Sustainable Florida, writes that there shouldn't be a conflict between our environmental concerns and the economy. Florida's economy depends too much on its environment -- which is what brings tourists and new residents here all the time -- to sacrifice the latter for the former. Erik Eikenberg, of the Everglades Foundation, makes an equally practical point: We can't keep Florida a place people want to live in and visit if we don't have water. And in most of Florida, the Everglades means water, and water means life.
Tim Center
Executive Director, SustainableFlorida

Florida’s economy – perhaps more than any other state in the country – relies upon a healthy environment.

Clean beaches, sunny skies and a year-round sporting climate, attracts millions of visitors and thousands of new residents annually.

So when the tragic 2010 Deep Water Horizon accident crippled an already slowed economy, Florida residents came to understand and realize that a healthy environment and strong economy are mutually beneficial. This might explain why polls swing to and from being for or against off-shore drilling proposals.

But we are a short-term memory society. In a state that is constantly changing and growing, we seem to lack a long-term vision of what we want for future generations. Without a design for the future, too frequently policies seem to focus on the tyranny of the present.

Too often, political options are presented as “either-or” when they are usually more “both-and.” The Council for Sustainable Florida encourages the Florida Legislature to adopt a sustainability paradigm that analyzes options that can lead to a prosperous economy while promoting environmental stewardship and better quality of life for our residents and visitors.

A sustainability paradigm requires a holistic look at options. It is not enough for a fiscal impact statement to offer a single lens of analysis. Sustainable Florida encourages – and our Florida-based business leader members have adopted – a triple bottom-line analysis.

Considering economic, environmental and social factors results in better investments and thoughtful policies that eliminate inefficient or ineffective practices that result in unintended consequences. A sustainability paradigm also helps ensure that multiple viewpoints are considered while working toward a shared vision.

With a shared vision and paradigm, a sustainable Florida will:

  • Ensure a quality water supply for people, agriculture and natural habitats.

  • Foster an energy policy that can leverage state and federal investments to help manage demand, encourage conservation, and encourage the growth of renewable energy options, including waste, as part of a diverse fuel portfolio.

  • Protect private property rights, support the conservation and management of critical landscapes while encouraging compact design to create livable communities.

  • Promote educational opportunities which enable Florida students and businesses to compete in the world.

Sustainable Florida envisions a Florida that allows new companies, residents and visitors to appreciate and enjoy Old Florida’s gorgeous coastlines, incredible springs, lakes and rivers and fantastic farms, ranches and towns.

Additionally, Sustainable Florida looks forward to policies and practices that serve the long-term needs of Florida that will continue to attract millions of visitors, millions of dollars in investments and help businesses and residents prosper. These are all new chances to ensure a sustainable Florida for future generations.

This is the future of the Sunshine State.

Good luck, Senate President Gaetz, House Speaker Weatherford and the rest of the Florida Legislature!

Sustainable Florida looks forward to working with you.

Eric Eikenberg
CEO, Everglades Foundation

Florida lawmakers begin their first week of committee meetings with our state on the verge of renewed economic growth. It is a time of cautious optimism, but it appears the worst of Florida’s economic crisis is behind us. Now is the time for the Legislature to protect the water supply for more than 7 million Floridians and create jobs by devoting resources to Everglades restoration.

A key driver of Florida’s economic future is the restoration of America’s Everglades. Nearly one in three Floridians depend on the Everglades ecosystem for their drinking water. Without that supply of water, Florida’s economic growth will be jeopardized. Not only do the Everglades require a reliable source of clean, fresh water, but so do our cities and towns, as well as agriculture. Increasing the total available water supply is one of the primary objectives of Everglades restoration and should be a major goal of the Legislature.

Decades of scientific research shows that the Everglades are declining because of long-term damage from a lack of fresh water and an overabundance of pollution. This summer, the state of Florida announced a plan for significantly reducing pollution and improving water quality. The plan calls for putting more clean, fresh water in the Everglades, which along with a suite of restoration projects will benefit the ecosystem and extend South Florida’s water supply.

The state’s new water quality plan will cost $880 million and will be funded by South Florida Water Management District reserves and property tax collections as well as money from the Legislature. But the plan only works if the Legislature does its part. That means funding the water quality plan along with the projects needed to manage the cleaner water to benefit the Everglades and water supply. After all, water quality is just one just one component of restoration. Improving water quality alone is not restoration.

Floridians care deeply about the Everglades – not just as a natural wonder but also as a source of drinking water and as a driver of the state’s economy. A Tarrance Group poll found that 69 percent of Florida voters believe it is important to restore the Everglades. Eighty-four percent understand that the Everglades is a “very important” source of fresh drinking water. And a study by the respected firm Mather Economics detailed the benefits of restoring the Everglades and found that for every dollar invested in restoring the Everglades, four dollars would be generated in economic activity.

Everglades restoration has been a partnership between the state and federal governments. The Everglades provide recreational opportunities for citizens and draw tourists from all over the world. Recognizing this resource as a vital economic engine, the Legislature should do everything it can to provide adequate funding and ensure progress toward restoring America’s Everglades.


Comment on this Roundtable Using Facebook