By Anna Upton, Everglades Trust
Since taking office, Gov. Ron DeSantis has made a name for himself as America’s Everglades Governor. During his first inaugural address in 2019, DeSantis said, “For Florida, the quality of our water and environmental surroundings are foundational to our prosperity as a state — it doesn’t just drive tourism; it affects property values, anchors many local economies and is central to our quality of life. The water is part and parcel of Florida’s DNA. Protecting it is the smart thing to do; it’s also the right thing to do.”
He followed that up this month in his second inaugural address, reiterating his commitment to Everglades restoration, saying, “Florida is now in a golden era for conservation of our treasured natural resources. Our momentum is strong, and we will finish what we started — we will leave Florida to God better than we found it!”
And just last week DeSantis signed a new executive order laying out a blueprint that builds on the promises he fulfilled during his first term as governor. In detail, DeSantis increased his funding commitment to $3.5 billion over the next four years for Everglades restoration, water quality initiatives and water supply protections for Floridians, businesses and tourists alike.
This continues his environmental stewardship from his first term, when he signed an executive order to protect our environment and one of our most critical natural resources, that also sustains our thriving economy — our water.
That first executive order pledged to: (1) secure $2.5 billion over four years for Everglades restoration and protection of water resources; (2) expedite critical Everglades restoration projects, including the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir; (3) establish a Blue-Green Algae Task Force, charged with expediting progress toward reducing the adverse impacts of blue-green algae blooms; (4) appoint a chief science officer; and (5) establish an Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection.
That commitment was only the start of a first term that would include many achievements for restoring the Everglades and protecting our natural resources, including signing into law Senate Bill 712, which included the most significant environmental reforms in decades and created the state’s Resilient Florida program with the state’s first chief resilience officer.
This is why the Everglades Trust was proud to endorse DeSantis in his re-election for a second term. On Everglades restoration, the governor secured record funding, decreased harmful discharges through a new Lake Okeechobee operations plan, and advanced and expedited critical Everglades restoration projects.
His overwhelming victory on Election Day showed that restoring America’s Everglades and protecting the environment is top of mind for Floridians and that the economics of the Everglades’ health and Florida’s waters continue to be a priority for voters and the businesses that drive Florida’s tourism-based economy.
A healthy environment is an essential ingredient to a flourishing economy, and Floridians who have been here for decades and even for those that have even just moved here recognize that important link. DeSantis has understood that from the start that the economy and environment are tied together.
The executive order the governor signed last week prioritizes investments to restore water quality in the Indian River Lagoon and seeks to protect the taxpayers’ investment in Everglades restoration. It also continues to prioritize and expedite the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir; it fortifies progress made on the new Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual; it reestablishes the Blue-Green Algae Task Force; and it strengthens basin management action plans and seeks to improve best management practices working in conjunction with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
If the governor’s first term was any indication of what he can accomplish, Floridians will see this historic commitment become a reality.
Anna Upton is the CEO of the Everglades Trust. To learn more about the Everglades Trust, visit EvergladesTrust.org.
This op-ed was first published in the Tampa Bay Times, which is part of the Invading Sea collaborative.