Crist pens plea for Everglades purchase

By Bruce Ritchie

Gov. Charlie Crist Monday night sent a letter to members of the South Florida Water Management District board urging them to support the proposed purchase of 180,000 acres from the U.S. Sugar Corp.

The district board is scheduled to hear testimony on the purchase and vote on the matter today. In a deal initially arranged last June by Crist, the district would purchase the land for $1.34 billion.

But the deal has come under fire from the Florida Farm Bureau, former Gov. Bob Graham and communities in Glades County. Graham questions whether the state is paying too much.

However, Crist said the purchase creates “unprecedented opportunities” for restoring the Everglades, dubbed the “River of Grass” by author Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Homes, farms and drainage ditches have shrunk the Everglades to half its former size, according to the Palm Beach Post.

“The historic nature of this moment cannot be lost,” Crist wrote Monday. “I would urge that our focus remain on the long-term benefits of this acquisition. Your decision will have an impact not just for seven years but for the next 700 years and beyond.”