Written By: Kaylee Rodriguez
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has had a proactive first month in office. One of the things on the top of his list has been the environment. In Executive Order 19-12 DeSantis called for $2.5 billion dollars to fuel the Everglades restoration and protection of its waterways. One of the ways that he plans to protect these waterways is through the construction of the Everglades Agricultural Area Storage reservoir, an area which aims to reduce Lake Okeechobee’s harmful runoff from discharging into estuaries. He also outlined the establishment of a Blue-Green Algae Task force with a mission to reduce the impacts of red tides and algal blooms. Although it will take far more than proposals and words to make these policies come to fruition, this is a significant first step.
“Our water and natural resources are the foundation of our economy and our way of life in Florida,” Governor Ron DeSantis said in a news release on January 10. “The protection of water resources is one of the most pressing issues facing our state. That’s why today I’m taking immediate action to combat the threats which have devastated our local economies and threatened the health of our communities.”
By recognizing these environmental concerns and putting a name on them, DeSantis has already done far more than previous state administrations. The environmental issues plaguing our state should transcend party politics. They are not red or blue problems, they are problems that affect ALL Florida citizens. By acknowledging that Florida’s waterways are cornerstone to our economy and livelihood, DeSantis has found a way to meet both parties in the middle.
Florida’s largest industry is tourism, which amounts to about $40 billion a year in revenue. Because our tourism is so heavily reliant on our waterways, it’s a no brainer that to protect this industry we must protect the environment that fuels it. And yet, what seems like an obvious answer has taken over twenty years to unfold. Yes, many politicians have made promises before. But now, we have an order and dates to back these promises up.
If DeSantis receives the additional funding he is requesting from the Federal Government, the goal is to break ground on the reservoir before the end of 2019. Some of the other things encompassed in the Executive Order are charging the Department of Environmental Protection to “adamantly oppose all offshore oil and gas activities off every coast in Florida and hydraulic fracturing in Florida.”, appointing a Chief Science officer to coordinate and prioritize scientific data, and engaging local government and industries to engage in conservation campaigns. The order also explicitly uses to words “impacts from sea-level rise.” Once again, there is an acknowledgement of the issues at hand. Sea-level rise is real, there is no time to debate this fact and I believe this order recognizes that.
The plans are certainly ambitious, and many are calling them “too good to be true.” However, what Executive Order 19-12 has done is establish a basis for accountability. DeSantis is pledging to protect our waterways and it is our job as citizens, students, and members of the ecosystem to hold him to his word.