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Sugar Reform Now: Sign the U.S. Farm Bill petition to protect the Everglades

For decades, private sugar companies have received enormous government handouts via the U.S. Farm Bill — to the detriment of clean air and water in Florida.   Through controls on production and strict import limits, the cost of the federal sugar program is shifted to consumers and taxpayers. Windfall profits generated by the sugar industry, led by Florida Crystals and U.S. Sugar, are then used to buy influence over lawmakers. This unjust, outdated policy enriches billionaire-backed sugar companies at the expense of the iconic, life-sustaining Everglades and nearby communities. It's a double-whammy for South Florida taxpayers, who also foot the bill to clean polluted water from sugarcane fields south of Lake Okeechobee. Meanwhile, people who live near those sugarcane fields [...]

Everglades in the News: The New York Times spotlights the truth about toxic algae

The front page of Monday’s New York Times spotlighted a threat we contemplate every day at Friends of the Everglades: Lake Okeechobee, still full from Hurricane Ian’s deluge last fall, is now brimming with fertilizer-fueled toxic algae. That toxic algae is likely to be discharged east toward the Atlantic and west toward the Gulf of Mexico as the lake rises this rainy season, posing a threat to our environment, economy, and public health. It’s a crisis we’ve been working to resolve for years, as the government-supported sugarcane industry continues to occupy about a half-million acres south of Lake Okeechobee — impeding true restoration of the River of Grass. The story also highlights Friends of the Everglades’ commitment to science-backed solutions [...]

Your moment of Everglades zen: Flora of the River of Grass

Native plants are a life-source of the Everglades. The Everglades is an oasis of tropical flora unlike any other place in the world. Orchids. Bromeliads. Succulents. Wildflowers. And, of course, the sawgrass that inspires the nickname “River of Grass.” The largest subtropical wilderness in the United States provides a perfect habitat for hundreds of diverse plant species that play a crucial role in the ecosystem. They provide habitat and food for birds, insects, reptiles, and mammals. Native plants also filter and purify water in the Everglades, helping to maintain the balance of the freshwater system and soil stability, preventing erosion and facilitating water absorption.  Plant species (from left) poisonwood, ghost orchid, air plant.  Unfortunately, over 160 native Everglades plant [...]

WATCH NOW: Dissecting the Florida budget numbers

https://youtu.be/w8T5nLzWR0I From the desk of our Executive Director, Eve Samples, your Voice of the Everglades update: The movement you empower at Friends of the Everglades hinges on a vision for the future of Florida:It’s about clean water, protected wetlands, thriving native species, and plenty of protected green spaces for us all to enjoy. In essence, it’s about a truly restored River of Grass that works with nature instead of against it. That vision is still achievable — but the window is narrowing. And Tallahassee lawmakers are making our work harder.There’s a disconnect between the decisions we’re seeing from the Florida Legislature and the environmental challenges facing Florida, as Executive Director Eve Samples told the Miami Herald last week. Even as [...]

DeSantis approves back-door ban on new fertilizer ordinances

A sneak legislative attack destined to undermine fertilizer bans — a key tool for local governments trying to limit nutrient pollution in waterways — was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday. Ignoring veto requests from Friends of the Everglades, Sierra Club, Captains for Clean Water and many other environmental groups, DeSantis failed to veto a line in the budget bill, Senate Bill 2500, that funds a $250,000 study examining whether fertilizer bans with summer “blackout” periods are effective. Shortly thereafter, DeSantis signed SB 2502, the budget implementing bill, which stipulates that as the fertilizer study is conducted over the next year, local governments are prohibited from adopting or amending strict new fertilizer ordinances.  The provision had been [...]

Everglades Illustrated: Toxic Times Ahead?

The satellite image above from June 11, 2023, presages a grim tale. The algal bloom seen here covers an estimated 440 square miles of Lake Okeechobee which, amazingly, NOAA describes as a decrease from the day before. At just over 14 feet, Lake Okeechobee is higher than anyone is comfortable with at the start of Florida’s rainy season. Comparable levels in past years have led to many billions of gallons of harmful releases to the northern estuaries. Paired with the current concentration of algae in the lake, there’s a concerning likelihood we’re headed toward another toxic summer. Friends of the Everglades spent more than three years fighting for a new lake management plan, LOSOM, that considers the risks of [...]

Your moment of Everglades zen: Enjoying the greater Everglades in the heat of summer

Beat the heat. Stay in the car. If you’re looking for an isolated, driveable Everglades adventure this summer, Loop Road might be the trip for you.  Although summer doesn’t officially begin for a few more weeks, the season of high heat, humidity and endless mosquito bites is already here. While these conditions make it challenging to hike or kayak South Florida’s iconic wetlands, the Everglades can still be enjoyed from the comfort of your air-conditioned car along the 24-mile Loop Road in Big Cypress National Preserve.  Accessible from the Tamiami Trail, the mostly gravel road takes you through three counties (Collier, Monroe and Miami-Dade), offering views of sawgrass prairies, [...]

2023-06-05T17:16:49-04:00June 6th, 2023|All Posts, Everglades Zen|

Introducing the $10,000 Karen Mashburn Environmental Scholars Program

Third and fourth grade students from Royal Palm Elementary School stay engaged in a presentation about Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Young Friends of the Everglades on June 1, 2023, in Miami. Friends of the Everglades is pleased to announce the Karen Mashburn Environmental Scholars Program scholarship and internship. One undergraduate or graduate recipient will be awarded $10,000 and participate in a 12-week Fall 2023 internship at Friends of the Everglades in Stuart, Florida, for approximately 15 hours per week. As the intern helps to support the Young Friends of the Everglades program and engage in community outreach, they will develop a wide range of skills including communications and instructional skills and gain an understanding of governance and guidelines in [...]

2023-06-01T13:10:53-04:00June 1st, 2023|Young Friends of the Everglades|

Spotlight On: How the U.S. Farm Bill contributes to toxic algae in Florida

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmfsR-k3SA8 Here’s how sugar supports in the U.S. Farm Bill create toxic algae blooms Big Sugar has a very sweet deal.  U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals — which grow hundreds of thousands of acres of sugarcane in Florida — have long profited from federal protections in the Farm Bill, which is reauthorized by Congress every five years. The current Farm Bill expires September 30, 2023. Protectionist policies dating back to the 1930s benefit the industry through low-interest loans, price supports and import quotas, all designed to keep the price of sugar in the United States higher than it is on the global market. This cost, paid for by American consumers and taxpayers, creates windfall profits the industry then uses [...]

DeSantis just signed “Sprawl Bill” 540 into law

This afternoon, Gov. DeSantis signed into law the worst environmental bill passed by the Florida Legislature during the 2023 session. Senate Bill 540, which will take effect July 1, is a death knell for smart growth in Florida. It will effectively end citizen challenges to comprehensive plan amendments by sadling those who challenge an amendment and lose with the other side’s legal fees — including developers’ attorney fees if they join the case.  Signing SB 540 into law defies the spirit of DeSantis’ own Executive Order 23-06, which called for protecting the long-term planning process that safeguards sustainable growth in Florida. And it will embolden developers to propose more environmentally perilous projects. Friends of the Everglades did not stand [...]