About Friends of the Everglades:

Friends of the Everglades was founded in 1969 by Marjory Stoneman Douglas, author of the seminal book The Everglades: River of Grass. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving America’s Everglades and its interconnected ecosystems. We are proud to advocate on behalf of supporters across the Greater Everglades region.

2022 Legislative Priorities:

Stop pollution at its source
Prohibit oil drilling in the Everglades and Big Cypress
Strip “particle emissions” from the list of protected farming practices
Fully Fund Florida Forever
Send more Lake Okeechobee water south
Support legal rights for the natural environment
Stop the assault on home rule

1. Stop pollution at its source.

    1. Fully implement the recommendations of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force and Red Tide Task Force: The state’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force and Harmful Algal Bloom/Red Tide Task Force issued reports in 2019 and 2020, respectively, containing numerous recommendations to tackle HABs. Only some of those recommendations were included in the Clean Waterways Act of 2020; more must be done.
      For example, the task force report recommended verification that “Best Management Practices” (BMPs) are actually working. Instead the state continues to rely on the “presumption of compliance” — which clearly isn’t working. Other recommendations that were ignored include the implementation of stormwater system inspection and monitoring and requiring owners of onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems to have the system periodically inspected.
      The Blue-Green Algae Task Force also recommended the Florida Department of Environmental establish defensible water quality criteria for blue-green algae (cyanotoxins), with such criteria “supported by the best available science and monitoring, and updated as new information becomes available.” No such action has been taken.Half-measures will not solve the public health threat posed by harmful algal blooms. We ask legislators to pass measures that fully implement the task force’s recommendations.
    2. Support tough new stormwater runoff regulations:
      As part of the Clean Waterways Act, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the state’s five water management districts initiated a rulemaking process to modernize stormwater management. The FDEP formed the Clean Waterways Act Stormwater Rulemaking Technical Advisory Committee, or TAC, tasked with devising potential new regulations. Some of the new rules may require Legislative ratification.To be effective, the new rules need to be stringent.Monitoring, rather than presumed compliance, should be standard. Existing stormwater treatment systems that are contributing to water-quality problems must be addressed/retrofitted, rather than focusing only on new systems. New funding sources to avoid burdening existing homeowners/homeowners’ associations should be considered.

2. Prohibit oil drilling in the Everglades and Big Cypress National Preserve.

Friends of the Everglades supports legislation to prohibit oil exploration or oil drilling in the Everglades Protection Area. However, exploration and drilling must also be proscribed in Big Cypress National Preserve.

Big Cypress is a key component of the greater Everglades ecosystem, protecting 729,000 acres of wetlands that flow clean water into Everglades National Park and key estuaries along Florida’s southwest coast. And for upland species like the Florida panther, black bear and turkey, Big Cypress is even more important than the Everglades Protection Area. It must be protected.

Currently Burnett Oil Co. is seeking permits that would allow it to extract oil in Big Cypress. Friends of the Everglades supports efforts to compel the U.S. Department of the Interior to require full environmental impact statements for the permits, and believes the permits should ultimately be denied by both federal and state officials.

3. Strip “particle emissions” from the list of protected farming practices

A measure in Florida’s revamped “Right to Farm” bill (SB 88), passed in 2021, shielded farmers from lawsuits related to a list of protected farming operations. Included on the list is particle emissions, an exemption which benefits the sugar industry at the expense of some of the Glades region’s poorest residents.

Sugar growers regularly set fire to their fields to facilitate harvest; the smoke and ash can blanket nearby communities, which many experts believe contributes to health problems like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Friends of the Everglades believes the health of the Glades communities must take precedence. The Legislature must restore the legal rights of affected residents by removing the term “particle emissions” from the list of protected farming activities under state law.

4. Fully fund Florida Forever.

Florida Forever, one of the nation’s premiere conservation programs, saw a slight funding increase last year, to $100 million. Federal COVID relief funds also permitted the Legislature to pass the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act and dedicate $300 million to acquiring sensitive lands and create statewide pathways for the Florida panther and other fragile species.

This year that federal funding may not be available, and the Legislature may be tempted to trim the amount allocated to Florida Forever.

The opposite must happen. Last year two bipartisan bills proposed a $100 million annual funding floor for Florida Forever; those measures were worthwhile and should be reconsidered. But the program needs even more; prior to 2009, Florida Forever funding had been $300 million per year. Funding in 2022 and beyond should equal or exceed this amount.

5. Send more Lake Okeechobee water south.

Since 2008, over 3 trillion gallons of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee has been sent to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries. While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ new Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual is expected to reduce discharges, those discharges could be cut even further by adding additional storage and treatment capacity south of the lake.

Land for new stormwater treatment areas (STAs) needs to be acquired and new STAs constructed. The Legislature must redouble its efforts to find willing sellers. But if none are available, eminent domain should be returned as an option for the state.

In addition, STA 5/6 cannot currently receive lake water, as there is no effective route to move water from the lake. The South Florida Water Management District has acknowledged that “Creating a route to deliver meaningful flow to STA 5/6 would provide more capacity for the treatment of Lake Okeechobee water and would help balance STA loading. Full utilization of the STAs we’ve already built would be a logical next step.”

The Legislature should take that next step, and authorize funding to study and then create the conveyance capacity.

6. Support legal rights for the natural environment.

We support House Bill 6003, “Legal Rights of the Natural Environment” which would eliminate an existing preemption law forbidding local government from recognizing or granting any legal rights “to a plant, an animal, a body of water, or any other part of the natural environment that is not a person or a political subdivision.”

This would create a way for local governments to grant legal protections to the environment should their constituents wish to do so.

7. Stop the assault on home rule.

Individual municipalities and counties are far better equipped to understand and respond to the will of local constituents than state government could ever be. Yet in recent years, “Home Rule” has been usurped and the decision-making of local government, representing the desires of its residents, has been overturned and preempted by Legislators in Tallahassee.

During the 2021 session the Legislature struck down three Key West referendums that would have limited the size of cruise ships, imposed a daily cap on the number of visitors and prioritized cruise operators with the best environmental records. All three ballot measures passed overwhelmingly, but lawmakers decided the Legislature, rather than local voters, should have the final say.

This must cease. Among other measures, we support requiring that any legislation that would preempt local authority should require a two-thirds majority in both the state House and Senate.