Sanibel, FL. August 2, 2016. The Islands of Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce is holding a “Sign the Declaration Ceremony!” at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, August 4. The Chamber is inviting citizens to join them in signing the Now or Neverglades Declaration.
The Now or Neverglades Declaration supports the 200-plus Everglades scientists who believe that sending Lake Okeechobee water south is essential to stopping the damaging discharges to coastal estuaries that have resulted in the blue-green algae blooms, beach closures and the states of emergency in Lee, Martin, St. Lucie and Palm Beach Counties. “Using Amendment 1 and other funds, we must identify and secure land south of the lake without delay, before development in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) or other uncertainties condemn our waters to irrevocable destruction,” states the Declaration.
According to estimates, approximately 15 percent of the land in the EAA would be needed for a reservoir and associated flow paths. “[This] would neither eliminate nor harm sugar cane and farming operations in Glades communities,” the Now or Neverglades Declaration maintains. In fact, this amount of land is less than half the acreage that U.S. Sugar has offered to sell to the State of Florida in an agreement that remains in effect until October 11, 2020.
The effort is spearheaded by the Everglades Trust and other environmental groups. Signers include Florida Audubon and Sierra, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Florida Wildlife Federation, League of Women Voters and Captains for Clean Water. Business backers include Orvis, Patagonia, Yeti and the Wilbur Smith law firm in Fort Myers. U.S. House of Representatives candidate Chauncey Goss has signed the pledge, but Francis Rooney has not. Republican District 27 State Senate candidate Jason Maughan has also signed the declaration, but according to pledge organizers, his opponent, Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto (R-Fort Myers), has not, prompting the SWFL Clean Water Movement to stage a two-hour protest outside her offices yesterday.
“This is why the election between myself and Senator Benacquisto is so important,” observes Maughan, who has questioned Benacquisto’s commitment to exercising the option because of the substantial campaign contributions she has accepted from U.S. Sugar and other agroindustry special interests.
“We cannot afford to take a chance on someone whose loyalties have been compromised,” asserts Maughan. “Look, the science is settled. The money is available – thanks to 75 percent of Florida voters who cast their ballots in 2014 for Amendment 1. Voters in District 27 need to elect someone who will work tirelessly to identify and secure the land needed for that reservoir and flow paths. I am that person. I understand that it’s now or never. That’s why I signed the Now or Neverglades Declaration.”
For the full text of the Now or Neverglades Declaration, please visit: http://gladesdeclaration.org/.
The Islands of Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce is located at 1159 Causeway Road, Sanibel, FL 33957. For more information about the Sign the Declaration Ceremony, please telephone the Chamber at 239-472-1080 or email [email protected]