Gov. Rick Scott will be the keynote speaker for the opening reception of the 27th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference in Stuart, which begins today.
The Everglades Coalition is an alliance of 54 local, state and national conservation and environmental organizations dedicated to full restoration of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem. According to the group’s website, the conference is the “largest annual forum for debate of Everglades conservation and restoration” and will be attended by a host of environmental leaders and policy-makers.
Though Scott has been sharply criticized for his environmental decisions in the past, he recently received high marks from environmentalists — telling a crowd in Treasure Coast of the need for more funding for Everglades restoration projects. Scott recently proposed $40 million toward Everglades restoration in his budget — nearly double what he proposed last year, and $10 million more than what the state Legislature eventually approved.
His outlook on environmental restoration might be different, but not everyone is a fan. U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recently said that the state’s plan to clean up the Everglades falls short. Four federal agencies involved in Everglades restoration penned a letter to Scott in November, outlining their initial concerns with his strategy. Scott’s plan, they wrote, calls for “significantly smaller’’ cleanup marshes than the EPA plan. It would also push back the cleanup deadline another two years, to 2022. (The original deadline, of 2006, has been pushed back several times by the state.)
Despite the criticism, the state has said it is pleased with the “collaborative approach” of working with the federal government on the cleanup project.
The Conference will run through Jan. 8; Scott’s speech will begin at 6 p.m. tonight at the Hutchinson Island Marriott Beach Resort and Marina in Stuart.