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Nancy Smith

And the Award for the Session's 'Most Botched Lobbying Job' Goes to ... the Everglades Trust

June 12, 2015 - 11:00pm
I Beg to Differ
I Beg to Differ

Some environmental groups have more money than they do brains. Meet the Everglades Trust.

They don't learn.

First, as the legislative session began in March, this "501(c)(4) corporation of non-elected board appointees" -- "committed to keeping Florida's water flowing clean and safe" -- launched a fact-twisted, six-figure TV, radio and online campaign to buy U.S. Sugar Corp. land.

It did nothing for them but make new enemies.

By muscling up and demanding the first and largest share of Amendment 1 cash, the Trust created not a sense of shared common treasures but an unhealthy atmosphere of competing environmental priorities.

Then, into the special session -- when they didn't get their way, when the South Florida Water Management District voted to go forward with the Everglades restoration projects already planned rather than continue trying to spend $500 million of Amendment 1 proceeds on 46,800 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. land, the group's braintrust decided to trash a few legislators.

Not just any legislators. And here's the bizarre part. They singled out three of the most proactive members of the Florida House in the quest to solve water problems in South Florida and promote Everglades restoration:

Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers; Kristin Jacobs, D-Pompano Beach; and Katie Edwards, D-Plantation.

Don't ask me why. A fit of pique? An object lesson for all legislators? It reminded me of an old World War II movie about the French occupation when the Germans, in an effort to ferret out the collaborators, lined up every 10th man in the town square and shot them while the townsfolk watched. Scared the pants off the survivors.

Apparently -- if you look at the angry attack mailers (“Political Paybacks or Clean Drinking Water?”) circulated in each of the condemned three's districts -- they stand accused of taking campaign contributions from Big Sugar, pretending to care about water problems and the Everglades,  but ... "BIG SUGAR is calling in their favors and pressuring our legislators to turn their backs on the will of the voters.” The Palm Beach Post had the whole story.


I tried Friday to reach President Mary Barley, widow of Everglades Trust's founder, George Barley,  to find out why just the three targeted representatives? I wanted to find out what  lawmaker -- name one in the Florida House, just one name -- who did more to further the Everglades Trust's agenda. Anyone.

And wasn't it the South Florida Water Management District -- not the Legislature, not even Big Sugar -- that threw cold water on the Trust's objectives when its board voted to go no further with the U.S. Sugar land purchase?

And wasn't it the House -- yes, the Fitzenhagen-Jacobs-Edwards House -- that opted for bonding to make a BIG land purchase this year? Until the bond-unfriendly Senate prevailed. 

When the Trust announced the attack-ad campaign, Barley issued this statement: “The Everglades and our drinking water are at risk while Florida legislators refuse to act. As toxic algae and pollution threaten our waterways, we draw attention to the hypocrisy of politicians who claim to care about our environment, but instead protect the corporate interests, like Big Sugar, that contribute tens of thousands of dollars to their campaigns.”

Let's see what the three targeted legislators did and what they have to say for themselves:

* In 2013, during the massive discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and the subsequent algae blooms, Heather Fitzenhagen showed up everywhere, circulating a petition in Southwest Florida "to demonstrate to the Legislature how much support we have for creating a  plan to handle this problem." She spent hours in the House Office Building, leaning on lawmakers, educating them on the plight of counties victimized by polluted water. "If people understand how passionate we are with addressing this problem, then we'll be able to get something done." In fact, she did put together a team to start reviewing options. Alas, she chose to go with the Restoration Strategies in place and failed to adopt the Everglades Trust agenda which, the Everglades Trust tells us,  puts her in Big Sugar's pocket.

* Katie Edwards, a conscientious and fastidious researcher who spent hours on social media getting opinion from her constituents on how best to spend Amendment 1 money, posted this on Facebook: “I suppose working to make sure that our existing public lands are maintained, our existing (Everglades restoration) projects are completed and our backlog of deferred operations and maintenance of water infrastructure makes me a target for out-of-state billionaires and their Gucci loafer-wearing lobbyists. My constituents should not be misled by these recent attacks on me by these special interests.”  Doubtful her constituents were misled for a minute. I think they know their representative.

* The resume of Kristin Jacobs, former mayor of Broward County,  is a study in environmental service to South Florida. In fact, so associated is Jacobs with addressing environmental challenges, she was invited to accompany President Obama on his Everglades tour on the 45th annual Earth Day celebration. She told Sunshine State News, "It makes me sad that with their hit pieces the Everglades Trust could write off my 17 years of environmental activism working for clean water and Everglades restoration. I'm sad because I'm going to keep on doing what I do for the environment but now my voice is lost to them. The only thing they've done is make the Everglades more vulnerable. ... That 75 percent of voters weren't voting for one piece of land, they were voting for Florida Forever. They were voting to protect our coasts, our beaches, our springs. ..."

These attack mailers, this choice of target -- three smart, assertive woman lawmakers who can't be bullied or fooled, whose constituents know the measure of their resolve on environmental issues -- turned into the biggest backfire since Jimmie Johnson curled off the track at Indy in the first turn. It's called making enemies of the people you desperately need to be your friends. And it's won the Everglades Trust the session's "Most Botched Lobbying Job" award.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith 



What do we really expect from a spineless Executive Director like Eric Eikenberg? He was a lackey to Charlie Crist and is now a lackey to environmental money. Just like Charlie, blows with the wind.

Great article! Unfortunately I feel the Everglades Trust has missed the major point all along and I told them so when I wrote them a couple of months ago! Why not COMPROMISE? Buy only 26,100 acres Urgently needed for the EAA SOUTH Reservoir with about $200 Million of the Constitutional Amendment One funds, NOW! With no lease-back provisions for US Sugar! We need to restore the historic flow to the Everglades - ASAP! SW Fla needs good water in the Caloosahatchee for our Tourism - RED Tide & DEAD Fish do not sell condos! ACT NOW!

Every blogger needs to get some of the facts straight. In 1960 only 50,000 of sugar cane farming existed. Now its over 450,000. The Fanguls receive subsides that would make you choke. The USACOE spends close to 70 million feeding the sugar cane business and cleaning up the mess yearly. These are taxpayer dollars pure profit for Big Sugar. Sugar is destroying the Everglades. The really sad part is Orlando and Disney is killing off the rest. Everyone thinks its okay to flush their crap down the Kissimee River. There is 9 feet of silt pollution in Lake Okeechobee and if we do not fix it we will have no clean drinking water. As per the DEP in a 2006 study 95% yes 95% of our drinking water is COMPROMISED that's a nice way to say its filthy. So while articles point out backstabbing hopefully they will start showing how your money is really wasted. Corporate Welfare is a crime that needs to stop. Polluters need to clean up the mess Not the taxpayers. Its amazing how nobody wants the truth and everybody wants somebody else to clean up the mess.

Since the everglades is likely to be a saltwater ecosystem within a century it would seem shortsighted to buy the US Sugar land.

For Mary Barley & her group to attack Kristin Jacobs, of all people, is shameful. There is no stronger defender of the environment than Representative Jacobs. Kristin was my County Commissioner for 16 years & is now my state representative. No one has done a better job of fighting for environmental protection, from clean water & air to bikeways & anti-pollution efforts, than Kristin Jacobs. Ms. Barley. & her group have turned me from being a strong supporter of theirs to a political enemy. The opportunity for payback will come!

I have stopped donating to environmental groups because of all of this negative business they are involved with. I was at one time an avid giver to the Sierra Club. Now I send my donations to local humane shelters and animal causes that are not affiliated with large lobbyists. It's important to know who you give your money to.

Representative Katie Edwards is a fair and hard working member of the State Legislature and has shown she has the best interests of all in mind....especially south Floridians....when making decisions, including those involving the environment.....

Nancy, great job exposing this radical environmental group, but you missed the real story. Everglades Trust along with every other environmental organization in Florida, real goal is to completely eviscerate sugar framing in the EAA. Having represented farmers for over twenty years and being involved in the legislative process, I learned in 1994 with the Everglades Forever Act legislative initiative, that Audubon, Sierra Club and their affiliate groups ultimate goal was elimination of farming south of Lake Okeechobee. And, nothing has changed to this day!! In conclusion, I want to say that Katie Edwards is one the most intelligent and hard working members of the legislature. A breath of fresh air to the goofball democrats and has more practical and common sense than the entire House Republican leadership combined!!!

Nancy, this was our weekly email report from Adam Putnam dated June 1st, 2015. Late last week, the Obama administration finalized its misguided and thinly veiled federal takeover of Florida’s waterways, robbing Florida of the right to govern itself. Contrary to what the Obama administration claims, the “Waters of the U.S.” rule that was just finalized lacks clarity and further muddies the regulatory waters, imposes burdensome requirements on agriculture and business, and impedes our efforts to protect and restore the environment. I testified before the United States Congress several months ago on this disastrous expansion of federal authority. I was attempting to bring common sense to Washington and to protect our state’s rights and our state’s water. Instead, the Obama administration chose to harm our state, and states across our country, by further eroding our freedom to protect, preserve and manage Florida’s unique waterways. Sincerely, Adam Putnam So, it looks like the State of Florida lost this great program to the Federal Government.

Thanks for sharing. It's worth adding that the EPA's (and state's) overall regulations to protect wetlands has little impact on Fla drinking water, since we get ours from groundwater, not surface watersheds like some other parts of the country. The stricter wetlands protections will backfire here, pushing development and agriculture into dry, well drained soil areas that require much more water to irrigate, with no clay barriers to filter polluted wastewater before it seeps directly into the aquifer again. That was the same trend after wetlands earlier regs started decades ago, now made worse. The interstate highway system avoided wetland areas also because more arid lands were cheaper to build highways on. So, urban sprawl followed there too, compounding water depletion and pollution even more. EPA has been great for cheap highways and lawns, but bad for the aquifer. This is typical Washingtard one-size-fits all regulatory madness.

Nancy you hit the nail on the head!...these folks displayed a lack of political acumen that is mazing...and as a result they're not going to get much...of course the first mistake was thinking that they could force a Constitutional Amendment down the legislature's throat and then expect them to do their bidding...second was to go against logic whereby US Sugar didn't want to sell the land and the UF study said to clean the water going INTO Lake O...third was to not accept any compromise...and finally its bogus to argu that they knew exactly what voters expected to happen - they have no idea...oh, they know what THEY wanted to voters to think but they have no ability to honestly devine what voters expected when the amendment passed except they wanted clean water any way possible...maybe they'll get the message before the next session

The articles opening statement is so true. Of course the whole Environmental movement is in a desperation mode, as all the latest science and actual Water Use vs Withdrawals results have destroyed their previous claims. Recent DOAH judicial rulings sure support the truth of the old saying--- "Fools [environmentalists] and Their Money Are Soon Parted". About time for the Sunshine State News to publish the real Fl. Water Use History for all to see ! Details: Just email above.

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nancy smith


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