Everglades Foundation's Bogus Stats Unworthy of Florida Audubon

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: March 7, 2013 3:55 AM
I Beg to Differ

You know what they say happens when you repeat a lie often enough. 

I don't like to think badly of Florida Audubon, an organization I have long supported. But I also know the power of repetition can turn garbage into a given, and some of the figures Audubon repeated Wednesday morning in an email to its members -- and is using to argue against a bill it doesn't like -- are flat-out, hand-me-the-nosegay wrong.

Audubon calls a sugar-farmers-favored bill to come before the House State Affairs Committee Thursday "an effort to further weaken Everglades cleanup efforts, load more of the expenses on the taxpayers and have the Legislature attempt to nullify an important part of the Constitution."

Sugar farmers, on the other hand, call the still-unnumbered bill "critical legislation needed for Everglades funding." They say their bill actually extends the agriculture privilege tax, due to drop from $25 an acre now to $10 an acre in 2017. Should it pass, farmers would pay a higher tax than under current law, $25 per acre until 2024.

Ashley Cole, an environmentalist friend, asked me how I could have made my mind up already which side is right. "You seem to take the farmers' side," he said, "when so little is known about the legislation and won't be until it gets a full airing Thursday." 

True. I haven't seen the bill yet.

But I asked him, how can I believe the team that sits on the sidelines and peddles misinformation? Audubon has to know that's what it's doing. The letter to its members builds its whole case on a worthless Everglades Foundation report trashed six weeks ago for its "gross inaccuracies."

I've seen and studied the 34-page technical evaluation of the Foundation's report. I have to believe the leadership of Audubon did, too. That makes their "distortions of fact" deliberate, and therefore egregious. 

Says the Audubon letter, "The small 'Agriculture Privilege Tax' currently paid by (Everglades Agricultural Area) farmers provides only $11 million per year toward the billions of dollars needed for Everglades cleanup."

That is misinformation.

First, where do these "billions" come from? According to an agreement of state and federal officials, the cost of the entire remaining restoration is $880 million.

Second, farmers do pay $11-$13 million a year in special taxes, but they also pay millions per year out-of-pocket to implement "best management practices" (BMPs). It's adherence to the BMPs and working with the stormwater treatment areas, according to South Florida Water Management District data, that have resulted in a 93 percent reduction in phosphorus entering the water conservation areas.

The email also claims  the BMPs are "flawed," because they allow farmers to discharge "massive amounts of phosphorus ... sometimes 500, 700 or more than 1,000 ppb when the state water quality standard is on 10 ppb."


Misinformation again, farmers say. "Isolating numbers in one or two parcels of land is an outrageous misstatement of the status of the ecosystem," they claim. The EAA is just a part of the designed system; however, the water quality and restoration goals apply to the entire system.

Today, they say, because of BMPs and farmers paying their fair share of restoration, "water in Everglades National Park is less than 10 ppb. And in areas north of the park clear up to the EAA, water quality goals have been met -- and in many cases exceeded.

According to the South Florida Environmental Report (SFER) just submitted to the governor and Legislature, 2012 marked the 17th consecutive year of BMP compliance and a long-term reduction of 55 percent; a 71 percent reduction in the EAA Basin in 2012.

Eric Draper, executive director of Florida Audubon, said Wednesday, "The first time I saw this bill was 6 o'clock Tuesday night. It changes the way the South Florida Water Management District enforces BMPs. And I only had one evening to study it and get something out to my members."

In his letter Draper called it a "dubious claim" that BMPs are working. BMPs come from Water Management District data. I asked him if he was saying in essence the SFWMD lied.

"No," he said, "I'm not calling them liars. But they can make mistakes. The district is a government agency and I think being a little skeptical of their assertions is healthy."

Draper praised SB 768, the bill proposed by Gov. Rick Scott and the state Department of Environmental Protection to codify in law the cleanup agreement between the state and the Environmental Protection Agency.

In the sugar farmers' response to Draper's letter, Robert Coker, senior vice president of U.S. Sugar Corp., in essence, said that he has little time or respect for Florida Audubon.

“While Audubon is busy filing lawsuits and spreading lies," Coker said, "farmers are on the ground every day, producing food for the nation while also working to improve water quality for the Everglades."

The farmers' "Everglades Improvement and Management" bill -- PCB SAC 13-01 -- is set to be taken up at 9 a.m. Thursday in Morris Hall (17 HOB).

It should get interesting. Particularly, I would think, as reps on the State Affairs Committee are expecting facts, not fabrications or exaggerations or wrong information from a flawed study.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at (850) 727-0859. 

Comments (11)

Chris Sego
7:47PM JUN 22ND 2013
Audubon needs money because they are a charity. They have no money, morons. There is no money in defending plant and animal life, only in destroying it for personal gain. I agree with Big Joe. This article is an advertisement.
10:49AM MAR 7TH 2013
Anyone notice the big CONTRIBUTE button on Audubon's email? A large, red reminder that the environment is a busine$$ to them.
farmer glen from glades
12:51PM MAR 7TH 2013
yup i sure did. they need money to pay for ther lawsuits.
CapeCoral Crosstrainer
1:25PM MAR 7TH 2013
Your right, it's not the Audubon my mother volunteered for years ago. All about lawsuits and money. No real grassroots community work. sad
10:27AM MAR 7TH 2013
Yes, you must be right . . .for the Everglades "the cost of the entire remaining restoration is $880 million" . . . . guess that's why the National Park Service (and many other sites dedicated to CERP) indicate something along these lines:

"The CERP was authorized by Congress in 2000 as a plan to 'restore, preserve, and protect the South Florida ecosystem while providing for other water-related needs of the region, including water supply and flood protection.' At a cost of more than $10.5 billion and with a 35+ year time-line, this is the largest hydrologic restoration project ever undertaken in the United States."

Your facts, and understanding of CERP, appear to be just a little off . . . the original costs were estimated at $7.8 billion in the yellow book plan . . . . those costs have risen with changes and delays in the plan . . . I think you'll find the "agreement" you're referring to addresses only one piece of the greater Everglades restoration efforts addressed by CERP . . . .
1:32PM MAR 7TH 2013
All I know is that the cost's would be much lower if the lawyers stayed away and let the science work. Everglades Restoration will be successful if the we let the Obama/Scott plan move forward.

Stop with the foolish lawsuits. Let's Get to Work!
farmer glen from glades
12:56PM MAR 7TH 2013
hey frank how you doing today? you and me read different stories. i read: "The small 'Agriculture Privilege Tax' currently paid by (Everglades Agricultural Area) farmers provides only $11 million per year TOWARD THE BILLIONS OF DOLLARS NEEDED for Everglades cleanup."

NEEDED is the word frankie.

then i read "the cost of the entire remaining restoration is $880 million"

REMAINING is the word frankie.

dont feel too bad. this technical stuff can make your eyes go funny it happens to all of us.
4:44PM MAR 7TH 2013
If you think all the remaining Everglades restoration will cost $0.88 billion, I have an island called Atlantis I'd like to sell you as farm land out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean . . . . the statement is incorrect . . . .
Mary Anne Austin
8:27AM MAR 7TH 2013
Is this an editorial, an opinion piece, or news reporting?
10:12AM MAR 7TH 2013
As it is marked as a Column, it is an opinion piece.
Big Joe
10:10AM MAR 7TH 2013

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