1. Archive

Glades icon calls law a blunder

Published Oct. 6, 2005

The author who inspired America to protect Florida's Everglades as a national treasure wants the governor to remove her name from the "Marjory Stoneman Douglas Everglades Protection Act of 1991."

Douglas is so appalled by this year's "Everglades degradation bills" that she wants her name disassociated from the act as soon as possible. Bills proposed by a Senate committee and Gov. Lawton Chiles would amend laws governing the vast ecosystem.

The 103-year-old recipient of the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, delivered her request to Chiles on Wednesday in a letter.

Douglas, author of The Everglades: River of Grass, called the initial act a "blunder" that was created and named without her permission. The Legislature sometimes names a law in honor of an advocate.

"I disapprove of it wholeheartedly," Douglas wrote. "The act and now the new proposed amendments to it are directly contrary to the goals and policies of my organization, Friends of the Everglades, which I founded in 1969 to protect and restore the precious Everglades.

"I personally want you to take whatever steps are necessary to remove my name from this act and refrain from using my name in any reference to the act."

The governor wasn't surprised by Douglas' request.

"I've got all the respect in the world for Mrs. Douglas, but I think that has always been her opinion," Chiles said of Douglas' criticism of the Everglades Act.

It wasn't clear Wednesday if or when Douglas' name would be removed.

Friends of the Everglades president Nancy Brown released Douglas' letter in a news conference.

She was joined by environmentalists from the Florida Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Florida Audubon Society, Clean Water Action and the general counsel for the Miccosukee Indian Tribe. They blasted Everglades bills being pushed by Sen. Rick Dantzler, D-Winter Haven, and Chiles.

The bills, they say, amount to manifestos being drafted by Florida's wealthy sugar industry. Environmentalists say water quality standards aren't high enough, and they want the sugar industry to pay to clean up pollution that is poisoning the Everglades and Florida Bay.

The environmentalists support Save Our Everglades, a constitutional amendment drive that would require sugar companies to pay a penny tax per pound of sugar to raise an estimated $700-million to clean up the pollution.

"Lobbyists hired by the sugar industry have the upper hand in Tallahassee and Washington," said Charles Lee, senior vice president of the Florida Audubon Society. "The only real chance to save the Everglades is to pass the constitutional amendment that will be on the ballot in November."

Earlier this week, Chiles said the state will seek new regulatory powers to start an Everglades cleanup plan if lawmakers fail this session to pass adequate legislation.

"I'm trying to put the emphasis on what I think has to be done," he said Wednesday.

The governor's bill falls short on water quality standards and would allow the sugar industry to continue polluting the Everglades until Dec. 31, 2003, said Bonnie Barnes-Kelley of the Sierra Club.

Meanwhile, the sugar industry isn't happy either. It wants vegetable growers and cities on the outskirts of the Everglades to contribute to a restoration plan.

_ Staff writer Lucy Morgan contributed to this report.