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MacKay criticizes environmental legislation

Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay joined Florida environmentalists Thursday to blast the Legislature for passing bills that he said will muck up efforts to restore the imperiled Everglades.

"This legislation does as much for the Everglades as a skunk at a garden party," MacKay said. "It's a shame."

During the waning days of the legislative session, lawmakers quietly passed measures to change laws on how the government can take over farmland in the Everglades and along the Kissimmee River. They also decided to place tighter legislative controls on a massive study to replumb the River of Grass.

MacKay stopped short of saying that Gov. Lawton Chiles would veto the measures. He said that he has discussed his feelings with the governor and noted "we don't always agree."

Agriculture interests _ including sugar companies, citrus and vegetable farmers, and cattle ranchers _ say the change in the condemnation law ensures that private landowners get fair value when land is taken for the massive restoration effort. It would steer condemnation lawsuits to state courts instead of federal courts. In state court, landowners get their attorney's fees paid by taxpayers; in federal court, they have to pay the tab themselves.

Environmentalists say the change will drive up the cost for taxpayers.

State and federal scientists are working to replumb a system that years ago was ditched and diked to make way for crops and cattle.

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