Score one for the Everglades

In a bit of news that might not usually make this page but is suitable (and still as happy) during the Wesleying dry season, the Associated Press is reporting that one of the biggest conservation deals in U.S. history was tentatively struck earlier today between the state of Florida and the U.S. Sugar corporation:

The nation’s largest producer of cane sugar reached a tentative agreement Tuesday to get out of the business and sell its nearly 300 square miles in the Everglades to the state of Florida for $1.75 billion… The state is trying to restore the Everglades and clean up pollution caused by Big Sugar and other growers, while the American sugar industry is being squeezed by low-price imports… Republican Gov. Charlie Crist declared the agreement “as monumental as the creation of our nation’s first national park, Yellowstone.”

Under the deal, the state would buy U.S. Sugar’s holdings in the Everglades south of Lake Okeechobee, including its cane fields, mill and railroad line. U.S. Sugar would be allowed to farm the 187,000 acres for six more years, after which it would go out of business. The state would then protect the land from development.. State officials would also build a network of reservoirs and marshes to filter water flowing into the Everglades and help restore the River of Grass to a cleaner, more natural state…

Negotiations are still going on, and officials hope to sign a final agreement by September… “It makes it a lot more manageable,” said Ken Ammon, deputy executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, the state agency overseeing restoration efforts. “It totally changes the face of Everglades restoration … No one ever thought that a whole corporation like U.S. Sugar would up and potentially leave the Everglades.”

Somewhere, environmentalists are having a kegger.

EDIT: Someone in the comments asked for the full article. The NYT covered this today, so you can see their more in-depth story here

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