Earlier this week, United States Sugar agreed to sell 187,000 acres just north of Everglades National Park to the State of Florida for a whopping $1.75 billion, according to a story in the New York Times.
Under the terms of the proposed deal, the plant will go out of business in six years. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said he plans to let the chunk of land go wild, which environmentalists hope will keep the Everglades from dying of thirst.
Each year, the sugar operation slurps 500,000-Olympic-size-pool’s worth of water from the Everglades, the Times reported Monday.
Downstream, the effect is obvious. I was there a few weeks ago and “river of grass”—the English translation of Everglades—is hardly fitting. Even traditionally soaked areas are dessicated, and the squawks of the native Anhinga, a diving bird that nests in the Everglades, are replaced by a chorus of shocked Floridians guffawing at the place’s dryness.
Along the 35-mile road to Flamingo Campground, ponds and lakes that make up habitat for wading birds have dried into little mud puddles, squishing together several species of birds—including ibises, herons, and the endangered wood stork. Overhead, circling ravens, and black and turkey vultures—bad omens, all—stalk the place as though waiting for it to die.
Let’s hope the Everglades can hold them off for six more years.