April 27, 2022 Updated 2:31 P.M. ET
PALMETTO BAY (FLV) – It appears the once close-knit South Florida environmentalist community is no more. Feathers were ruffled when top Everglades Foundation scientist Tom Van Lent suddenly jumped ship to join the Friends of the Everglades. Both are registered non-profits.
In his own admission, his new family puts “facts over politics”.
Van Lent, a respected engineer who helped craft the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), is now being sued by the Foundation for allegedly erasing internal data and stealing classified documents.
Newton Cook, the president of United Waterfowlers of FL, a conservation advocacy group, says Van Lent’s departure raises questions about the Foundation’s politics and money.
“Tom was a good scientist at South Florida Water Management District and did a lot of work at the Everglades Foundation [EF] to support their agendas. Although Paul Tudor Jones’ (liberal hedge fund billionaire funder) EF is a giant rich gorilla. Then there is Everglades Trust [ET]. The 501 (c) 4 political arm (strong arm!) of EF. And the Foundation’s politics are reflected in ET”, Newton said in an email to FLV.
“[This] is where Tom could have become disenchanted. If you read the dozens of hit pieces out of ET, there seems to be one objective, and that is to put the EAA sugar cane industry out of business”, Newton continued.
The conservationist didn’t mince words about these organizations’ intentions.
“I call ET and all the groups beholden to the EF purse strings (some like Audubon get hundreds of thousands of dollars grants on down to smaller grants, see Captains for Clean Water, etc) ONE TRICK PONIES. They tend to ignore the 96% of pollution going into Lake O from north of the Lake (and later east, west and south) and constantly demonize the Everglades Agriculture Area [EAA] farmers responsible for less than 4% of the pollution”.
The EF’s attacks on farmers south of Lake Okeechobee have focused on the large EAA reservoir currently being built, often saying the farmers are in the way despite giving up thousands of acres and fully supporting the project.
For years enviros said the reservoir would reduce lake discharges to the East and West coasts – but Newton and several other groups disagree.
“The politics of ‘send the water south’ from the terrible blooms in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee several years ago caused the need for every CERP project to be claimed as ‘will reduce the damaging discharges to the estuaries’ when most have little impact. That is true of the EAA Reservoir. The Reservoir’s purpose in CERP is to collect water during the wet season and meter that water out to the STAs and WCAS during the dry season to keep them hydrated and sheet flow”, Newton said.
The Sierra Club, another enviro non-profit, usually in line with EF, sent a letter to President Joe Biden praising him for not including funding in his budget for an “inferior, ill-conceived reservoir.”
Speeding up construction of the EAA reservoir one of Governor Ron DeSantis’ major focuses. Every step of the way, he held press conferences to show his success and progress with the project. DeSantis worked closely with the EF on this issue.
Now, with all these concerns coming to light, Newton thinks the Governor should cut ties with EF.
“Frankly, DeSantis does not need EF anymore. I simply don’t believe the Reservoir makes any difference except for mouthing the ‘send the water south’ mantra to satisfy the people in Stuart and Fort Myers”, Newton said.
Back in 2018, Van Lent is on record with the Palm Beach Post telling them there’s not enough focus on stormwater treatment areas, which cleans the water in the lake before sending it south, an issue the EF is silent on.
The lawsuit says the documents in Van Lent’s possession could harm their reputation and competitive edge.
Could those documents expose the Foundation for lying to the public and overselling the EAA reservoir? Could that project really just be a coordinated plan to, as Newton says, “put American farmers out of business?”
Newton: “The EF probability needs to shut him up regarding the ‘science’ behind some of their attacks on their demons [sugar cane farmer]. The power always rests with the money, and [liberal billionaire] Paul Tudor Jones will have his way.”
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