(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) — The Florida Department of Environmental Protection will purchase 20,000 acres of wetlands in the Everglades in an effort to save the area from oil drilling, the governor announced.
It was the largest wetland acquisition in a decade, according to a press release from Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office.
The wetlands affected, which are located in the Water Conservation Area 3 in Dade and Broward Counties, had previously been owned by Kanter Real Estate LLC. Kanter and the state’s Department of Environmental Protection recently reached an agreement and the acquisition of the land was announced Wednesday.
“This significant purchase will permanently save these lands from oil drilling. I’m proud of our progress, but also recognize this is just the beginning,” DeSantis said in a statement. “I will continue to fight every day for the Everglades and Florida’s environment.”
The wetland acquisition will protect the wildlife habitat of more 60 endangered and threatened species and support expedited restoration work on the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir, according to the governor’s office.
Water Conservation Area 3 is part of Everglades Protection Area, described as “one of the most important wetland systems in the Everglades ecosystem.”
In February 2019, a Florida appeals court ruled that the real estate company would be able to drill an exploratory well in the Everglades, according to court documents.
The company’s president, John Kanter, wanted to drill on a 20-mile-wide, 150-mile-long stretch of shale between Miami and Fort Myers dubbed the Sunniland Trend, according to the Miami Herald.
With the new acquisition by the state, about 600,000 acres of land are now protected in Water Conservation Area 3 and will be restored, the governor said.
Kimberly Mitchell, the executive director at The Everglades Trust, called the acquisition “fantastic news.”
“This Governor keeps plowing through the morass that has confounded every Governor before him. We have never doubted the sincerity of his commitment,” Mitchell said in a statement.
DeSantis’ office did not immediately respond to ABC News’ question as to how much the land purchase will cost.
He has also requested sustained funding at $625 million annually for the Everglades, springs and clean water to help with restoration, according to the press release.
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.