The deal, which will involve 20,000 acres, will be the largest acquisition of wetlands in Florida in ten years. The seller is Kanter Real Estate LLC, which had requested a permit for oil exploration in the area from the state. The Environmental Protection Department denied the permit, Kanter sued and the court ruled in favor of the company.
But the family-owned real estate firm them agreed to sell the property for $16.5 million to the state of Florida, or $18 million, if the deal is not finalized until June 30.
“This significant purchase will permanently save these lands from oil drilling,” Governor Ron DeSantis said. Republican DeSantis, Reuters notes, focused his campaign on the protection of the Everglades wetlands and recently proposed that the state invest $625 million annually in restoring the area.
Florida is not a major oil-producing state, but there is oil there. The first discovery was made in the 1940s and since then, Florida has been producing from several onshore fields.
Yet at the same time, the state has been actively pursuing ways to protect its wetlands, which include a conservation area that is home to a number of protected animal species.
The Everglades spans 1.5 million acres and this is just half of its original size. The rest has been lost to agriculture, urbanization, rising sea levels, and invasive species. It is also a key channel for waterways supplying the Biscayne Aquifer, which in turn provides drinking water to the whole of Southern Florida.
With the purchase of the Kanter property, the state will expand the acreage under permanent protection from oil drilling to almost 600,000 acres.