A lawsuit filed Thursday against Gov. Rick Scott and his Cabinet charges illegal farming leases were granted to sugar and vegetable plantations north of the Everglades.
The environmental group Earthjustice alleges state rules involving lease of state lands is limited to no more than six years.
Farmers were offered a 30-year lease in January.
Earthjustice attorney David Guest said the plantations involved create pollution and crowd out native vegetation important for wildlife in the Everglades.
"Every other lease of state lands for agriculture in Florida is six years," Guest said. "This is a sweetheart deal for big sugar and the Everglades is the big loser."
The state owns 14,000 acres of land traditionally used for farming. Under the Everglades Forever Act, farmers who lost their land under the act were granted a one-time 20-year lease that would have ended next year.
Guest said extending the leases for the sugar and vegetable plantations is illegal and poses a pollution risk.
"If the governor and Cabinet want to protect and restore the Everglades, they cannot perpetuate the use of state lands to pollute that resource," Guest said.
The best use of the state-owned lands would have been to help restore the health of the Everglades and prevent pollution, he said.
- Florida News Connection