DeSantis vows to focus on Florida’s troubled environment, despite poor green record in Congress

TALLAHASSEE — Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis calls himself a “Teddy Roosevelt conservationist” and allies say he is genuine when he vows to make the environment a top priority of the incoming administration.

But some in the environmental community are skeptical — recalling how DeSantis in Congress drew bottom-scraping grades from them on a range of issues considered vital to water and land oversight.

Still, U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, a friend and close adviser, said DeSantis views Florida’s water woes and preservation needs through a unique lens.

“He knows this needs to happen,” said Mast, who heads the incoming governor’s transition team on the environment. “Our water is the lifeblood of our environment and the environment is the lifeblood of our economy.”

DeSantis’ focus, Mast said, is, “What can he do right now?”

In a state reeling from a summer when red tide fouled the Gulf Coast and toxic, blue-green algae from Lake Okeechobee polluted Atlantic coastal communities, DeSantis said he is critically aware of the need for swift action.

Construction of a new reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee must be accelerated, along with urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to keep lake levels lower to reduce the need for damaging water discharges, he said.

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