Miami Dade County Community Forum

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

$360 million stimulus for Everglades Restoration spurs South Fl. Environmental Justice conference

Several south Florida organizations have joined together to sponsor an environmental justice conference, Saturday, June 20, 2009 in the Broward County main library auditorium, beginning at 10 a.m.

Billed as “A Mobilizing Conference for Environmental Justice, Conservation and ‘We The People,’” conference organizers are hoping for a frank discussion with officials from the U. S Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), managers of the $22.8 billion Everglades Restoration projects.

Environmental justice (EJ) and conservation activists want to know specifics as to how the $360 million Recovery Stimulus Act funding the Obama administration is sending for Everglades Restoration, will impact socially and economically disadvantaged individuals and communities.
For example, the Herbert Hoover Dike Rehabilitation Project (Lake Okeechobee) and the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) large reservoir construction, are two projects that will seriously impact low income and minority communities. The people want to know just how environmental justice issues are being dealt with.

At issue is what one activist called “the prostitution of congressional intent,” regarding how laws such as WRDA 2000, NEPA and Presidential Executive Order 12898, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, have been side-stepped or fudged. Those provisions were designed to protect the interests of the poor, near-poor and minority populations, “including individuals with limited English proficiency.”

Other EJ and conservation issues will be discussed at the conference, including the Wingate Road Municipal Incinerator and Landfill site in Fort Lauderdale, that spewed toxic waste from 1954-78 on mostly black residents of that northwest neighborhood and surrounding vicinity.

Schedule permitting, famed EJ sociologist Robert Bullard, Ph.D., affectionately called “the father of environmental justice,” and author of 12 books including Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality, may be able to fly in to address the conference.

The conference will feature panel discussions with lots of time allotted for audience participation. A primary conference goal is to organize through mobilization and coalition building, initially in the tri-county area of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Conference organizers say that EJ and conservation, not separately, but as one, is the civil rights movement of the 21st century.

Conference co-sponsors area: Operation Green Leaves/South Florida Community Partners; Florida Atlantic University, Department of Urban and Regional Planning; Broward Libraries Division, Department of Outreach Services; the Wilderness Society; and the South Florida Times.

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