I read with disappointment the recent guest column that attacked the environmental record of Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam.

 

Over my career, I have had the opportunity to work with many environmental leaders from across the United States, and few have Putnam’s proven record of environmental leadership.

Putnam’s actions to make a positive impact on Florida’s environment helped secure funding for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, establishment of the state’s first comprehensive water policy in decades and the preservation of tens of thousands of acres across Florida.

praise for work on everglades

As a Florida congressman in 2001, Putnam was a member of the Congressional Everglades Caucus and helped lead efforts to fund the Everglades plan to restore, protect and preserve the water resources of Central and South Florida, including the Everglades.

More than $1 billion of federal funding has been invested in restoring and reviving the imperiled ecosystem in and around the Everglades since then. The Everglades plan has been praised by environmental advocates as an essential component to Everglades restoration.

As a candidate for agriculture commissioner in 2010, Putnam made water issues a central theme of his campaign, repeatedly saying that “the biggest long-term challenge facing our state is water.”

He committed to working with the Florida Legislature to develop and implement a comprehensive water policy that was based on sound science and would prioritize the projects that could yield the greatest measurable improvements in the areas that needed them most. This effort was not easy, and it failed to pass on the first vote.

In 2016, however, working with stakeholders to build consensus and dedicate the funds that were needed to support the policy,

Putnam helped pass the state’s first comprehensive water policy in decades. The bill, which not only works to fulfill future water supply needs, also protects and restores Florida’s iconic springs, and helps meet the minimum flows necessary for a healthy and balanced ecosystem.

Notably, this effort has earned the praise of many environmental organizations, including the Everglades Foundation, Audubon Florida and The Nature Conservancy.

When his time as commissioner of agriculture is complete, Putnam will be leaving some of Florida’s most environmentally sensitive lands more protected than he found them.

Through the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, a public-private partnership that protects land from development while keeping it under private management, Putnam has worked to protect more than 27,000 acres in conservation easements, which is nearly the size of Walt Disney World.

He is working to protect the lands, and he’s working to ensure the public has access to the lands they pay for and manage.

Putnam has expanded access to Florida State Forests with two new state forests where he’s opened new hiking, biking and horseback trails.

One of these state forests, Peace River Forest, is dedicated to Operation Outdoor Freedom, an incredible program Putnam created in 2011 that has hosted more than 2,000 wounded veterans to experience Florida’s natural beauty on Florida State Forests and other state and private lands at no cost to them.

Don’t be moved by the political distortion of Putnam’s history. His environmental record speaks for itself.

Floridians have benefitted from Putnam’s leadership on the environment, and we are lucky to have him working on these complex issues.

n Melissa Meeker of Alexandria, Va., is the CEO of the Water Environment &Reuse Foundation.

n Meeker is the former executive director of the South Florida Water Management District and former deputy secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation.