Gov. Ron DeSantis made his first stop at UF since his election Tuesday morning.
He spoke to a crowd of about 50 on the Steinmetz Hall courtyard about his strategies to target environmental concerns and about his recent appointment of Thomas Frazer, the director of the UF School of Natural Resources and Environment, as the state’s first chief science officer.
“Dr. Frazer has a very good reputation as being a leading environmental researcher in the state,” DeSantis said in his speech. “He understands our state well and the actions that we must take.”
In this new role, Frazer will work with both the governor’s office and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to provide scientific advice so the state can best address these environmental challenges, DeSantis said.
“This is part of our environmental rollout where we said, ‘We want to be informed about what works on this stuff,’” DeSantis said.
DeSantis also spoke on his environmental goals for the state’s water quality, the Everglades, coral reefs, last year’s harmful red tide algal outbreak and Florida’s springs.
DeSantis also spoke on his environmental goals for the state’s water quality, including establishing a new board for the South Florida Water District. He also discussed creating a blue-green algae task force following last year’s harmful red tide algal outbreak.
In his speech, DeSantis said the state is on track to receive $625 million this year for projects on water quality and Everglades restoration. This comes as part of a billion dollar increase ordered by DeSantis over the next four years for these projects.
If the state continues with this momentum, then over the next four years it would allocate $2.5 billion to these critical needs, DeSantis said.
“The legislature is going back-and-forth with the budget, but I think this is going to be something that has brought agreement,” DeSantis said. “I’m really, really happy that we’re going to be able to do that.”
DeSantis said he also supports restoration efforts of the Florida springs, which he plans to put at least $50 million toward.
“Florida springs are really somewhat of a hidden treasure,” DeSantis said. “Not a lot of tourists who come really understand how nice our springs are, and the springs restoration program is something that I support.”
After DeSantis presented, Noah Valenstein, the secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection; Tom Kay, the executive director for the Alachua County Conservation Trust; and Frazer each spoke.
“I look forward to transitioning into the role of chief science officer and, again, bringing the best science that we possibly can to bear on these issues,” Frazer said. “It’s an aggressive agenda set forth, but I think it will do good things.”
Constance Darrisaw, a 21-year-old UF entomology and nematology senior, said she came to the conference after hearing about it from her professor. She thought it would be important to hear what the governor had to say about the environment.
Darrisaw was glad DeSantis addressed the issues of last summer’s red tide outbreak, which killed tons of marine life and the impact it had on Florida’s rivers and springs, she said.
“I really appreciate the dedication that he seems to have toward our environment, especially our local issues here in Florida,” Darrisaw said.