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New DEP Secretary Gets Mixed Reaction From Environmentalists

Environmentalists are less than pleased with Florida Governor Rick Scott’s pick to head the Department of Environmental Protection. Jon Steverson is returning to the department as secretary after a stint at the Northwest Florida Water Management District.

Jon Steverson oversaw the restructuring of the Northwest Florida Water Management District as Executive Director. Prior to that, he served in the administration of former Gov. Charlie Crist—where he dealt with environmental issues.

"Jon has dedicated his career to serving Floridians through the protection of our state’s water and natural resources and he is committed to our goal of protecting Florida’s natural treasures so future generations and millions of tourists can enjoy our state’s beauty,” said Governor Rick Scott in a written statement.

But that experience has not endeared him to many environmentalists. Eric Draper with the Audubon of Florida says while he and Steverson have not always agreed on issues he believes Steverson can lead DEP.

“I think that he has a real committed to the rule of law about making decisions based upon sound science," Draper said.

Several environmental activists are expressing doubts about Stevenson’s leadership, but none would go on record with their opinions. Steverson is replacing former DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard who resigned earlier in the month.

Vinyard was a former businessman who worked for the nation’s second-largest defense contractor. While leading DEP, Vinyard was criticized for being too accommodating to businesses while not doing enough to enforce DEP’s rules. He and the agency most recently clashed with a Southwest Florida oil developer over a drilling operation near the Everglades. DEP ended up pulling the company’s permit.