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Everglades agriculture leases being challenged

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- The Florida Wildlife Federation is challenging two no-bid, 30-year lease extensions for sugar and vegetable farming in the Everglades Agricultural Area.

The legal group Earthjustice on Thursday filed the case on behalf of the federation. It will be heard by an administrative law judge.

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet approved the extensions last month on about 14,000 acres in Palm Beach County in exchange for other property needed for Everglades restoration.

Earthjustice lawyer David Guest said the leases are contrary to the public interest because they would continue the flow of agricultural pollutants into the Everglades for an excessive amount of time. He said such leases normally are limited to six years.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which recommended the lease extensions, had no immediate comment.