Ron DeSantis, the Governor of Florida, announced an agreement to buy 20,000 acres in the Everglades, a huge wetland in the south of the state, to protect it from oil and gas exploration.

“This significant purchase will permanently save this region from oil exploitation. I am proud of our progress but recognize that this is only the beginning, I will continue to fight every day to save the Everglades and Florida’s environment,” the governor said in a statement.

The acquisition of the land, which belonged to Kanter Real Estate LLC, represents the largest acquisition of wetlands in Florida so far this decade, and becomes part of the 600,000 acres (more than 240,000 hectares) of protected land for conservation and restoration.

The state will buy the land for between $16.56 million and $18 million and include it in the already protected area.

The selling company, owned by banker Joseph Kanter, had proposed a project to start oil exploitation, but due to the protests of several environmental groups and the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) the initiative was halted.

Kanter acquired the land before there were any plans to restore the Everglades, with the aim of creating a new city, which was never built and remained unchanged for decades until he raised the possibility of obtaining oil in the area

“The people of Florida know that oil exploration and exploitation in the Everglades is dangerous and must be stopped. It threatens our water and our fragile ecosystem, especially because of the impact of climate change,” said Cara Capp, manager of the National Association of Parks Conservation.

DeSantis reiterated that “one of her administration’s environmental priorities has been to move forward with the restoration of the Everglades.

The governor, who had the support of President Donald Trump in his campaign for the 2018 elections and took office a year ago, differs from his predecessor in the governorship, now Republican Senator Rick Scott, especially in his defense of the environment.

Such environmental initiatives have not been the only ones the governor has promoted during his term, such as funding a project to raise parts of the Tamiami Trail highway, which impedes the natural flow of fresh water from the Everglades wetlands to the south.

“Managing our natural resources well is key to our economic well-being. Water is the foundation of our tourism industry, making Florida a premier destination for boat and fishing tourism and raising property values,” the 41-year-old governor said in a speech Tuesday to the Florida Congress.

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