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Governing by poll? Rick Scott now says Everglades restoration a top priority

Eight months after the Everglades Foundation released a poll showing disapproval for Gov. Rick Scott's proposal to cut Everglades restoration money by 66 percent, the Republican governor made an unpublished stop to the advocacy group's two-day meeting in Naples on Wednesday and apparently told attendees that Everglades restoration is now a top priority of his administration.

Here's a copy of the group's press release sent this afternoon:

Gov. Rick Scott reaffirms commitment to Everglades restoration

NAPLES, Fl. – Florida Gov. Rick Scott told the Everglades Foundation that he is making restoration of the Everglades a top priority of his administration.

Scott spoke during an evening reception Wednesday night, part of a two-day meeting of the Everglades Foundation to discuss progress and strategy of restoring the Everglades.

"My administration is absolutely focused on making sure the right thing happens with the Everglades,” Scott told more than 300 members and supporters of the Everglades Foundation. "I’m very optimistic that we are going to get something done.”

After Scott spoke, Everglades Foundation Chairman Paul Tudor Jones II, thanked Scott for making the issues of protecting and enhancing Florida’s water quality, a signature of his administration.

"Thank you so much. This is a huge step forward,” said Jones.

"We know you are a passionate outdoorsman, conservationist and environmentalist,” said Jones as he handed Scott a Nickelodeon’s Diego Let’s Go Fishing Rod for children and a toy sailfish. "Now you can take your first grandson, Augustus, fishing.”

Others who spoke during meeting included Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary, Herschel Vinyard,  South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Melissa Meeker,  U.S. Department of Interior, Everglades Director Shannon Estenoz, state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg and state Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers.

"I want to thank the Everglades Foundation for being a fantastic organization,” Vineyard said. "You are really the gold standard.”

Vinyard said Gov. Scott is determined to move Everglades restoration forward and as a result there are discussions at DEP everyday about the Everglades.

"If somebody starts to stall Everglades restoration, I want you to yell and yell loud,” Vinyard said.

Estenoz said that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, “loves this project. He views the Everglades as one of the biggest, if not the biggest environmental project in the nation.”

Kirk Fordham, Everglades Foundation CEO, said, “Gov. Scott understands that water quality issues affect 7 million Floridians.  We look forward to continuing to work with Gov. Scott and his administration and his counterparts in Washington.”