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Everglades Foundation accuses environmental scientist of stealing documents

A heron flies from a pier to swampy vegetation
Lynne Sladky
/
AP
Lake Okeechobee

A prominent environmental scientist stands accused of stealing secret documents and destroying research before quitting his more than a decade-long job at the powerful Everglades Foundation, citing concerns about the nonprofit group’s emphasis on politics.

Thomas Van Lent, a respected engineer whose water modeling helped create the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, was sued earlier this month by the foundation after it said he took, among other confidential items, “internal modeling and analysis of a government project” before he left.

The lawsuit has shaken the normally collaborative environmental community in South Florida known more for their plaintive advocacy on behalf of the River of Grass and its animals than bare-knuckle litigation. The dispute raises questions of political influence and interference in the long-lauded, and well-funded, Everglades restoration effort while highlighting divisions over support for a key reservoir.

Read more from our news partners at The Palm Beach Post.