Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Friday he intends to keep Noah Valenstein as the state’s environmental secretary, a move that quickly drew praise from a number of conservationists.
Valenstein, a former water management district executive, was first appointed to the $151,000-a-year job by former Gov. Rick Scott in May 2017.
“Noah has led DEP with distinction and has played an integral role in implementing my vision to protect and restore Florida’s environment,” DeSantis said Friday in a press release announcing Valenstein’s re-appointment. “I’m confident his continued leadership will bolster our efforts to take decisive action on behalf of the people of Florida.”
By remaining in the role, Valenstein will oversee an ambitious environmental plan DeSantis rolled out days after taking office last month.
The governor’s proposal calls for $2.5 billion over the next four years for Everglades restoration and water resource protection — a $1 billion increase over what was spent the prior four years — and creates the Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency and the Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection, both within the Department of Environmental Protection.
Environmentalists hailed DeSantis’ decision to retain the agency head. The Nature Conservancy Executive Director Temperince Morgan said her organization is “thrilled” about the governor’s selection.
Under Valenstein’s watch, Morgan said the Nature Conservancy partnered with the agency “to advance coastal resilience efforts and further the conservation and preservation of critical habitats and watersheds.”
Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg proclaimed in a release accompanying DeSantis’ decision that his group is confident Valenstein, who served as a director of legislative affairs for the foundation, “will successfully implement Governor DeSantis’ commitment to expedite Everglades restoration.”
nd Audubon Florida Executive Director Julie Wraithmell described Valenstein as a “breath of fresh air” at the agency.
“During his brief tenure at DEP, we’ve already seen Florida Forever funding restored to $100 million, strategic springs restoration projects implemented, and DEP stepping up to drive state efforts on sea level rise adaptation,” Wraithmell said in a release.
The secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection falls under DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet, which is scheduled to meet on Feb. 26 but has not posted an agenda yet. Valenstein, the architect of Scott's conservation platform during the former governor’s 2014 re-election bid, was serving as executive director of the Suwannee River Water Management District when Scott tapped him for the statewide role.
Valenstein, a lawyer who grew up in Alachua County, has also worked as a legislative lobbyist for the agency he now heads, and as a deputy policy chief for the state House of Representatives.