Governor DeSantis Announces $1.5 Billion to Fund Massive Disney Project

in Walt Disney World

A man in a blue suit with a red tie stands superimposed on an image of disneyland featuring sleeping beauty's castle under a bright rainbow.

Governor Ron DeSantis has announced that the state of Florida will invest $1.5 billion to restore and update a massive Disney wetlands project, the latest in a series of unexpected collaborations between the two former adversaries.

Governor DeSantis smiling broadly with an image of cinderella's castle at walt disney world.
Credit: Inside the Magic

DeSantis and Disney Settle

Just a few weeks ago, a partnership between Governor DeSantis and the Walt Disney Company would have seemed wildly improbable. The far-right politician and the iconic media company began a feud in 2023 over former CEO Bob Chapek’s public stance against DeSantis’ Parental Rights in Education Act (PREA), also known as the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” law.

ron desantis (left) bob chapek (right)

For months, DeSantis and Disney battled out their differences in both the court of public opinion and the literal courts. Most significantly, the governor dissolved the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the special tax area where most of the Walt Disney World Resort is located, replacing it with the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) and a loyalist board of supervisors.

Related: DeSantis Partner Goes Missing, Discovered in Trashed Hotel Outside Disney World

This kicked off a series of overlapping state and federal lawsuits, most prominently Disney v. DeSantis, which asserted that the governor had violated the company’s First Amendment rights in an abuse of his political power. The lawsuit was dismissed due to lack of standing by U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor, but currently remains on appeal in the 11 Circuit Court.

DeSantis against a courthouse with Mickey
Credit: Inside the Magic

Unexpectedly, however, the other lawsuits were dropped by Disney and the CFTOD as part of a settlement that allowed both parties to essentially walk away without taking a legal loss. DeSantis was largely allowed to retain control over the tax district, while Disney retained rights to negotiate its own agreements in the future.

The settlement was something of a win-win for both Governor DeSantis and the Walt Disney Company, though that has not stopped the politician from taking regular potshots against the Mouse in the media. But it turns out that, despite all the bad blood, DeSantis and Disney are working together more than ever.

The Disney Wilderness Preserve

Since the CFTOD settlement, Ron DeSantis and Disney have shown a surprising amount of willingness to work together. Since the governor dropped his failed presidential campaign, he has been signing new bills in Florida at a furious pace to cement his legacy in the state, and it turns out that Disney is benefitting handsomely.

Bob Iger and Ron DeSantis
Credit: Inside the Magic

DeSantis has already committed $2.5 billion of Florida taxpayer money to refurbish and expand the Interstate 4 Highway that leads to Walt Disney World, giving the theme park a much-needed transportation boost. The governor has also been revealed that have tacitly supported Disney CEO Bob Iger in a recent leadership war for the company’s board of directors, using billions of dollars worth of Disney stock to keep the executive in power.

Now, Governor Ron DeSantis has announced a $1.5 billion commitment to Everglades restoration and water quality improvements (per Florida Daily), including tens of millions toward the C-51 Reservoir and reduction of freshwater discharges to the Lake Worth Lagoon. These funds will also go to help update and maintain the Disney Wilderness Preserve, the nearly 12,000-acre wetland reserve south of Walt Disney World.

Disney Wilderness Preserve under a clear sky, with lush green grass in the foreground and a dense forest of tall trees in the background.
Credit: Flickr/ Peter & Michelle S

Related: Ron Desantis Teams up With Florida to Tackle Disney World Price Hikes

DeSantis said in a statement:

“I am proud to continue making these investments in Everglades restoration and water quality that will benefit our state for decades to come. I made a promise to Floridians that we would leave this state better to God than we found it, and we are doing that for our future and our children’s future.”

The Disney Wilderness Preserve was co-founded by the Walt Disney Company, the Nature Conservancy, and the state of Florida in 1993 and largely funded by the media corporation. Although the Preserve is owned by the Nature Conservancy, Disney does privately own 3,000 acres of adjacent wetlands that it independently preserves.

Approximately $840 million will go to Everglades restoration projects, including the Disney Wilderness Preserve. Another $614 million will go to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) and the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir.

Florida’s Chief Resilience Officer, Dr. Wes Brooks posted (via Florida Statewide Office of Resilience):

Do you think DeSantis and Disney will continue to work together? Tell us in the comments below!

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