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In a proper setting, Brumberg contends, the secretary of the DEP should be a "natural antagonist" toward other state agencies, such as the Department of Transportation. "Having less than an arm's-length relationship with them isn't necessarily in the best interest of the environment," he says. "But it's certainly in the best interests of the governor and the administration to have" -- he slowly moves his hands down in front of him as though to shush someone -- "quietude, quietude."

"I was the anti-quietude," he declares, a rare boast and one he tempers with confessions of failure. Scientists at the University of Florida in Gainesville have had spectacular success in breeding the near-extinct butterfly in captivity, and some will soon be transplanted to hospitable parks around the state. But even in his moment of highest achievement with the Miami Blue, he adds a postscript of disappointment.

He relates the story of his last meeting in the spring of 2003 with the various officials who were key in saving the Miami Blue. "Everybody was real happy sitting around the table," he recalls -- until Brumberg reeled off for them a litany of other endangered butterflies in Florida. There was the Florida Leafwing and the Martial Scrub-Hairstreak and another that's found only on the tops of cedar trees in the St. Augustine area. "Now that we've got the Miami Blue taken care of, what about these?" Brumberg posed to his eye-rolling colleagues. "Sure, they're not as endangered as the Miami Blue, but do we wait until we get down to 30 and the next guy gets the call?"

Perhaps the more important question to ask now is: Who's going to pick up the phone?

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Wyatt Olson
Contact: Wyatt Olson