WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ A man who fought for years to keep his home and businesses in the swampy Everglades has accepted a $4.95 million buyout offer from the state, which plans to restore the wetlands ecosystem.

The deal, approved Wednesday by a Collier County judge after a 15-hour mediation hearing, allows Jesse Hardy to remain on his 160 acres until Nov. 30.

Hardy paid $60,000 in 1976 for the land about 40 miles east of downtown Naples, and built a small, corrugated metal-roofed house. He had no electricity and used propane for cooking and refrigeration.

He refused for years to sell, saying he wanted to hold onto a dying rural lifestyle. He also started a fish farm and had a contract to quarry limestone on the site.

The state started eminent domain proceedings last year and Hardy filed suit against state agencies.

Hardy did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment Wednesday. ``He doesn't care about the money, but you can't explain it to anyone else because this is such a materialistic world,'' longtime friend Pat Humphries said Wednesday.

State officials say the parcel is crucial to the $8.4 billion Everglades Restoration project, which will fill in canals and tear out roads that carved up the fragile ecosystem decades ago.

___

On the Net:

Everglades Restoration: http://www.evergladesplan.org/