RESTORING THE EVERGLADES:
A SUCCESS IN THE MAKING
The Comprehensive Plan for rebuilding freshwater supplies in South Florida is the centerpiece of the Clinton-Gore Administration's strategy for restoring the Everglades.
Since 1996, when Vice President Gore announced this long-term strategy, the Administration has worked in close partnership with state of Florida, tribal and local governments, the private sector, and the conservation community to acquire and protect critical lands, accelerate scientific research, and strengthen water quality protections. Over the past four years, the Administration has secured nearly $900 million for these Everglades restoration. The President's budget for fiscal year 2000 proposes $312 million – a 35 percent increase – to accelerate this landmark effort.
Everglades restoration projects completed or underway include:
Acquiring Critical Lands – Since 1996, 374,080 acres have been acquired for $481 million in federal and state funds. Nearly 70,000 acres have been added to Everglades National Park, with another 40,000 acres slated for acquisition over the next two years. Other newly protected lands provide critical buffer between the Park and rapidly developing urban areas to the east. These lands also will help build the region's water supply by controlling the loss of water through unnatural seepage. Portions of the 50,000-acre Talisman Plantation north of the Park, acquired last year, were recently exchanged for other agricultural lands, allowing acquisition of more than 60,000 acres in all. These lands will be used primarily for water storage and cleanup. Other lands have been acquired to protect and restore wildlife habitat for the Florida panther and other endangered species. The Comprehensive Plan announced today proposes acquisition of an additional 220,000 acres at a projected cost of $2.2 billion.
Increasing Fresh Water Flows to Everglades Park – Two projects now underway will increase water flows to Everglades Park through Shark River and Taylor Slough, two historically important water channels for the Everglades. Upon completion in four to five years, these projects also will allow better control over the timing and distribution of water deliveries to more closely match natural cycles that have been disturbed.
Improving Water Quality – Work is underway to convert 40,000 acres south of Lake Okeechobee into wetlands that will naturally filter runoff from agricultural lands before it enters the Everglades. Improved agricultural practices have significantly reduced discharges of phosphorous, which promotes the growth of nonnative plant species. Stricter federal water quality standards were recently adopted for the Miccosukee tribal lands, and other standards under development will lead to further reductions in phosphorous and other pollutants throughout the Everglades. The Florida Keys Water Quality Protection Program, approved in 1996, provides comprehensive monitoring of the most extensive coral reefs in North America.
Restoring the Kissimmee River – In June, construction began on a major project to return significant portions of the Kissimmee River, at the north end of the Everglades ecosystem, to its natural course. In the 1960's, to control flooding, the meandering 106-mile river was diverted into a 56-mile canal, destroying wetlands and severely impacting fish and wildlife. Federal and state agencies now have acquired more than 90 percent of the 94,265 acres needed to restore the river, and in June crews began filling a nine-mile stretch of the canal. Additional work over the next decade will restore more than 40 square miles of river and floodplain that are home to about 320 fish and wildlife species.
Protecting Endangered Species – In May, Vice President Gore announced completion of the South Florida Multi-Species Recovery Plan, a comprehensive blueprint for restoring native plants and animals throughout the 26,000-square-mile South Florida Ecosystem. The plan, the largest of its kind, aims to remove more than a dozen species from the endangered species list within 20 years. It will serve as a road map to guide federal, state, tribal, and local restoration efforts. Sixty-eight South Florida species listed by the federal government as threatened or endangered include the Florida panther, the American crocodile, the West Indian manatee, and five species of sea turtles.
Ensuring the Best Possible Science – Over the past three years, the Administration has secured more than $110 million, a substantial increase, to accelerate research critical to Everglades restoration. More than 100 scientists contributed to the Comprehensive Plan announced today. To ensure that the best possible science continues to guide the Everglades restoration, an independent Science Review Panel will peer review implementation of the Comprehensive Plan and future restoration research. Members of the independent panel will be named shortly by the National Academy of Science's National Research Council.
Strengthening Partnerships – In 1993, the Administration created an interagency task force to coordinate federal efforts to restore the Everglades. In 1996, at the Administration's urging, Congress formally reestablished this body as the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force and expanded its membership to include state, tribal, and local representatives. The Task Force, which accepted the Governor's Commission for a Sustainable South Florida as a permanent advisory committee, coordinates all aspects of Everglades restoration.