"Unless near-term progress is made to improve water quantity and restore water flow, ecosystem losses will continue, many of which would require decades to centuries to recover," said William Boggess, chair of the NRC committee that wrote the report and a professor at Oregon State University.
The Everglades Coalition held a conference this week to ask the State Legislature to:
1.) Provide adequate funding for Everglades restoration, environmental lands, and water quality projects.
2.) Promote responsible growth and transportation planning.
3.) Conserve and protect sufficient clean water as an essential public resource for natural systems and economic vitality.
The Everglades encompasses a series of rivers, lakes and estuaries and within these waters exist a deep and inextricable relationship between Florida’s environment and the quality of life for the more than seven million residents that call south Florida home. By saving America’s Everglades – through the largest environmental restoration project in the nation’s history – Florida is restoring wetlands, revitalizing water quality and reviving the habitats for more than 60 endangered and threatened species.
Agriculture in the South Florida region plays a dominant role in any water management decisions involving the Kissimmee - Okeechobee - Everglades watershed. The original draining of much of this region was the result of a desire to make the land more suitable for agricultural purposes. Under the Corps’ C&SF Project, the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) was created from the upper quarter of the original Everglades wetland. In its entirety, it covers approximately 750,000 acres. Figure 3 shows the overall distribution of land-use for agricultural purposes as of 1973. Overall sales from South Florida dairies and crops total almost $500 million, and the agricultural industry in the EAA accounts for over $1.2 billion of economic activity every year. (Bottcher) Along with this tremendous revenue, however, the EAA also consumes the majority of the region’s surface water supply, making its existence both vital for the economy and detrimental to the ecology.
More than half of the EAA is controlled by the sugar industry, as sugarcane crops cover 440,000 acres of land in this region. Although the Everglades land is not the perfect medium for crop development, the sugar industry survives due to government support. The national government limits sugarcane imports from foreign countries, in effect limiting the market to domestic sugar, while also providing subsidized loans to growers. So, while the land may not be ideal, the profits are, and sugar continues to flourish.
The other main industries represented in this region are vegetable growers and dairy farmers. Dairy farmers, while outside the EAA on the northern side of Lake Okeechobee, contribute to the effects of agriculture on the area and are similarly significant to the economy. A variety of vegetable crops cover the most substantial area of the EAA next to sugar, close to 60,000 acres of land. These vegetable crops are important mainly as a source of winter vegetables, due to the moderate year-round climate they enjoy. The EAA is, during certain times of the year, the major source of winter crops for the entire U.S. market. (Bottcher)
In October 2011, the intergovernmental South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force endorsed a state-federal initiative to speed up planning for key restoration projects in the heart of America’s Everglades. Now under way, the Central Everglades Planning Project has set a goal to deliver within two years a finalized plan, known as a Project Implementation Report, for a suite of restoration projects in the central Everglades to prepare for congressional authorization as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).
The Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) will identify and plan for projects on land already in public ownership to allow more water to be directed south to the central Everglades, Everglades National Park and Florida Bay while protecting coastal estuaries (http://www.evergladesplan.org/)
Public participation is a major component of the Central Everglades Planning Project. The Task Force’s Working Group is sponsoring a number of public workshops to receive input from the public and keep them informed and engaged as active participants.
As the principal Federal and Non-Federal sponsors of CERP, the Corps and the District are also holding Project Delivery Team (PDT) meetings in parallel with the Working Group-sponsored public workshops. PDT meetings enable federal, state and local agencies and tribal governments to provide their input into the Central Everglades Planning Project.(http://www.sfrestore.org/cepp/cepp.html)
Being aware of local and global needs for a Sustainable world is important for the survival of our planet. Our rainforests are being demolished at alarming rates (http://www.savetherainforest.org/savetherainforest_006.htm)
I thank the people and their many years of efforts for the vision to protect the Everglades and the current fight to restore the natural flow of water. Whether you’re a Floridian or not, this project and many other natural restorations in our country and worldwide should be one of our biggest concerns as we are able to fight the many forces that will stop at nothing to ensure that the mighty dollar is stronger than those that truly care, be informed and be involved
Peace and Love