November 14, 2016
Everglades restoration must be accelerated
As we prepare for a transition of power at the federal level, one thing is abundantly clear — our community must speak with a unified voice to accelerate efforts to restore the Everglades and to address the ongoing water quality crisis in our region's waters.
Regardless of politics, we can all agree that this is America's Everglades, an iconic and unique landscape unlike any other in the world — the famed River of Grass. For all of us on the west coast, we enjoy the immense expanse, beauty and productivity of the Big Cypress, the Ten Thousand Islands with its mangrove forests and historically famous fishing grounds, and the 47 threatened and endangered species that call the Western Everglades home.
We have seen as a community how a water management system terribly out of balance has resulted in massive fish kills, a state of emergency for multiple counties in South Florida, and economic hardship for businesses dependent on healthy waters and estuaries.
There are no simple solutions to our water woes. We do know that by addressing the many "pieces of the puzzle' — including the need for additional lands south of Lake Okeechobee to store, treat and convey waters to the Everglades, accelerate funding of existing Everglades Restoration projects including the C-43 reservoir in Lee County, planning for an additional water quality component as part of the C-43, and creating stronger incentives and regulations to reduce pollution at its source — that we can create lasting solutions for our water, our economy and our quality of life. This will take leadership at the local, state and federal levels to accomplish.
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida has been and will remain engaged working alongside our elected officials, concerned citizens, the business communities, government agencies and partner organizations to advance these solutions. We have been working to protect the Western Everglades for over five decades, including playing a key role in facilitating the acquisition of lands where we are now seeing Everglades Restoration actually occurring in Collier County in the Picayune Strand State Forest. We have "boots on the ground" with our science team conducting baseline research to gauge the impacts of restoration on our wildlife and water quality.
We have dedicated educators who each year reach thousands of local students with formal and informal programs including immersing students in the wonders of our Everglades and on site at the Conservancy Nature Center. We are designing and executing strategies with our partners to remove invasive species such as the Burmese Pythons which are consuming many of the historical species that call the Everglades home.
We see the solutions. They are within reach. We are grateful to political leaders such as retiring Congressman Curt Clawson, incoming Florida Senate President Joe Negron, and Representative Heather Fitzenhagen, who have responded to the frustrations and hopes of the people of Florida by providing bold vision, and used their political capital to advance difficult but much needed actions to restore America's Everglades. Every citizen in Southwest Florida should take action today.
Visit www.conservancy.org to learn more about how to be part of the solution, including signing the Now or Neverglades declaration.
Rob Moher is with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida
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