New Report Says Biscayne's Freshwater and Cultural Treasures Threatened

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   February 17, 2006
Contact:   William G. Knight, Ph.D.
Director, Center for the State of the Parks
Phone: 970-493-2545

Jason Bennis
NPCA Marine Policy Manager
Phone: 954-309-9308



New Report Says Biscayne's Freshwater and Cultural Treasures Threatened

Miami - According to a new report released today by the National Parks Conservation Association’s (NPCA) Center for the State of the Parks, Biscayne National Park’s natural and cultural resources are in “poor” condition. NPCA says that the park needs greater funding and staffing to protect and restore Biscayne’s natural freshwater flows and historical treasures.

“These findings are clear indicators that the long-term health of Biscayne National Park is threatened,” said NPCA’s Regional Director Shannon Estenoz. “Protection of Biscayne’s resources is essential to ensure that visitors continue to enjoy recreational activities such as snorkeling, diving, and fishing. Without sufficient funding for park rangers and critical research staff, Biscayne’s coral reefs, natural freshwater flows, and 18th century shipwrecks are at great risk.”

According to NPCA's State of the Parks report Biscayne's natural resources score just 58 out of a possible 100. These poor conditions largely stem from inadequate freshwater flows to the park, which are altering the salinity in the fisheries and for underwater communities. The report confirms what fishermen in the region have known for years - that an unhealthy bay produces an unhealthy fishery.

“The health of south Florida's fisheries is directly linked to the health of the bays and estuaries that support them,” said Tad Burke, Commodore, Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association. “An investment in restoration and protection of Biscayne Bay is an investment in the future of the region's fishing economy.”

Inadequate funding levels limit the park from fully participating in the design of the Everglades restoration projects that will directly reestablish freshwater flows to Biscayne Bay and the park.

“Biscayne’s cultural resources scored 48 out of a possible 100, which is a ‘poor’ rating,” said Bill Knight, Director of NPCA’s Center for the State of the Parks.

Funding and staffing shortfalls make it difficult to properly protect Biscayne’s more than 100 archaeological sites, which include 44 shipwrecks. Ancient shipwrecks and archaeological sites provide valuable information about people who traveled to the region in the last five centuries, provide a popular destination for snorkelers and divers, and serve as habitat for a variety of marine species. Annual inspections of each of the archaeological sites aren’t possible because of the park’s limited number of staff. The park needs funds to document the historical artifacts and additional law enforcement rangers to eliminate illegal relic hunting and poaching.

As reported in NPCA’s assessment, research developed by Michigan State University indicates that nearly a half million visitors to Biscayne National Park fueled the economy with $23.33 million and supported over 400 jobs locally in 2003. Maintaining the health of park resources is critical to maintaining visitation and to supporting the local economy.

“A budget increase will help to ensure that Biscayne’s natural and cultural resources are not damaged, degraded, or otherwise lost. South Florida’s economy depends upon a healthy Biscayne Bay and National Park,” said Estenoz. “Unfortunately, the administration’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2007 shows the parks are facing a $100-million cut, which likely means that Biscayne National Park will not have the adequate funding to staff this unique marine park.”

Located near Miami, Florida, Biscayne National Park is the largest marine park in the National Park System. The park includes the third-largest coral reef system in the world, the longest stretch of mangrove forest remaining on Florida’s eastern seaboard, and many endangered species, including the West Indian manatee.

NPCA launched the landmark State of the Parks program in 2000 to assess the health of national parks across the country. To view a copy of the full report, visit http://www.npca.org/stateoftheparks/biscayne/index.html.

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