|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
|Date:||May 23, 2008|
|Contact:||John Adornato, Regional Director, National Parks Conservation Association, P: 954.309.9307|
Wildfires in Everglades National Park Destroys Sensitive Wetlands and Puts Ecosystem at Risk
National Parks Group Says Delay of Restoration Projects Exacerbates Drought and Wildfires
Hollywood, Fla.—The nation’s leading park advocacy group, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), says wildfires in Everglades National Park, brought on by one of the worst droughts in Florida’s history, are exacerbated from the delay of critical restoration projects that would restore natural water flow throughout the historic River of Grass.
“America’s Everglades are constantly threatened from dangerously dry conditions because water has been re-directed away from its natural flow,” said NPCA Sun Coast Regional Director John Adornato. “Water should be flowing south through the River of Grass to keep much of the park wet towards the end of the dry season.”
Wildfires damaging wildlife habitat in at least 40,000 acres of sensitive wetlands inside Everglades National Park have been burning for more than a week now. This fire is destroying critical habitat for the endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow, a species that only exists in the Everglades. The National Park Service and their partners now have the fire 70 percent contained and plan on shutting down their efforts before the end of the holiday weekend.
NPCA says efforts to restore the flow of water back to the Everglades have been ongoing for decades, culminating in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), passed by Congress in 2000. The plan will help remove barriers, including Tamiami Trail, fill canals, and reduce agricultural and urban runoff to reestablish natural water flow and improve water quality within the Everglades. Yet, the federal government has not allocated any money towards the construction of restoration projects under CERP. The group says that for every year restoration projects are delayed the flow of natural water throughout the Everglades only gets worse. In FY 2009, a total of $231 million should be allocated to Everglades restoration initiatives to stay on track to achieve real ecosystem benefits.
“The only way we will be able to combat or mitigate such natural disasters in the future is to restore the Everglades,” said Adornato. “We need commitment from both the federal government and the state of Florida to ensure restoration projects are funded and implemented as soon as possible.”
Everglades National Park already faces the added burden of chronic budget shortfalls, making this unexpected wildfire further strain its limited resources. With the National Park Service's rangers and other staff out fighting wildfires, fewer resources are available to provide visitors with a quality experience in one of the most iconic national parks.
With the centennial of the establishment of the National Park System in 2016, Everglades National Park, and all national parks across the country have critical funding needs. NPCA says successive increases in federal funding for day-to-day operations are essential to addressing the parks’ chronic $750-million annual funding shortfall. Furthermore, the federal government needs an estimated $300 million per year to meet its commitment for Everglades restoration. For more information, click here.