Conference focuses on need to continue promoting and supporting restoration projects
Naples, Fla. - This year’s 29th annual Everglades Coalition Conference (#EVCO2014), held January 9-11, 2014, will share the coalition’s vision and priorities for continuing strong support for Everglades restoration efforts in 2014. The coalition brings together business leaders, elected officials, including U.S. Congressmen Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Patrick Murphy (D-FL), and Joe Garcia (D-FL) and community and environmental advocates to discuss the many opportunities and challenges facing America’s Everglades and coastal ecosystems in 2014 and beyond.
This year’s conference sessions will focus on the health and future of our invaluable coastal communities and the important connection these resources have to the state’s economy. Florida’s tourism, fishing, hunting, and recreational economies are all directly linked to the health and vitality of our coastal ecosystems. Discussions will also address challenges such as sea level rise, nutrient pollution, and other factors affecting restoration efforts. The Everglades Coalition will also share its priorities and vision for implementing meaningful restoration efforts in 2014 including, strong state and federal funding support in order to complete necessary restoration projects; promote Florida’s economy through responsible growth, transportation and energy planning; protect water quality and manage water resources; and protect and recover the incredible diversity of the region’s wildlife and habitat through sustainable policies.
“Everglades restoration is a critical element for combating the effects of climate change and sea level rise in South Florida,” said Jennifer Hecker, state co-chair for the Everglades Coalition and director of policy for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “In enhancing and restoring freshwater flows in the Everglades, we are safeguarding the water supply that more than a third of Floridians depend upon, the tourism based economy of all of the coastal communities throughout the southern half of Florida, as well as an iconic wetland of national and international importance.”
America’s Everglades is recognized as one of the world’s most spectacular natural wonders. The past several years have yielded significant progress for restoration efforts including the Congressional authorization of additional bridging along Tamiami Trail, a critical restoration project that provides an achievable path forward for improving water flow to the southern Everglades. The first one-mile bridge was completed in 2013 and Governor Rick Scott made a historic commitment to match the Department of Interior’s investment with $90 million of state transportation funds, over the next three years, to facilitate the additional 2.6 miles of bridging. Significant progress has also been made with the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) to reduce polluted overflows that damage Florida’s estuaries by treating and redirecting water south to Everglades National Park. In addition, the successful celebration of the first annual Everglades Day on April 7th by the Florida Legislature furthered awareness about the importance of restoring the Everglades ecosystem among residents and decision-makers across the state.
“As we continue to discuss the future of Everglades restoration, a sustained fiscal and political commitment from our state and federal partners is essential to continue the momentum that is desperately needed,” said Cara Capp, national co-chair for the Everglades Coalition and Everglades restoration program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. “While we await funding to complete essential restoration projects – like the bridging of Tamiami Trail, Picayune Strand, Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands, and many others – the ecosystem continues to decline. The Everglades Coalition is requesting that the Florida Legislature allocate at least $100 million to further Everglades restoration projects in 2014.”
America’s Everglades is a tremendous economic generator for the state. Over several years, Everglades restoration projects have generated 10,500 jobs in Florida with more than 442,000 jobs expected to be created over the next several decades in tourism, real estate and commercial and recreational fishing industries. More than 10 years after the original Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was adopted by Congress, momentum continues to restore America’s Everglades and Floridians are benefiting from the investment. For every $1 invested in Everglades restoration, at least $4 is generated in economic benefits to the surrounding communities.
The Everglades Coalition asserts that:
• The restoration, protection and enhancement of the Greater Everglades ecosystem is essential for protecting a national treasure as well as Florida’s economy and water supply.
• Supporting and providing education and public understanding regarding all aspects of the Everglades ecosystem is essential to protecting the Everglades.
• Sponsoring research that maximizes the effectiveness of protection, restoration and enhancement projects for the Everglades ecosystem is vital to efficient use of public dollars.
• Facilitating the coordination of information resources, strategies and efforts among Everglades Coalition members will create an informed and engaged constituency for supporting Everglades restoration efforts.
This year’s conference theme is Everglades Restoration: Protecting Coastal Communities and the event is hosted by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Confirmed participants for this year’s 29th annual conference include: U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy, Former U.S. Senator and Governor Bob Graham, U.S. Congressman Patrick Murphy, U.S. Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, U.S. Congressman Joe Garcia, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Colonel Alan Dodd, South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Blake Guillory, Florida Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto, Florida Representative Mark Pafford, Florida Representative Matt Caldwell. For additional information, please visit our website at evergladescoalition.org/conferenceor follow us on Twitter @EverCoalition #EVCO2014.
About the Everglades Coalition : The Everglades Coalition Conference is the largest annual forum for Everglades conservation and restoration, bringing together the Coalition’s 57 allied organizations with local, state and federal partners. For additional information, please visit our website at: www.evergladescoalition.org or follow us on Twitter @EverCoalition.
About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.