Congressman Mark Souder traveled to southern Florida to garner more testimony about financial shortages plaguing the national park system. But a lack of funds isn't the only problem facing Everglades National Park.
Last week the National Parks Conservation Association reported on damage powerboaters are causing to fragile seagrass beds in Florida Bay, which comprises roughly one-third of Everglades.
The problem received further coverage from the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Senteninel, which points out that seagrass is vital for fish habitat. Everglades officials told the newspaper that in one case a boater was fined $30,000 for damage caused to seagrass beds, but that fines don't seem to be much of a deterrent.
Souder has been visiting gateway towns to national parks throughout the nation in recent months to build a record highlighting the National Park Service's funding problems. He's hoping that will help generate congressional support for the National Park Service Centennial Act, a piece of legislation he and Rep. Brian Baird of Washington state have drafted in a bid to wipe out the Park Service's multi-billion-dollar maintenance backlog by 2016, the year of the agency's centennial.
In testimony presented to Souder, Nathaniel Reed, a member of the NPCA's national council, said he's "frustrated by the lack of congressional oversight and a lack of consistent funding to deal with all of the problems facing Florida's national parks."
Among the issues raised during the congressional hearing was the funding woes Florida's national parks are struggling to confront. Officials say recent hurricanes that struck Everglades and Biscayne National Park caused nearly $70 million in damage.
Hurricanes notwithstanding, Florida's national parks are strapped, financially, and it's directly impacting visitors. The Flamingo Lodge in Everglades National Park was heavily damaged by the hurricanes, and officials aren't sure how soon they'll be able to reopen it. You can read more about the congressional hearing at the Miami Herald.
(Photo courtesy of Everglades National Park)