Your Chance To Help Guide Everglades' Future

Everglades' Mangrove Swamps Rely on Flows of Water. National Park Service Photo.

What comes to mind when you think of Everglades National Park? What sort of experiences would you want to encounter when you visit the park? How should the lands within the park boundaries be managed? Should powerboats have unlimited freedom? Should there be more designated wilderness? These are some of the questions you can provide input on as Everglades officials chart the park's next 20 years.

It seems somewhat ironic that these questions are being debated just as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has deemed the park recovered enough from environmental threats that it can be removed from the organization's World Heritage Site In Danger list.

Not surprisingly, not everyone agrees with UNESCO, as I pointed out yesterday. Here's some more reaction, this time from a story produced by Greenwire, the news service that closely tracks environmental issues.

"I think it's going to create a great deal of confusion," said Margaret McPherson, vice president of the Miami-based Everglades Foundation, whose purpose is to help align the goals of 22 key nonprofit organizations with the broader goals of CERP.

"We do have a plan," McPherson added, "but not only has the plan not been implemented, it hasn't even been funded by the federal government."

Indeed, almost all of the roughly 40 on-the-ground projects conceived by restoration leaders and authorized by Congress in its 2000 CERP legislation remain on hold due to bureaucratic delays and funding shortfalls.

CERP's implementation also has been hampered by the government's slow progress in completing several prerequisite projects, such as Modified Waters Delivery. "MOD Waters," authorized by Congress in 1989 to increase water flows to Everglades National Park, continues to be slowed by engineering and design questions, prompting outrage from some stakeholder groups.

"To my knowledge we've not accomplished one thing that has actually provided for hydrologic or any other kind of significant restoration of the park," said Terry Rice, former chief of the Army Corps of Engineers' Jacksonville District who now serves as a consultant to the Miccosukee Indian tribe, in an e-mail.

Against this backdrop, park officials are seeking public input on their long-range interpretive plans as well as on the Everglades' overall General Management Plan, which will chart the park's path for the next two decades. Part of that GMP involves deciding how to manage Florida Bay and the East Everglades Expansion Area.

For a quick primer on the issue, check out this story from the Naples Daily News.

Don't let the comment period run out without putting in your two cents. Input on the long-range interpretative plans is being taken through the end of August, while that on the GMP is being accepted through the end of July.

Comments

1. Tell us what you think are the most important stories, ideas, and concepts that visitors should experience in the park?

a. The biodiversity and uniqueness of the area
b. The park's relationship to human activity upstream
c. Mistakes we've made and successes at restoration of the ecosystem
d. The deactivated missile site and its role in the Cuban Missile Crisis

2. What should visitors hear, see, or read that would help them to understand and care for this park and its unique features?

a. The damage propellers can do to the back of a manatee.
b. The damage power boats can do to the ecosystem when not kept in check.
c. Wading through an alligator hole (just kidding!) Gotta keep your sense of humor...
d. Kids should hear and read what other kids have written or said about their experience at the park -- what it meant to them and how it's affected their lives once they've grown up.

3. How do you feel that Everglades National Park is a part of our national heritage?

There is absolutely nothing else like it anywhere on the planet. If we can't bend over backwards and make sacrifices to keep this ecosystem intact, how will we treat other "not-so-unique" places?

-- Jon Merryman