Righting what he calls a wrong of the Bush administration, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar wants Everglades National Park to once again be listed as a World Heritage Site in Danger.
If you recall, it was back in 2007 when the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization lifted the "in danger" designation from Everglades. For some reason the committee at the time voted unanimously to remove that tag from the Everglades.
The Committee commended the United States of America for its investment of scientific and financial resources to rehabilitate the site which was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1979 and on the Danger List in 1993. ... It had been threatened by urban growth and pollution, as well as by the damage caused to Florida Bay in 1992 by Hurricane Andrew.
Regular Traveler readers no doubt remember our disbelief at this action, which was done with the full support of then-Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne at the very time that the Everglades was continuing to be threatened by urban sprawl, drought, pollution, and a list of endangered species that included the American crocodile, the Florida panther, and the West Indian manatee.
Fortunately, the Obama administration realized a ruse when it saw one.
In a release Wednesday the Interior Department said that "the Everglades was hastily removed from the list in 2007 at the request of the previous administration without adequate consultations with the National Park Service, the state of Florida and other stakeholders and without appropriate measures in place to evaluate the progress of on-going efforts to restore the South Florida ecosystem."
“The Everglades remains one of our world’s most treasured – and most threatened – places,” Secretary Salazar said at a meeting of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force in the department’s Sydney Yates Auditorium. “The federal government must once again stand up and meet its responsibilities to Everglades restoration so that one day, when we achieve restoration, we can remove the park from the list of sites that in danger. President Obama has already made a major commitment to Everglades restoration in the budget and through the Recovery Act; we will stay focused on this high priority for our nation and the world.”
President Obama has increased federal support for Everglades restoration, the largest watershed restoration project in history.
The Omnibus Appropriation Act for fiscal year 2009, signed by the President early this year, provides a total of $241 million for Everglades’ projects, including $118 million from the Department of the Interior and $123 million from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
In addition, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also enacted earlier this year, provided $119.2 million in stimulus funding for Everglades work, including $18.6 million for Interior agencies and $100.6 million from the Army Corps of Engineers.
President Obama’s budget request for 2010 would provide $278 million for Everglades’ restoration, including $64 million from Interior and $214 million from the Corps. The 2010 budget for Everglades is $37 million above the 2009 enacted level.
“With the President’s strong commitment to restoration, there is hope for a new day in the Everglades,” Secretary Salazar said. “We will work with other countries to relist the park at the earliest possible time and develop criteria by which we will be able to determine when that day has arrived and the park can be legitimately removed from the danger list.”
The 21-nation World Heritage Committee oversees the list of World Heritage Sites that are of significant cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity. Sites that are deemed to be in jeopardy are placed on the danger list.
The committee currently is meeting in Seville, Spain. While it may be too late to formally get the Everglades relisted at this meeting, the Interior secretary directed the National Park Service representatives attending to initial discussions with other delegates.
In 1993, Everglades National Park was placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger after Hurricane Andrew, based on concerns regarding the deterioration of the park’s ecological integrity. The list is intended to focus attention and, thereby, resources of the international community and encourage action to address those threats, primarily by the concerned.