During its 27th Annual Conference the Everglades Coalition announced its priorities for 2012, priorities that range from better water conservation in the landscape that surrounds Everglades National Park to prioritization of land acquisition.
The conference last week brought together business leaders, elected officials and environmentalists to discuss opportunities and challenges for restoring the Everglades’ unique ecosystem.
The 2012 priorities build upon the Coalition’s first-ever statewide legislative education effort, launched in November to educate policymakers and community leaders about the tremendous economic and ecological value of restoring America’s Everglades. This year’s conference was hosted by Earthjustice, a public-interest law firm that has represented environmentalists in many key legal cases to protect the Everglades over the past 24 years.
“Everglades restoration is a sound investment that generates at least four-to-one return on every dollar spent,” said Dawn Shirreffs, national co-chair for the Everglades Coalition. “Restoration projects provide key water supply protections, and have generated more than10,500 jobs in the last three years.”
“The unprecedented progress on Everglades restoration continues, bringing with it ecological benefits that make Florida a unique natural wonder,” added Julie Hill-Gabriel, state co-chair for the Coalition. “The economic return on investment in restoration is just another strong argument to continue funding for projects like bridging Tamiami Trail.”
2012 priorities for the Everglades Coalition include:
• Secure sustained and adequate funding to agencies and for projects to ensure restoration momentum continues, including the 5.5 miles of additional bridging for Tamiami Trail. Congress and the Florida Legislature must continue to fund Everglades restoration to demonstrate their commitment to real environmental and economic progress. There is no longer a divide between saving the environment and promoting business interests.
• Protect water resources through strong statewide conservation policies and improved water quality standards that safeguard Florida’s most important resource – America’s Everglades.
• Prioritize the acquisition and conservation of land needed to protect and connect wildlife habitat, and provide water storage and treatment. Complete planning and authorization of critical projects, including the Central Everglades Planning Project, to increase the quality, quantity, timing and distribution of critical freshwater flows into the central Everglades, Everglades and Biscayne Bay National Parks and Florida Bay.
“Getting water flow right is enormously important,” said Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen. “And so is protecting the water quality in Lake Okeechobee and in the rivers, streams and canals that flow into the Everglades. That’s why we continue to fight for clear, enforceable clean water standards.”
Joining the Coalition for this year’s 27th annual Conference were U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, famed novelist and Miami Herald Contributor Carl Hiaasen, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy, Department of the Interior's Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Rachel Jacobson, Chair, and White House Council on Environmental Quality Nancy Sutley.