In one of her first trips as Secretary of the Interior, and as part of the Obama Administration's unprecedented commitment to the restoration of the Everglades, Sally Jewell today toured Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and Everglades National Park, pledging continued strong support for the restoration efforts that have picked up speed during the past four years under the Obama Administration.
"President Obama has kept his commitment to the people of Florida to make Everglades restoration a high priority in his administration and together we have made great strides in getting the water right and reducing the threats to this great ecosystem," said Jewell. "We still have much work to do, from addressing invasive species to developing new water projects, and we will work with the state, Native American Tribes, local governments and all the stakeholders to get the job done."
Jewell began her day at Loxahatchee NWR, where she met with refuge employees and received a briefing on projects being undertaken as a result of the agreement last year between the state of Florida and the Environmental Protection Agency under which the state agreed to $880 million in funding and investment in additional water quality treatment that will clean up the nutrient pollution entering the Everglades. She also visited by airboat the interior of the refuge where she saw first-hand the effects of nutrients and invasive species on refuge habitat.
Jewell then flew over the central Everglades to view state-managed water conservation areas that are the focus of a fast-track planning initiative by the Army Corps of Engineers for the next generation of restoration projects under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan to restore the area's natural hydrology.
As part of this leg of the tour, Jewell stopped by the Tamiami trail bridge, dedicated earlier this year, which will begin the task of restoring more natural water flow to the park's Northeast Shark River Slough. The administration is seeking $30 million in its 2014 budget to help build another 2.6-mile bridge span to further restore this water flow.
Jewell took an airboat tour of Everglades National Park to observe the on-the-ground progress of water quantity and water quality projects. She also met with biologists on the challenges of non-native species such as pythons, melaleuca and non-native fish in the Everglades.
During her visit, Jewell reiterated her commitment to build on the success of the many restoration efforts undertaken or completed under the Obama administration, including the Tamiami Trail bridge, the agreement between EPA and Florida to improve water quality, and efforts to plan new restoration projects for the central Everglades.
Other accomplishments include:
Breaking ground on six major restoration projects and completing planning for four more. These projects not only benefit the South Florida ecosystem but also provide thousands of jobs in local communities.
Working with ranchers and other landowners to establish the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. The refuge and conservation area will include a 50,000- acre publicly owned National Wildlife Refuge and 100,000 acres of land that will remain in private ownership under conservation easements or other less-than-fee protections.
Issuing regulations banning the importation and interstate transportation of the Burmese python and three other nonnative constrictor snakes that threaten the Everglades and other sensitive ecosystems across the United States.
Proposing that the World Heritage Committee relist Everglades National Park on the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger.