KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The Obama Administration released a report outlining the historic Federal investments and progress made in Everglades restoration under the leadership of President Barack Obama, and announced $80 million in additional funding to support farmers and ranchers who voluntarily conserve wetlands on agricultural land in the Northern Everglades Watershed. This new investment, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wetlands Reserve Program, will restore an additional 23,000 acres of wetlands vital to water quality and wildlife habitat in the Everglades system.
President Obama has made restoring the Everglades a national priority. Using the partnerships and community-led approach that is a hallmark of the President’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, the Administration has reinvigorated Federal leadership in Everglades restoration, investing $1.5 billion in Everglades projects and initiatives that will make a measurable impact on the ground, including nearly $900 million to jump start key construction projects that will restore water flow and essential habitat. These projects already have generated 6,600 Florida jobs and are expected to generate more. President Obama also has requested an additional $246 million in the Fiscal Year 2013 Budget to build on this progress and continue the investments, partnerships and projects that will return the Everglades to health.
Senior Administration officials including U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary Rachel Jacobson, and Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy released the report and made the funding announcement in Kissimmee, Fla.
“The Everglades are an icon, an American treasure, and essential to the health and economy of Florida communities,” said Sutley. “With the President’s leadership, we are making real and measurable progress in Everglades restoration, dramatically increasing Federal funding, launching key construction projects, and working with the State and other partners to deliver results on the ground. There is much more to do, and we are committed to returning this majestic natural resource to health.”
“President Obama has made restoring the iconic Everglades a national priority,” said Vilsack. “Restoring these wetlands demonstrates a strong commitment to partnerships with ranchers and farmers to improve water quality and habitat protection while supporting Florida’s strong agricultural economy and ranching heritage. These investments are paying off, creating nearly 7,000 jobs in Florida’s economy and preserving thousands of acres of precious wetlands for future generations to enjoy.”
Working in partnership with the State of Florida, Tribes and local leaders, since 2009, the Administration has restored more than 3,000 acres of the floodplains along the Kissimmee River; worked with landowners to improve habitat and water quality on more than 400,000 agricultural acres; begun constructing the first mile of bridging for the Tamiami Trail to restore water flow to Everglades National Park; begun implementing key components of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan to make more water available for environmental, urban and agricultural use; and reached an historic agreement with the state of Florida to make essential water quality improvements, including $879 million in State commitments for water quality projects.
This investment in the WRP also builds on other significant Obama administration accomplishments to conserve habitat in the greater Everglades ecosystem. Earlier this year, the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service established the 150,000-acre Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. Assistant Secretary Jacobson announced that FWS has received $1.5 million in reprogrammed 2012 funding to begin securing additional conservation easements on priority parcels of some of the last remaining grass-land savannahs in the Northern Everglades, working with private land-owners to conserve the land, water and wildlife of the Everglades Headwaters.