|Office of the Secretary ||
Contact: Hugh Vickery
|For Immediate Release: Jan.
Interior Department Accomplishments in
Everglades Restoration Since 2000
- President Bush and Governor Jeb Bush signed an agreement in January
2002, to restore the Everglades, as required under the Comprehensive
Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). The agreement is enforceable and
binding. It will ensure the restoration of natural flows to the Everglades. Under
the agreement, the state commits to managing its water resources so that
water produced by the plan's implementation will be available to restore the
natural system. Meanwhile, the federal government commits to be an active
partner in obtaining funding and working with the state to implement the plan.
- Interior staff has assisted the Army Corps of Engineers in its development of
the programmatic regulations that will be soon be finalized to guide CERP.
While final regulations have not been published, the Department believes
they will establish an appropriate framework for restoration, and the Interior
Department and its agencies will play a significant role in implementing
- President Bush proposed $96 million for Interior's 2003 Budget for
Everglades Restoration, including funding for the modified water delivery
project in Everglades National Park to restore natural flows, to protect wildlife
habitat and restore endangered species, and to purchase land to secure
additional fresh water. The Department anticipates Congressional approval
- The Department reached an agreement in principle to acquire
the Collier oil and gas holdings in Big Cypress National Preserve, which will
protect that resource for future generations. The final agreement is close
- The South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, chaired
by Ann Klee, counselor to Interior Secretary Norton, has met numerous times
this year to continue discussions among governmental representatives and stakeholders
about the development of the Army Corps of Engineers' programmatic regulations
for the restoration plan, and other issues related to the restoration effort.
- The Fish and Wildlife Service and the South Florida Water Management
District (SFWMD) approved a 50-year license agreement under which the
Service will continue to manage state-owned lands that make up 97 percent
of Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. The license
agreement represents a commitment by the Department to work
cooperatively with the State in managing this important resource.
- The Corps of Engineers and the SFWMD have worked in partnership
with the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service to develop
a series of interim water management operations to avoid jeopardy to the endangered
Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow. The most recent of these is the Interim Operational
Plan, or "IOP." The Department is working with the Corps and SFWMD to monitor
and evaluate actual IOP operations and will incorporate the results of the
monitoring into the development of the "Combined Structural and Operational
Plan" or "CSOP." Furthermore, the agencies will increase stakeholder participation
in the development of CSOP to incorporate a full range of views into the decision-making
- The Fish and Wildlife Service, in partnership with SFWMD,
is implementing the Loxahatchee Impoundment Landscape Assessment Cooperative
Agreement (LILA), a research project that will serve as a pilot study for
hydrologic regimes proposed under CERP. The objective of project is to define
hydrologic regimes that sustain a healthy Everglades ecosystem including wading
bird, tree island, and ridge and slough communities. The approach will be
to sculpt key Everglades landscape features, overlay controlled hydrologic
regimes with flow rates that simulate historic flows, and measure response
by wading birds, tree islands and ridge and sloughs. Two impoundments (80
acres) at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge will be
altered to create representative Everglades ridge and slough habitat and tree
- The Department is planning to hold an "avian summit"
this spring under the auspices of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration
Task Force. The summit will review all scientific information on federally
listed and key indicator avian species in South Florida, including the Cape
Sable Seaside Sparrow, wood stork, snail kite and roseatte spoon-bill.
- The National Park Service has acquired virtually all remaining lands within
Everglades National Park, thereby providing permanent protection for this
- The National Park Service is on the verge of eliminating
melaleuca at Big Cypress National Preserve. The Department also freed up $1
million to eradicate invasive species at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
and successfully treated 18,000 acres. Work has begun on a $6.2 million invasive
species research facility that will help develop better techniques of controlling
melaleuca and other exotic species in the Everglades.
- In 2001, the Department provided $12 million to Florida
to allow the state to purchase important properties within the Everglades
system, including the 5,000-acre Grassy Island Ranch north of Lake Okeechobee,
that will be used to capture additional quantities of freshwater and restore
natural hydrological flow. This year, the Department intends to provide $15
million in similar land acquisition grants.
- The Fish and Wildlife
Service is finalizing its plan to ensure the recovery of the endangered Key
deer, a species native to the Florida Keys at the extreme southern end of
the greater Everglades Ecosystem. The population, which once numbered about
300 during the 1970s, has grown to an estimated 600-700 individuals. The Service
will begin moving deer from the core area on Big Pine Key to more remote areas
in adjacent keys. If successful, this will ensure that there are at least
three populations, which will increase the likelihood of survival into the
foreseeable future. The first of these translocations of deer is scheduled
for the spring of this year.
- A team of experts assembled by Fish and Wildlife Service
developed a draft landscape conservation strategy for panthers in south Florida
using an open and collaborative process. The strategy identifies lands essential
for the continued conservation of panthers in south Florida, as well as a landscape
linkage to provide for population expansion to aid in recovery of the species.