Date: Friday, August 4, 2023
NEW ORLEANS — Today, Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz wrapped up a multi-day visit to Florida and Louisiana, where she highlighted how President Biden’s Investing in America agenda is supporting ecosystem restoration efforts and celebrated major milestones for the Endangered Species Act.
In Niceville, Florida, Assistant Secretary Estenoz visited the Eglin Air Force Base to celebrate the recovery and delisting of the Okaloosa darter. The Okaloosa Darter was first listed as an endangered species in 1973 and reclassified as threated in 2011. Following decades of collaborative conservation efforts led by the Eglin Air Force Base and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, more than 200 miles of stream have been restored and darters are thriving in flowing, clean waters.
While in Florida, Assistant Secretary Estenoz joined the National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO) as they visited the site where a threatened species -- the flatwood salamander – will be released on land managed by private landowners. The action follows a Wildlife Conservation Initiative Memorandum of Understanding signed by the USFWS, NAFO and the National Association of National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, Inc. in March. The MOU will help advance conservation of at-risk and listed species within private working forests nationwide, and it represents a tremendous step forward in collaborative, partnership-driven conservation.
This work is a critical part of the America the Beautiful initiative, a decade-long challenge to pursue a locally led and voluntary, nationwide effort to conserve, connect, and restore the lands, waters, and wildlife upon which we all depend.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. The Department of the Interior is celebrating the importance of the ESA in preventing the extinction of imperiled species, promoting the recovery of wildlife and conserving the habitats upon which they depend. The ESA has been highly effective and credited with saving 99% of listed species from extinction. Thus far, more than 100 species of plants and animals have been delisted based on recovery or downlisted from endangered to threatened based on improved conservation status. Hundreds more species are stable or improving thanks to the collaborative actions of Tribes, federal agencies, state and local governments, conservation organizations and private citizens.
Today, Assistant Secretary Estenoz visited New Orleans, Louisiana to highlight a $750,000 investment for the renovation of Dillard University’s historic Howard House. In 2023, the National Park Service is investing $9.7 million for projects in Louisiana and across the nation that are helping repair historic structures on the campuses of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, to preserve their history for generations to come.
Estenoz also visited the Central Wetlands Restoration Project, which received a $1.1 million grant from the America the Beautiful Challenge, funded in part through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The project will help empower local conservation partners to reinvigorate almost 16,000 acres of marsh habitat, helping to provide natural storm surge protection for the people of New Orleans.
The new resources are part of the Department’s Restoration and Resilience Framework, which is guiding $2 billion in investments from the President’s Investing in America agenda to restore lands and waters, advance climate resilience, and address environmental justice across the nation.