U.S. Department of the Interior

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Office of the Secretary
For Immediate Release: Jan. 8, 2003
CONTACT: Hugh Vickery
Everglades Photo.
NPS Director Fran Mainella, Secretary Gale Norton and others at 2002 Everglades Coalition Meeting

Secretary Norton Calls for Continued Partnership in Everglades Restoration;
Outlines Steps Interior Department Will Take to Promote Cooperation

Interior Department Accomplishments in Everglades Restoration Since 2000
Remarks of Interior Secretary Gale Norton

Delray Beach, Fla. -- The restoration of the Everglades depends on continued cooperation among the many stakeholders in South Florida, Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton said today at the annual meeting of the Everglades Coalition.

"The key to our success is the strength of our partnership and our commitment to collaboration," Norton said. "If our dialogue is honest and continuing; if our science is sound and independently verified; and if we work together, rather than at cross-purposes, we will make the right decisions and we will succeed."

"But if we collapse into bickering, if we find ourselves walking away from the table, if we try to effect restoration through an adversarial process, we will fail. And the Everglades will continue its decline until the water no longer shimmers but is a lifeless reflection of the promises we failed to keep," she said.

Norton said the Interior Department will take steps that will help ensure a continued spirit of partnership, including forming an advisory committee to allow stakeholders to provide input to Interior land managers in South Florida on a wide range of Everglades restoration issues.

"We want to expand our collaboration with members of the Everglades community on issues that affect them every day," she said.

Norton also said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service will begin to employ a habitat-based recovery strategy for endangered species, including implementing restoration plans for key areas of habitat such as the 107,000-acre East Everglades Addition to Everglades National Park.

In addition, Interior Department agencies will work to improve the quality and timing of the Everglades science program to ensure decisions are guided by the best available science. "We will develop an overall science action plan to support restoration of the greater Everglades ecosystem," she said.

Norton applauded the Army Corps of Engineers for responding to the comments of the department and the many Everglades stakeholders in the development its programmatic regulations for Everglades restoration. While the regulations have not yet been published, she expressed confidence that they would formalize a significant role for the Interior Department and its agencies in implementing the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.

"No one is likely to get everything on their wish list in the final programmatic regulations, and we may disagree over the finer points, but overall these regulations - along with the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 and the agreement signed last January by the President and the Governor - will provide the legal assurances envisioned by Congress to ensure restoration occurs," she said.

Norton pointed to many successes in recent years, including the agreement between President Bush and Governor Bush to ensure the state reserves enough water from consumptive use so that the Everglades will be restored.

She noted that the National Park Service has now acquired virtually all of the lands within the boundaries of Everglades National Park and that the department will be acquiring the Collier oil and gas holdings in Big Cypress National Preserve, which will protect the preserve for future generations.

On the issue of water quality, Norton noted that farmers in the Everglades have implemented best management practices to reduce phosphorus levels that promote the spread of invasive species, and that over the past eight years, the state has constructed storm water treatment areas that are treating millions of gallons of water every day and reducing phosphorus and other pollutants.

She expressed support for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's proposed numeric criterion for phosphorus of 10 parts per billion for water in the Everglades Protection Area. "We believe this standard will protect the Everglades," she said. "We fully support its adoption."

Norton also highlighted increased research and control efforts for invasive species, including the construction of a $6.2 million invasive species research facility and an additional $1 million last year to eliminate melaleuca and other invasives from 18,000 acres of Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.

"As we move forward year by year through this long and challenging process, let us hold on to the vision of a restored and thriving Everglades with healthy and diverse wildlife and the right water in the right place at the right time," she said. "Let us will ourselves to maintain the spirit of collaboration. Working together, I am confident we can restore the Everglades and make this water once again shimmer with life for generations to come."

Everglades Refuge

Secretary Norton and Director Mainella listening to NPS Officials.


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