Why the Everglades are Important

By: Eric Eikenberg, CEO Everglades Foundation.

Last month, the Everglades Foundation announced a new partnership with the Palm Beach Civic Association. We are thrilled to be working together toward an ecologically and economically sustainable Everglades ecosystem and higher quality of life in Palm Beach.

Image: Erick Eikenberg, CEO Everglades Foundation

Founded in 1993 by Paul Tudor Jones and the late George Barley, the Everglades Foundation is the nation’s only science-based 501(c)(3) dedicated to protecting and restoring America’s Everglades. For more than 20 years, our team of scientists and researchers have been working toward scientifically sound, achievable solutions.

Our advocacy, literacy, and communication teams help to educate the public, students, and policymakers on complex restoration issues. The Everglades Foundation’s mission is solely focused on restoring the Everglades and assuring that this national treasure can be enjoyed for generations to come.

America’s Everglades is home to more than 70 threatened and endangered species, it’s a national treasure and a World Heritage Site, and it’s a world-class fishing destination.

But it’s so much more than that.

Dwarf CypressImage Credit: Brian F. Call

Our Everglades is the lifeblood for nearly 8 million Floridians who rely on it for their water supply, and it’s an economic engine that generates billions of dollars for our state’s economy every year.

Right now, the Everglades is threatened. Nearly a century of drainage and overdevelopment have strained this fragile ecosystem, shrinking the Everglades to less than half of its original size. The famous “River of Grass” that once flowed freely from the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes down to Florida Bay, is now choked off and fractured—Florida Bay is starving for vital fresh water, but paradoxically, communities surrounding the Indian River Lagoon are being inundated with polluted overflows dumped from Lake Okeechobee that wastes billions of gallons of fresh water out to sea.

Every day, the Everglades Foundation works tirelessly with scientists, public officials, government agencies, partners, and those like you who care deeply about their communities and envision a healthy environment and economy that allows families and businesses to thrive.

Right now, our hydrologists, wetlands ecologists, and water quality scientists are developing a road map to restoration. This End Point Restoration Plan will detail a timeline of specific projects that need to be funded and implemented in a timely matter in order for Everglades restoration to be a reality.

During the “Lost Summer of 2013” and again earlier this year, excess phosphorus in local waterways spawned toxic algae blooms that caused fish die-offs, harmed local businesses, decreased home values and threatened the water supply. To tackle this growing water crisis, next year we’re launching the $10 million George Barley Water Prize. Named after one of our late co-founders, we will award a $10 million prize purse to the individual or team that can create and complete a process to capture and remove excess phosphorus from freshwater bodies.

We know that reversing the decades of damage inflicted on the Everglades and preserving it for future generations means teaching and empowering young minds today. That’s why we’ve also developed an Everglades Literacy program—a K-12 curriculum developed side-by-side with educators and scientists to educate and cultivate future stewards of the Everglades. So far, we’ve trained more than 1,000 teachers across the state and reached thousands of students.

Over the coming year, we hope to get to know each of you and look forward to working closely to keep restoration a priority and promote a sustainable future for generations to come.

The Everglades Foundation is a nonprofit 501 (c)(3), science based organization dedicated to the restoration and protection of America’s Everglades. Founded in 1994 by Paul Tudor Jones II and the late George Barley, the Everglades Foundation science, education, communication and advocacy teams work diligently each day to accomplish this goal.