By: Maria M. Garcia, Everglades Foundation.
This past weekend Everglades Foundation’s CEO Eric Eikenberg kicked off the opening session of the 31st Annual Everglades Coalition Conference at Miami’s historic Biltmore Hotel. Foundation scientists Drs. Tom Van Lent and Steve Davis served on panels addressing the crisis in Florida Bay and the need for water storage north and south of Lake Okeechobee.
Image: Everglades Foundation’s CEO Eric Eikenberg
On the forefront of everyone’s minds in the new year was the issue of Amendment 1. Passed by 75 percent of Florida voters in Nov. 2014, the measure guarantees dedicated, recurring funding for land and water conservation measures including Everglades restoration. However, despite the support of an overwhelming majority of voters, the Florida Legislature failed to allocate a single dollar from Amendment 1 toward Everlgades restoration projects in 2015.
Last month, Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) with the support of Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island), introduced the Legacy Florida proposal. The legislation would direct $200 million of Amendment 1 funds annually toward critical restoration projects outlined in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, or CERP for short. Incoming Senate President Joe Negron (R-Stuart) has made passing this legislation his top priority for 2016.
The 2016 legislative session began on Tuesday, Jan. 12, and it is the chance to right the course on Everglades restoration by sending the Legacy Florida bill to the Governor’s desk.
“The Everglades is an economic engine for the State of Florida and an important source of drinking water for Floridians and tourists alike,” said Eikenberg, “and this bill is a sound investment in Florida’s future.”
Legacy Florida co-sponsors Reps. Heather Fitzenhagen (R-Fort Myers) and Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami) joined Rep. Harrell at the Everglades Coalition Conference to highlight the economic and environmental importance of funding Everglades restoration. “For every dollar we put into Everglades restoration, we get a $4 return,” Fitzenhagen emphasized Saturday to the crowd of nearly 300 conference attendees.
In the few short days of 2016, we’re seeing promising steps toward getting stalled projects back on track, and our resolve to find achievable, scientifically sound solutions has only been strengthened in the new year.
Our vision of a healthy, restored Everglades takes center stage next month at our 11th Annual ForEverglades Benefit at The Breakers in Palm Beach. The annual event raises over $2 million to protect and restore the fragile Everglades ecosystem that provides fresh water for nearly 8 million Floridians and millions of visitors. The evening will feature honoree Tom Brokaw the award-winning television journalist and author; Grammy-nominated comedian Jim Gaffigan; and country superstar Alan Jackson performing some of his top hits from his prolific career.
Learn more about the Everglades Foundation’s leading research and the ForEverglades Benefit by visiting evergladesfoundation.org
The Everglades Foundation is a Civic Association Corporate Partner.