Gore And McKay Announce $50 Million For Everglades Land Purchase

Environmentalists Applaud Vice President

(06/17/1997) - Homestead, Florida. The Everglades Coalition welcomed the announcement today by Vice President Al Gore and Florida Lt. Governor Buddy McKay that $50 million would be made available to purchase ecologically valuable lands in southwest Florida.

Patti Webster, Florida Co-Chair of the Coalition, who attended the announcement ceremony at Everglades National Park said, "Development is squeezing the 'Glades from all sides. Unlike the east coast, there is still time and resources left in southwest Florida. But the clock is ticking - the bulldozers are coming and development is closing in from all sides. Today's action sends a message that the Administration and the state of Florida are serious about buffering the Everglades from development," said Webster.

The lands to be acquired consist of the Southern Golden Gates Estates, Fakahatchee Strand, and Belle Meade. The plan calls for $25 million to be released from the federal government to the State Department of Environmental Protection, which will then be matched by an equal amount of state conservation and recreation land funds.

"This is a gratifying step by the state and by the Clinton Administration to fulfill their pledges to help save the Everglades," stated Defenders of Wildlife's Mary Munson, also the Coalition's Washington D.C. Chair. "Besides being hydrologically vital to our public parks and refuges, these properties provide habitat for many threatened and endangered species, including the Florida black bear and the Florida panther." Munson continued, "This is a fantastic day for Florida also in the fact that much of the water in the Big Cypress basin, which provides about half the surface water to the Everglades National Park, originates in the properties slated for acquisition with the new funds."

Last year, Congress approved $200 million for the Interior Department to protect and maintain the Everglades and to acquire key lands necessary to do so. The land included in today's announcement had been identified as a high priority for acquisition by the Working Groups of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force. The announcement comes on the day that the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior is expected to mark-up a bill allotting over $130 million to the Department of the Interior.

The Florida Everglades is a unique area of saw grass marshes, pine-forested islands, mangroves, wet prairies, and low-lying coastal waters located in South Florida. Decades of draining, ditch building, and river channeling have resulted in the loss of thousands of acres of wildlife habitat and numerous water shortages in a region that receives one of the highest levels of rainfall in the country. Restoring this ecosystem has been identified as a priority for the Clinton Administration and such initiatives aimed at doing so have received strong bipartisan support.

The Everglades Coalition is an umbrella group of 35 local, state, and national organizations committed to the protection and restoration of the South Florida region.



Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270