Statement on the U.S. House of Representatives' Approval of Funding for the Restoration of the Everglades

Statement of Rodger Schlickeisen, Defenders of Wildlife President

(10/19/2000) - This is a great day for the Florida Everglades and the citizens of the United States!

The U.S. House of Representatives today approved a comprehensive framework for restoring the Florida Everglades and authorized an initial 14 restoration projects costing $1.4 billion. The legislation, part of the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 (WRDA 2000), creates a framework for a plan that would be the world’s single largest environmental restoration project. The project is ultimately expected to cost $7.8 billion and take 30-40 years, with funding coming equally from the federal government and the State of Florida.

Passage of this legislation today represents historic victories for the Everglades, wildlife, and the citizens of our nation. Restoration of the Everglades has gained broad bipartisan support in Congress, and with conservationists; the government of Florida; and agriculture, homebuilding, and utility interests in Florida. The overwhelming support for this measure in the House is due to the diligent work of the leaders of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Representatives Bud Shuster and James Oberstar. I also want to thank the entire Florida delegation, particularly Representatives Clay Shaw and Bill Young, for their commitment to the Florida Everglades.

The Florida Everglades is one of our nation's and nature’s crown jewels. For generations, tourists from the U.S. and around the world have come to see this unique place and the wildlife that depend upon it. The Everglades is home to more than 300 bird species, 11,000 species of plants, and numerous species of fish and marine mammals like the endangered Florida manatee. The Everglades also provides some of the last remaining habitat for 68 federally listed threatened or endangered species, including the American crocodile and the Florida panther.

But the Everglades is dying. Years of draining its wetlands and encroachment by an ever-increasing Florida population have taken a toll on its now-endangered ecosystem. Water, the most fundamental resource in the Everglades, has been diverted and rerouted away from the plants and animals that need it. Despite these problems, restoration of the Everglades is within sight.

Last year, the Army Corps of Engineers released an ambitious and historic blueprint for restoring this troubled treasure. The House of Representatives has now approved a historic commitment to authorize funding to begin restoration of Florida’s River of Grass. The unimaginable is now possible.

As the bill moves into conference, legislators and the President must ensure that anti-environmental provisions in WRDA 2000 are removed. Apart from Everglades restoration, I am extremely concerned with other provisions in WRDA 2000 that would have adverse impacts on wildlife and their habitat. For example, Section 313 in the Senate-passed version of the bill would limit efforts to protect and restore habitat for Missouri River fish and wildlife, particularly for federally endangered and threatened species.

The nation should be proud of what has been accomplished in Congress today. We can now look forward to leaving a lasting natural legacy in the Florida Everglades for future generations of Americans.



Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270