Why it matters: The Florida Everglades is truly a national treasure. Supporting one of the most unique ecosystems, the Everglades also offer one of the best fishing destinations in America. Due to decades of development and the diversion of natural flows, the Everglades ecosystems is now less than half its original size. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan seeks to restore much of the natural water flow through the Everglades, reduce toxic algal blooms and enhance the exceptional fishing opportunities that south Florida and the Everglades have to offer.
On December 23, CSF and representatives of the angling and boating community submitted a letter to President Biden urging federal funding for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), both through a $1.5 billion infusion of funds made available to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) through the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), as well as through a Presidential budget request to Congress for $750 million in FY23. These investments would accelerate the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir, a key component to create synergies across the complex system of Everglades restoration projects as it sends clean water south and reduces damaging discharges to the east and west coasts.
The Everglades ecosystem covers 16 counties and 164 cities in Florida with a $2 trillion economic impact. Unfortunately, due to extensive development, the Everglades ecosystem is now less than half of its original size. The remaining Everglades ecosystem is threatened with inconsistent water releases from Lake Okeechobee, which reaches capacity up to six times faster than it can be released to the south into the Everglades, resulting in much of the nutrient-laden water having to be sent to the east and west by way of the St. Lucie and the Caloosahatchee canals, respectively. Discharging too much water from Lake Okeechobee threatens high salinity dependent habitats on the east and west coasts and can result in toxic algal blooms, while low volume discharges to the south threatens the freshwater-dependent brackish habitat in the Everglades.
The significant positive effect on both freshwater and estuarine habitats in South Florida by restoring the historic water flow through the Everglades will not only result in increased fish abundance, but also improved fishing opportunities for anglers.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation continues to work with our national and local partners in Florida in supporting a comprehensive restoration effort to meet the water management needs of Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades, south Florida’s fish and wildlife resources, and the local residents.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?