Why it matters: The Florida Everglades is truly a national treasure, supporting one of the most unique ecosystems, as well as offering 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 January 19, the Biden Administration released the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Civil Works Program Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, 2022 Construction Work Plan, which contained a $1.1 billion allocation to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). Funding for CERP is a 50-50 cost share investment between the state of Florida and the Federal Government. This much needed infusion of funds from the USACE will initiate the planning and construction of several additional projects necessary to restore the Everglades and improve water quality in south Florida.
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.
On December 23, CSF and representatives of the angling and boating community submitted a letter to President Biden urging federal funding for CERP through a $1.5 billion infusion of funds made available to the USACE through the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). While the actual allocation announced last Wednesday was short by $400 million, there will be other opportunities to secure additional funding through the President’s budget request and Congressional appropriations.
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?