Washington, D.C. -- Vice President Gore today announced a comprehensive blueprint for restoring native plants and animals throughout the Florida Everglades, with a goal of removing more than a dozen species from the endangered species list within 20 years.
The South Florida Multi-Species Recovery Plan -- the largest such plan ever crafted in the United States -- spells out actions needed to rebuild populations of 68 Everglades species presently listed as threatened or endangered. The plan is a vital component of the Clinton-Gore Administration?s long-term Everglades restoration strategy.
"We already are making tremendous progress in securing the land and water needed to restore Florida?s precious Everglades," the Vice President said. "This new plan will help fit all the pieces together so we can ensure that the rich plant and animal life that once graced this extraordinary landscape flourishes once again."
The Multi-Species Recovery Plan, drafted over the past five years by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and 200 species experts, will be signed Tuesday by Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt at the South Florida Restoration Science Forum in Boca Raton.
The plan covers the 26,000-square-mile South Florida Ecosystem, which encompasses the state?s 19 southernmost counties, a region supporting an unusually diverse array of flora and fauna. More than 600 species are considered rare or imperiled in South Florida; 68 are listed by the federal government as threatened or endangered, including the Florida panther, the American crocodile, the West Indian manatee, and five species of sea turtle.
A more detailed implementation plan is being developed by the Fish and Wildlife Service, and a Multi-Species Ecosystem Recovery Implementation Team will advise the agency on ways to coordinate federal, state, and local recovery efforts.
"This plan establishes a road map that will guide our efforts -- in collaboration with the state, tribes, private landowners, and our other partners -- as we work to restore true biodiversity to the Everglades," the Vice President said. "It ensures that we will work together, achieving the greatest possible biological gain for our investment."
Reflecting new approaches to endangered species recovery pioneered by this Administration, the plan represents a coordinated strategy for restoring the full range of species across entire ecosystems, and allows for flexible implementation to accommodate new science that may emerge over time.
"This plan exemplifies our innovative strategies for restoring endangered species and is a model for similar efforts across the country," the Vice President said. "By taking a forward-looking and comprehensive regional approach, instead of addressing species one by one, it lays a solid foundation for collaborative restoration efforts and allows everyone ample opportunity to plan ahead."
Among the plan?s long-term goals are "delisting" 17 species including the piping plover, the Atlantic salt marsh snake, southeastern beach mouse, the Green sea turtle, the Hawksbill sea turtle, Kemp?s ridley sea turtle, Leatherback sea turtle, and the Loggerhead sea turtle. Other long-term goals include establishing three viable populations of the Florida panther and "downlisting" several species from endangered to threatened, including the West Indian manatee, the American crocodile, and the wood stork.
The species recovery plan is one of the cornerstones of the broader Everglades restoration plan announced by the Vice President in February 1996. The overall strategy includes strategic land acquisitions, accelerated research and restoration projects, increased federal funding, and strengthened partnerships with state and local government and private interests.
In April, the Administration released a draft $7.8 billion plan to significantly increase the quality and quantity of freshwater flowing to the Everglades, while ensuring adequate supplies for South Florida?s cities and farms. A final plan will be submitted to Congress on July 1.