Washington, DC -- Vice President Gore today announced the release of $38.9 million in federal funds for the acquisition of more than 10,000 acres critical to the restoration of the Florida Everglades. The announcement followed the South Florida Water Management District's approval of state matching funds for the land purchases.
The federal and state funds will be used to protect additional land east of Everglades National Park as a buffer against development, and lands along Florida's west coast that provide valuable habitat for the Florida panther and other imperiled species.
"Together with the state, we are taking another important step toward restoring one of America's true natural treasures," the Vice President said. "Across South Florida, from the east to the west, we are rebuilding a landscape unlike any other in the world. And we are doing it in a way that ensures not only a healthy Everglades, but also a strong, sustainable regional economy."
The acquisitions are the latest step in the long-term Everglades restoration strategy announced by the Vice President in February 1996. Other elements include accelerated research and restoration projects, a comprehensive endangered species recovery plan completed last month, and a $7.8 billion plan for improving water supply and quality that will soon be submitted to Congress.
The U.S. Department of the Interior funds released today are part of the $221 million secured by President Clinton in the fiscal year 1999 budget to continue the Everglades restoration. Matching state funds were approved unanimously today by the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District.
Of the combined $77.8 million, $63.8 million will be used to acquire roughly 5,500 acres in the East Coast Buffer/Water Preserve Areas between Everglades Park and urban areas to the east. About 7,000 acres of buffer land already have been protected with federal and state funds. The new acquisitions, in areas threatened with development, will be used to augment water storage for the Everglades and for urban supplies.
Another $14 million approved today will be used to preserve about 5,000 acres in Lee and Collier counties as part of the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed Restoration Project. In addition to critical wildlife habitat, the lands provide additional freshwater supplies for protected natural areas including Corkscrew Swamp, Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, and Everglades Park.
"These land acquisitions will help to restore true biodiversity to the Everglades," said Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt. "These areas, along with the restoration of historical water flows, will greatly benefit habitat used by the Florida panther, Florida black bear, woodstork and wading birds."
Mike Collins, chairman of the governing board of South Florida Water Management District, called the acquisitions "an excellent example of a working partnership. It's nice to see it ongoing and working to protect this unique natural resource for the people of Florida and the entire nation."