The Obama administration today joined Nature Conservancy President and CEO Mark Tercek along with ranchers, tribal officials, resource managers and environmentalists to announce $80 million in additional funding to support farmers and ranchers who voluntarily conserve wetlands on agricultural land in the Northern Everglades Watershed.
An additional 23,000 acres of wetlands vital to water quality and wildlife habitat in the Everglades system will be restored with this new investment, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) through the Farm Bill.
“We are charting a new course for Florida with this administration’s conservation commitment to protect critical working lands,” Tercek said. “Robust funding in the Farm Bill for the Wetland Reserve Program is critical to the success of this effort.”
Ranches and farms throughout central and south Florida are being protected with conservation easements as a way to restore the greater Everglades landscape and provide water resources for the future while working hand-in-hand with Florida agriculture.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the funding at The Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve near Orlando at a White House event called “Restoring the Everglades: An America’s Great Outdoors Initiative Event.” At the podium with Tercek and Vilsack were Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, U.S. Department of Interior Assistant Secretary Rachel Jacobson, and Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy. The Administration also released a report outlining the historic federal investments and progress made in Everglades restoration under the leadership of President Obama.
“We are honored to have these conservation leaders here on our Disney Wilderness Preserve, an example of a restored working ranch that is a model for science and stewardship benefiting people and nature,” Tercek said. “The preserve revolutionized the way agencies, businesses and conservationists think about the benefits of nature, much the way these federal agencies are transforming protection of the entire Everglades system.”
For nearly five decades, family ranches have acted as stewards of the land, while providing employment opportunities and contributing significantly to the local tax base. A well-managed ranch, in fact, can provide some of the same ecological functions as protected areas – and many ranches serve as wildlife corridors that connect otherwise isolated tracts of public land for the Florida panther and black bear.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.