The Nature Conservancy’s Keith Fountain joined Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack yesterday and other dignitaries to celebrate a $100 million commitment to keeping the Northern Everglades natural. The money will pay for conservation easements over 24,000 acres in four counties to improve water quality and enhance wildlife in the Northern Everglades watershed, Vilsack announced.
"Protecting and restoring the vast natural landscapes in the Northern Everglades will pay huge benefits in the future for all of us,” said The Nature Conservancy’s Keith Fountain, Florida protection director, who spoke at the announcement. “The benefits from the Wetland Reserve Program are perhaps the broadest of any USDA conservation program – permanent conservation of habitat, continued private ownership and economic benefit from ranching, and wetland restoration that revives lost habitats and retains and cleans water for central and south Florida.”
Under WRP, landowners sell development rights to land and place it in a conservation easement that permanently maintains that land as agriculture and open space. USDA plans to purchase these permanent easements from eligible private landowners and assist with wetland restoration in Glades, Hendry, Highlands and Okeechobee counties.
"This project is a great example of the work we can do with farm bill funding that benefits both conservation efforts and agricultural production," said Jenny Conner-Nelms, Florida's director of federal government relations for the Conservancy. "Our congressional leaders in Washington should see these programs as smart investments in our economy."
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.