We are excited to share some recent national park news and victories with you. Please read on to learn about two key Everglades groundbreakings, the Everglades Coalition Conference and Capitol Hill visits, and our actions around endangered species habitat protections.
Everglades Victories! NPCA Attends Key Groundbreakings
Huge news for the Everglades as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers broke ground on the long-awaited Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir in March 2023. NPCA was invited to attend the groundbreaking ceremony and tour the massive project site. The goal of the project is to store high volumes of water from Lake Okeechobee, clean the water in treatment marshes, and flow it south to Everglades National Park. Once complete, the EAA water storage and treatment compound will send over 200,000 acre-feet of clean water to the Southern Everglades and Florida Bay every year – that’s as much water as 5,000 Epcot balls!
Then in May, just last month, NPCA participated in another key Everglades project groundbreaking for the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) North features, located in southwestern Palm Beach County. This project is ecologically very significant because it will allow water managers to begin moving a great deal more water into the conservation areas that are at the heart of the overall Everglades ecosystem. For years, NPCA has led advocacy efforts that contributed to these important milestones, and we thank every park advocate who has spoken out in support of Everglades restoration. Together, we are making a difference for our national parks.
NPCA Hosts Secretary Haaland, Tribal Leaders at 38th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference
NPCA hosted the 38th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference in Coral Springs, welcoming over 300 guests to the largest annual forum to discuss the health and restoration of America’s Everglades. The highlight of the event was keynote remarks by U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who shared her commitment to ecosystem restoration and climate resilience during her first-ever trip to the Everglades! NPCA President Theresa Pierno welcomed Secretary Haaland for her keynote remarks. We were also thrilled to welcome Chairman Talbert Cypress of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida and Chairman Marcellus Osceola of the Seminole Tribe of Florida to the conference. NPCA remains committed to honoring the knowledge and voices of Indigenous communities – and to investing in future generations of park advocates. We were excited to once again sponsor twenty college students from across the state to attend the Everglades Coalition Conference to learn about ecosystem restoration and environmental policy. It was a tremendous event with our environmental partners, scientists, policymakers and community leaders.
Speaking up to Protect Habitat for Endangered Species
Earlier this year, NPCA and allied organizations urged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to continue its plans to formally designate critical habitat for eight threatened and endangered plant species, and for America’s rarest bat – the Florida bonneted bat. Importantly, however, our actions called for the agency’s plans to address key shortcomings in their habitat proposals and to expand the overall footprint of areas that will eventually be formally considered critical habitat. NPCA highlighted key areas of both occupied and potential endangered species habitat that should be designated, especially in light of projected impacts from climate change, sea level rise and coastal squeeze. Florida bonneted bats are only found in South Florida, and several of the rare plants that we took action for are found nowhere else on earth outside of the Greater Everglades (including Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades National Park and several other conservation areas).
Sun Coast Staff and Volunteers Travel to DC for Capitol Hill Lobby Day
Sun Coast staff took part in an exciting Lobby Day event with dozens of other NPCA staff, board members, and volunteers from across the country to advocate for our treasured parks in Florida and beyond. Our lobby team met with four members of the Florida congressional delegation to support significant and increased National Park System funding, record-breaking Everglades restoration funding, and to highlight threats to our public lands posed by legislation that would allow damaging mining and oil drilling activities in special protected areas, like parks. NPCA staff were joined on Capitol Hill by Board members Jeff Sagansky and Shannon Dosemagen, and NPCA Next Gen Council Member Steffanie Munguia.
Thank you for all that you do for our parks,
Sun Coast Regional DIrector
Images from top: NPCA participates in groundbreaking ceremony for Everglades restoration project in Palm Beach County © South Florida Water Management District; NPCA hosts 38th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference, staff are pictured alongside Dept. of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland | NPCA ; Prairie in Big Cypress National Preserve © Haniel Pulido | NPCA; NPCA staff, board and NextGen Advisory Council members on Capitol Hill in March, 2023 | NPCA