Audubon Florida News

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Latest Advocate Released! Catch It Now

sign_upCheck out the latest Advocate released a little while ago. You can always access the archives for past and recent messages, but it would be so much simpler for you if they just showed up in your email box free and on time.

Good News for River of Grass Acquisition

posted on February 11, 2010 in Everglades,Everglades Science,Florida Bay

everglades_river_of_grass

Audubon intervened in court proceedings last year to support the South Florida Water Management District’s (SFWMD) efforts to validate bonds needed to purchase 73,000 acres of land in the Everglades Agriculture Area to restore the River of Grass. Audubon and other Everglades advocates, working to see the purchase completed, received good news from the courtroom this week.  The Supreme Court of Florida ruled that it alone would decide the outcome on two separate cases regarding the River of Grass acquisition, rather than allowing the cases to proceed separately, under different timelines, and before different judicial bodies.  This decision eliminates a potentially significant delay in approving financing for the purchase.  The court is set to hear arguments on the case April 7th.  Meanwhile, the SFWMD Governing Board and US Sugar representatives likely will decide next month whether to approve an extension of the closing date to accommodate the court’s schedule.

The River of Grass purchase will help achieve ecological benefits of Everglades restoration decades earlier than previously thought possible, fulfilling the need to store and treat the massive quantities of fresh water necessary for true restoration.  Audubon will continue to support the purchase and participate in ongoing planning efforts to ensure that this monumental land purchase restores the systems ecological health to support abundant populations of birds and wildlife.

Canal Project Will Undo Damage Caused to Everglades

posted on February 8, 2010 in Everglades,Everglades Science,Florida Bay,Water Issues

roseate-spoonbill-mrclean1982As published on Keysnet.com:

The C-111 and other canals that cut across the southern Everglades divert the freshwater so important to the wildlife that once flourished there. Reducing the drainage capacity of these canals will begin to rejuvenate the wetlands and the fish communities that support wading birds and other top predators. The opportunity to un-do decades of damage caused by draining, ditching and damming the Everglades is always reason to celebrate.

For this reason, spirits were high as Audubon scientists and advocates joined Everglades restoration partners on Jan. 26 at a ceremony to begin construction of the C-111 Spreader Canal project. The third groundbreaking in six weeks, the crowd soaked in an important message: We must keep this momentum moving forward to advance progress on Everglades restoration.

The massive C-111 canal complex began operation in 1968 and drained more than half of the headwaters basin of Taylor Slough, the primary freshwater entry point to Florida Bay. Additions to the C-111 canal system in 1983 diverted even more water away from its natural entry to Florida Bay. As a result, wetlands were drained and salt water began to inundate Everglades National Park, harming the freshwater plant communities and causing decreased productivity of the prey species that are primary food sources for wading birds. The large supercolonies of wading birds once supported by these freshwater wetlands have declined dramatically.

The successful completion and operation of the first phase of the C-111 Spreader Canal project will create a hydraulic ridge and push freshwater back into Taylor Slough, its intended entry point to Florida Bay. When greater quantities of water enter Florida Bay through Taylor Slough, rather than the C-111, the productivity of wetlands will return.

First, submerged grass species favored by prey fish will expand their coverage, followed by increased densities of prey fish that are critical to supporting populations of not only wading birds, but also to support the fish species popular for recreational fishing in Florida Bay. Rejuvenating these plant and animal species are some of the ecological benefits that will indicate whether the C-111 restoration is successful.

Breaking ground on the C-111 project is a good start to restore the flows necessary for an ecosystem rebound. The South Florida Water Management District deserves special recognition for expediting this critical project. The next step is to make sure the project is operated to send sufficient volumes of freshwater into the parched system. This will be a true measure of restoration success.

Obama Administration Continues Commitment to Everglades Restoration in FY 2011 Budget

posted on February 1, 2010 in Everglades,Everglades Science,Florida Bay

President Obama released the proposed federal budget today and included significant funding for Everglades restoration projects. This funding is necessary and important to continue efforts to restore habitats for abundant colonies of birds and other wildlife that the world’s most unique wetland system once supported.  In a tough financial environment, the federal government’s $263 million request for Everglades funding in FY 2011, which is an increase over the appropriations received in FY 2010, demonstrates the Obama Administration’s continued support for, and commitment to, Everglades restoration.

The funding requested in the FY 2011 budget for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) and related restoration activities will complete some projects and allow others to begin construction, which is essential to produce the ecological benefits necessary to restore health to the unique Everglades ecosystem.

Audubon applauds the dedication and commitment of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the Department of Interior (DOI) to restoring America’s Everglades. With continued support for key restoration projects, visible ecological benefits and wildlife recovery will be achieved throughout the Everglades.

Breaking Ground on the C-111 Spreader Canal Opens the Door for Increasing Freshwater Flows and Restoring Wildlife Abundance in Florida Bay

jerry takes on the C-111
Audubon of Florida State Director of Research Dr. Jerry Lorenz celebrates progress to restore Florida Bay at the groundbreaking of the first phase of the C-111 project to reduce over drainage of the wetlands by the massive canal.

Audubon scientists and policy advocates attended the groundbreaking for the first phase of the C-111 spreader canal restoration project on Tuesday, January 26 and applauded the progress to bring back the freshwater flows so important to recover the historic productivity of aquatic species, wading birds and wildlife in Florida Bay.

Years of Audubon scientific study and advocacy demonstrate the need to increase freshwater flows through the southern Everglades to Florida Bay and making on-the-ground progress on the Western component of the C-111 Spreader Canal project is key to advancing this goal.

Great colonies of wading birds once congregated on the shores of Florida Bay. The measurement of restoration success is bringing those colonies back. Increasing freshwater flows to Taylor Slough will restore habitat and the birds will respond to increased flows by building nests and hatching chicks.

The successful completion and operation of the first phase of this restoration project will create a hydraulic ridge and push water back toward Taylor Slough, the intended freshwater entry point to Florida Bay. These wetlands have long suffered from too little freshwater, and thus, decreased productivity of prey species that support wading bird populations.

Located at the southern end of the greater Everglades ecosystem, Florida Bay has received far too little fresh water for too long. What little water makes it to the southern Everglades is diverted toward the massive C-111 canal.  As a result, the productivity of foraging grounds for wading birds such as roseate spoonbills is greatly reduced and the species has experienced significant population declines in Florida Bay. True restoration requires bringing the quantities of clean, freshwater back and we must work toward that goal while celebrating this success.

The first phase of this project is a critical piece of the suite of projects needed to improve freshwater deliveries to the southern end of the Everglades ecosystem.  To achieve full restoration of the southern Everglades and Florida Bay, the delivery of more freshwater through the Water Conservation Areas and past the Tamiami Trail is essential.  This requires not only the ability to move existing freshwater south by implementing restoration projects, but to treat and convey additional freshwater to the southern Everglades, which will be made possible by the River of Grass land acquisition.

There is still much to do to make sure this project is operated to achieve ecological benefits including thriving wildlife populations and to demonstrate that successful restoration of the Everglades is possible. And Audubon will continue to apply its research and science-based advocacy to ensure that this project and others restore the ecological productivity of the ecosystem and bring back the wading birds.

Read more about the C-111 Project.

State of the Everglades Report: December 2009

everglades_photo

Read this edition of the Restore that reports on the state of the Everglades. The report is broken up into regions:

Southeast Everglades
Bridging Tamiami Trail Opens the Way to Wildlife Abundance in the Everglades
Florida Bay One Step Closer to Increased Flows

Southwest Florida
A Victory for All Supporters of Save Our Swamp
Picayune Strand Receives Major Federal Funding for CERP Construction

Northern Everglades, Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades Agricultural Area
Planning Efforts to Restore the River of Grass
Audubon Recommends Strong Rules to Control Sewage Sludge
Audubon Wins Battle Over Proposed Landfill Near Water Treatment Marsh

Federal & State Partnership
Federal Government Steps up Funding for Everglades Restoration
Water Managers Approve 2010 Budget for Everglades Restoration Activities
Federal and State Governments Sign Important Everglades Restoration Agreement

arrow_right Sign up for the free electronic resource Restore to receive information on and advocacy opportunities for the Everglades.

The Fight for Wildlife Never Ends

12437This hurried message is composed just before I rush over to the Department of Environmental Protection to join Audubon’s Julie Wraithmell in asking that one of the last refuges for shorebirds in Northeast Florida be closed to beach driving.

12453Yesterday Julie was in Clewiston arguing to the Wildlife Commission that new imperiled species rules should include birds. Earlier our colleague Charles Lee was in front of the state Environmental Regulation Commission pushing for a ban on dumping sewage sludge in watersheds. I was working the halls of the Legislature locking down votes against proposed oil drilling off Florida’s beaches.

The Fight for Wildlife never ends. And your support makes it possible to fight the good fight. I have one request—please make a year-end gift to support Audubon advocacy for wildlife, water, and health habitats. Just click on the Contribute button to help.

Your support in 2009 made it possible to:

* Defend growth management policies, Florida Forever, and citizen access to water supply decisions by asking Governor Crist to veto bad laws.
* Help secure a major piece of US Sugar land to jumpstart Everglades restoration – and we successfully filed lawsuits to get the River of Grass flowing again.
* Support new state and federal policies to solve climate change and achieve renewable energy.
* Protect Florida’s beaches from the awful proposal to drill for oil right off our beautiful Gulf coast.

12645Now I am asking you again for support so we can Fight for Wildlife in 2010. On behalf of our advocacy team that works at every level of government to defend water and wildlife, I am asking you to make a generous contribution to Audubon’s conservation work.

Your funds will go into an exclusive conservation fund to be used to influence decision-makers to keep our water clean and flowing and to keep our wildlife safe from the impacts of habitat loss.

12437Look through the list above and I am sure you will recognize some of the campaigns you helped us with. Help us one more time—keep Audubon focused on the important decisions that are made every day at all levels of government. Your voice, and generous support, will keep our voice strong.

Ground Breaks on Tamiami Bridge, Opening the Bay

posted on December 8, 2009 in Everglades,Everglades Science,Florida Bay,Water Issues

From KeysNet.com:

Jerry Lorenz, the Tavernier-based state director of research for Audubon of Florida, voiced his view on the bridge (see the post below). “This one-mile bridge is not likely to accomplish the goals that Florida Bay really needs, but it will help,” Lorenz said. “It’s the first step in a much larger process.”

Project designers with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have written that the $81 million Tamiami Trail project may increase the flow of fresh water into Taylor Slough and eastern Everglades National Park by 70 percent or more. Some of that water will reach Florida Bay, helping to reduce the bay’s unnaturally high salinity level. Yet even the freshwater flow to be opened by the bridge remains far below historic flow levels in the River of Grass that created the South Florida ecosystem.

“It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a surgical victim,” Lorenz said. “In a sense, the importance of the bridge is as much symbolic as substantive. It shows we’re finally doing something.” Read the full article.

The Winter Version of the Naturalist

naturalist_winter_2009

Check out the latest version of the Naturalist, the Winter 2009-10 edition. In it, you will find articles on the upcoming 2010 Legislative session, a summarization of Audubon’s Assembly, Audubon’s 2010 regional conservation priorities, an article on the highlighted importance of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, recent updates, and more. Sign up for the Naturalist today by becoming a member of Audubon. Also, view the Naturalist archive.

Audubon of Florida Science Awarded $610,000 for Critical Everglades Restoration Monitoring

Spoonbill young 4941Crjwiley
Young roseate spoonbill © RJ Wiley

The South Florida Water Management District recently awarded a $610,000 multi-year contract to Audubon’s Tavernier Science Center for ecosystem monitoring in Florida Bay. In October, Audubon was awarded the contract, which covers three years and four months, to add five additional sites to an existing network of estuarine monitoring stations. Audubon researchers, led by Dr. Jerry Lorenz, will collect data, such as water quality, submerged aquatic vegetation cover, and prey-based fish community populations, in order to analyze how the ecosystem is responding to increased freshwater flows from a critical Everglades restoration project, called the C-111 spreader canal.  Eventually, if the restoration project increases flow sufficiently, Florida Bay’s roseate spoonbill population should respond by nesting in greater numbers in the portion of Florida Bay that has been most impacted by water management practices.

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