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Florida Leaders Applaud USDA Efforts to Improve Water Quality and Enhance Wildlife in the Northern Everglades Watershed
WASHINGTON, August 11, 2011 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced $100 million in financial assistance to acquire permanent easements from eligible landowners in four counties and assist with wetland restoration on nearly 24,000 acres of agricultural land in the Northern Everglades Watershed.
Local leaders lauded USDA efforts to protect the Northern Everglades and reiterated their commitment to the continued restoration and economic opportunities made possible by the Wetlands Reserve Program from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS):
Bill Nelson, United States Senator
"This is a win-win that helps restore the Northern Everglades while allowing Florida ranching traditions to continue."
John Hoblick, President, Florida Farm Bureau
"Conservation programs provided by NRCS are invaluable and production agriculture stands ready to do its part to maintain green space, wildlife habitat and freshwater recharge areas. The farmer's and rancher's role has never been more important."
Alcee L. Hastings, United States Representative (FL- 23)
"I would like to thank Secretary Vilsack and the USDA for providing the State with much-needed funds for the Wetlands Reserve Program. Since the Everglades are the source of a majority of our fresh drinking water, preserving and restoring this national treasure is vital both for the wildlife calling the River of Grass home and also for our own good. This latest drought we've experienced demonstrates how crucial a reliable supply of clean drinking water is for Florida. Unless we address our water infrastructure problems soon, water shortages will become a larger crisis for the State. With this funding, it is my sincere hope that we can better address the water infrastructure problems to ensure Florida has a stable supply of clean water."
Keith Fountain, Florida Protection Director, The Nature Conservancy
"Protecting and restoring the vast natural landscapes in the Northern Everglades will pay huge benefits in the future for all of us. 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 cattle ranching, and wetland restoration that revives lost habitats and retains and cleans water for the people of central and south Florida."
Melissa L. Meeker, Executive Director, South Florida Water Management District
"The District appreciates the opportunity to work with public and private partners for the common goal of protecting and restoring the vast natural landscapes of the Northern Everglades," said South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Melissa L. Meeker. "The Wetland Reserve Program offers significant benefits to South Florida and the Northern Everglades such as improvements in water quality, expanded wetlands and connected natural areas that support a diverse array of wildlife."
Eva Webb, Board of Supervisors, Palm Beach Soil and Water Conservation District
"Conservation Districts have been and are working with NRCS on various projects throughout the state. NRCS has worked in partnership and cooperatively with this state's soil and water conservation districts on many meaningful projects, too numerous to name. They have offered much needed and valuable conservation programs, technical support, and information to Soil and Water Conservation Districts and local communities.
"NRCS programs such as EQIP and WRP are vitally important to Everglades restoration projects. These programs have helped farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area implement important conservation practices as a part of their Best Management Practices Plans. Conservation practices are designed to help reduce nutrient runoff from our farms into the Everglades. To date, farmers have spent millions to comply with water quality standards and conservation practices. Without WRP and EQIP cost-share dollars, farmers might not otherwise be able to afford to implement some of these costly conservation practices. NRCS EQIP and WRP programs are vital to Everglades restoration."
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