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World Wildlife Fund

New Success Stories

Title: Market-Based Program for Environmental Services on South Florida Ranch Lands & Paying for Environmental Services from Florida Ranchlands: Moving from Pilot Phase to Program Operation

Grantee: World Wildlife Fund

Year: 2005 & 2008

Amount: $25,480 & $950,481

Project: The draining of the greater Everglades ecosystem over the past hundred-plus years altered the hydrology of the region to allow for rapid urban and agricultural development across south Florida. Over time, these developments led to degraded water quality and flow into Lake Okeechobee and nearby estuaries, threatened vulnerable wildlife habitat, and resulted in massive loss of freshwater into the ocean. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), using two CIG awards, sought to develop a payment-for-environmental services program that would engage ranchers and private landowners in the Everglades region to seasonally store water on their lands, improving the water quality of flows into Lake Okeechobee.

Results: World Wildlife Fund (WWF) organized a large group of stakeholders and successfully developed and piloted the Florida Ranchlands Environmental Services Project (FRESP), a payment for ecosystem services program.  FRESP engaged willing ranch owner “sellers” to enter into contracts with state agency "buyers" to provide water retention and nutrient load reduction services above and beyond regulatory requirements critical to improving the health of Lake Okeechobee. The effort also contributed to restoration of the greater Everglades ecosystem and nearby estuaries, all while allowing ranchers to continue ranching on their lands. The success of the FRESP pilot eventually led to the creation of Dispersed Water Management Program by the South Florida Water Management District.

World Wildlife Fund