1. Opinion

Committed to healthy Everglades

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Published Jul. 14, 2012

The Everglades are, and always will be, an important part of the cultural and environmental landscape in Florida. They are a national treasure and a source of pride. But more importantly, the ecosystems that make up the Everglades — from the northern freshwater marshes to the mangrove forests that lead to the Florida Bay — are critical to the local economies and jobs that so many Florida families depend on.

Over the last century, all of that has been put at risk. Population growth, development and other challenges have threatened the Everglades. For far too long, efforts to restore and protect the Everglades suffered from bureaucratic delays and a lack of leadership, including insufficient investment at the federal level. And recently, it has become clear that if we don't do something to reverse course, damage to the Everglades will continue to harm our water supply, diminish tourism, and ultimately cost us jobs.

That is why I've made restoring the Everglades a national priority. Over the last three and a half years, we have invested more than $1.5 billion in Everglades restoration — nearly as much as the previous eight years combined — to successfully jump-start restoration construction projects and support a conservation approach that is led by Floridians themselves.

On Friday, my administration released a report outlining our continuing efforts to cut the red tape, strengthen partnerships with state, tribal and local leaders, and create a strong foundation to help restore and rebuild the Everglades. This includes projects that reduce harmful runoff, and infrastructure projects — like the Tamiami Trail bridge — that will increase natural water flow while also creating thousands of jobs.

Last week, we also announced an additional $80 million investment to support farmers and ranchers who voluntarily conserve wetlands on agricultural land — helping to restore an additional 23,000 acres of wetlands vital to the water quality and wildlife habitat in the Everglades system. And to build on this success, I've proposed investing another $246 million in Everglades restoration.

These investments are critical to the long-term health of the Everglades, but they're also important for the long-term health of Florida's economy. The Everglades help provide billions of dollars in tourism, agriculture and outdoor recreation. In fact, one study estimated that every dollar we spend restoring the Everglades adds four dollars to Florida's economy. And at a time when too many families are still struggling, we need to do everything we can to give Florida families the economic security they deserve.

Restoring the Everglades is important for everyone. For cities, it means cleaner water. For rural Floridians, it means giving back to the land that's given us so much. And for all Floridians, it means more jobs, and healthier, more prosperous communities.

As we work together to boost the economy and create jobs across America, it's important to recognize the strength we draw as a nation from our abundance of natural resources. I'm proud of what we have accomplished in the Everglades — but we have much more to do. And I'm committed to building on our historic progress in the years to come.