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Presentation to Joint Meeting of the House State Affairs Committee and Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee Eric Draper January 24, 2013.

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Presentation on theme: "Presentation to Joint Meeting of the House State Affairs Committee and Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee Eric Draper January 24, 2013."— Presentation transcript:

1 Presentation to Joint Meeting of the House State Affairs Committee and Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee Eric Draper January 24, 2013

2 Founded by Theodore Roosevelt and others to stop plumage hunts 110 years working to protect Everglades birds Audubon Florida Everglades Conservation Work Audubon Sanctuaries and Science Throughout the Greater Everglades

3 Hearty Audubon wardens have long collected data on Everglades and Florida Bay birds. A History of Protecting Birds in the Everglades Photo by UGArdener

4 Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is Florida’s largest private eco-tourism destination with over $1.5 million in annual business. Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

5 Every bloom helps the Florida economy as people from around the world see these rare flowers. Ghost Orchid at Corkscrew Swamp Photo by Dagmar

6 In 2006, wildlife viewing activities generated more than $5.2 billion in Florida. With 746,000 visitors per year, more people travel to Florida to view wildlife than any other state. Wildlife Viewing is Big Business

7 Southern Bald Eagle Wood Stork Everglade Snail Kite Roseate Spoonbill Birds are the Everglades’ Measure and Treasure

8 Biennial reports required by the US Congress continue to reflect concern about ecological losses in the Everglades. National Research Council Committee on Independent Scientific Review of Everglades Restoration Progress The profound hydrologic alterations were accompanied by many changes in the biotic communities in the ecosystem, including reductions and changes in the composition, distribution, and abundance of the populations of wading birds, the most visible component of the Everglades biota and symbolic to many stakeholders of the status of the entire ecosystem Today, the federal government has listed 67 plant and animal species in South Florida as threatened or endangered, with many more included on state lists. CISRERP 2012 Population trends are quite variable among the Everglades’ most-high-profile and threatened bird species, but several downward population trends are quite clear and appear to be related to water levels and their management within the southern Everglades project area. CISRERP 2008 Although most wading birds are not listed under the Endangered Species Act, with the exception of the wood stork, they are considered important indicators of Everglades ecosystem functioning. CISRERP 2008. When endangered bird populations decline to a few hundred or a few thousand individuals, their resiliency to recover from natural perturbations is greatly reduced, further increasing their risk of extinction due to natural climate and environmental variations. The status quo of flow conditions and water schedules in the WCAs and Everglades National Park is not an option if the goal is to restore the ecosystem and prevent the extinction of critically endangered species. Incomplete implementation of emergency measures and failure to complete more major plans in a timely way increases the risks to endangered species. Moreover it makes it more difficult and more expensive to recover them. CISRERP 2008. Ongoing delay in South Florida ecosystem restoration not only has postponed improvements to the hydrologic condition but also has allowed ecological decline to continue. CISRERP 2008.

9 26,395 wading bird nests – down by 2/3rds from 2009 to 2012 Wading birds nest as seasonal wetlands dry out concentrating forage fish. Restoration increases wading bird numbers. 2012 South Florida Wading Bird Report

10 Monitored nesting sites in Florida Bay produced 184 Roseate Spoonbill nests in 2012 while the target is 1250. From 2005 and 2011 spoonbill nests steadily declined from about 550 to just 69. Roseate Spoonbills – Restoration Good News

11 The 2012 nesting season at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary marked the third year when Wood Storks did not nest. Previously, with 7000 nests, this colony was the nation’s largest. Wood Storks – Improvement Needed in Traditional Home Photo by St. Lucie Audubon

12 Post drainage and pre-restoration Everglades wetlands support just a fraction of wading birds. Pre-Restoration 90% decline in wading birds SFWMD

13 Prevents freshwater from draining from Southern Everglades wetlands Preyfish and other species that rely on estuarine conditions are more plentiful giving Roseate Spoonbills a stable food source C-111 Spreader Canal Success Story

14 Another species that is characteristic of a healthy Everglades is in steep decline due to water management and food sources. Everglade Snail Kite – Indicator Species in Decline

15 Constructed outlets replaced natural inflow streams, overflow marshes and sloughs. Lake levels, once determined by rainfall, were now controlled by gates and locks. Extreme variations impacted grassy beds, especially in the lake’s marshy west side. Flood control improvements also resulted in intense agricultural development around the lake. Sugarcane and winter vegetables were planted south, and dairy farms and cattle ranches sprung up north. These activities produced unnaturally high concentrations of nutrients, especially phosphorus which flowed or were pumped with storm water in to the lake. When lake level were high, the water was discharged into estuaries east and west. - SFWMD Activities Impact Lake Okeechobee’s Health

16 The Lake Okeechobee Protection Plan was authorized by an act of the Florida Legislature. Phosphorus Imports to Lake Okeechobee The primary source of phosphorus loading to Lake Okeechobee is agricultural, non-point source runoff – from north of the lake – which upsets the balance of natural flora and fauna in the lake ecosystems. SFWMD Section 373.4595 F.S. requires each permitted parcel to achieve a specific off-site total phosphorus discharge concentration limitation in an effort to achieve annual Lake Okeechobee phosphorus loading targets. The specific Lake Okeechobee regulatory program responsibilities: Identify the locations of surface water discharge from public or private properties into Lake O tributaries. Measure and document the total phosphorus concentration in the surface water discharged Document compliance with appropriate phosphorus concentration limits Require Best Management Plans to reduce phosphorus runoff from properties exceeding phosphorus limits.

17 Lake Okeechobee watershed private lands are key to restoration goals. The Rural and Family Lands Protection Act, Wetlands Reserve Program, and Dispersed Water Management keep water and nutrients on the land. Secure Working Lands in the Everglades Headwaters Photo by RJ Wiley

18 Ongoing state funding for restoration projects Passage of federal authorization for projects – WRDA Improve protection for wetlands and invest in reversing over-drained wetlands Improve BMPs for Lake Okeechobee to control nutrients Focus on water conservation before water supply development Support the Everglades water quality plan and require better BMPs for the EAA Audubon’s Everglades Recommendations

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