Management of South Florida National Parks
From the beginning of SFWA’s operations in 2010, management of South Florida’s national parks and other public lands has been a core program for us. SFWA consistently advocates for park management which puts resource protection over recreation or other commercial uses. Here are some of the highlights of this work. In Biscayne National Park, SFWA was one of the lead organizations calling for a 10,000-acre marine reserve containing some of the most important coral reefs in South Florida. The new General Management Plan (GMP) which was adopted included that marine reserve in addition to greater protection for manatees, sea turtles, seagrass beds, and bird rookeries through the creation of no-motor and slow-speed motor zones. In Everglades National Park, SFWA’s advocacy was important in the creation of a new GMP which protected many thousands of acres of seagrass beds in vast shallow stretches of Florida Bay through the creation of poll and troll zones. And our years of advocacy work in the Big Cypress National Preserve has strengthened the preserve’s Off-Road Vehicle Management Plan, helping to keep motor vehicle use on a network of designated trails – leaving large areas of the preserve unimpacted. Our work in the Big Cypress continues with our current efforts to rein in impacts from ongoing oil exploration activities.
Habitat Loss and Fragmentation
Though South Florida is a known hotspot for biodiversity, dozens of species are federally listed as endangered or threatened with extinction. This is mainly the result of habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation as the development footprint of this rapidly growing region expands into and impacts the habitat our native wildlife require. SFWA’s programs in this area work to alert the public about new developments and what can be done to diminish negative effects on wildlife habitat. This public outreach and education combine with advocacy directed at decision-making agencies such as the South Florida Water Management District, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Miami-Dade County Commission. Projects we are currently working on include a massive new highway extension along the edge of the Everglades, new malls on currently undeveloped lands, and numerous new subdivisions, roads, and energy projects proposed for quality Florida panther habitat.
There is no question that South Florida is at ground zero for climate change. Many impacts are already upon us. Sea level rise causes greater coastal flooding during high tides and storms and threatens the Biscayne Aquifer with saltwater intrusion. Warmer ocean temperatures lead to higher concentrations of H2O in the atmosphere, larger and wetter hurricanes, and sadly, the death of many of South Florida’s corals through coral bleaching as a result of ocean temperatures which have become too high. Deadly algae outbreaks also seem tied to warmer temperatures in both fresh and salt water. SFWA does all it can to educate the public about this crisis for wildlife and humans alike, as we advocate for solutions for our community. Those include much improved elevated mass transit instead of new highways, alternative energy use (primarily rooftop solar for this region), and curtailing sprawl in favor of more energy efficient communities closer to the urban center. We share that information through social media, the press, public talks, and during our direct advocacy work with public agencies.