Everglades advocates and environmentalists from around the nation will gather in Key Largo this weekend to rehash progress on restoring one of the world’s largest wetlands.
This year’s conference, the 30th staged by the Everglades Coalition and hosted by the National Parks Conservation Association, will focus on restoration efforts to move fresh water south into the parched southern Glades and Florida Bay. The conference, starting Thursday evening at the Hilton Key Largo, mirrors renewed efforts by lawmakers in Washington Thursday to pass legislation to pay for the $1.9 billion suite of projects aimed at restoring the central Everglades.
“What we hope to do is jump start the process,” said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida. Draper. Draper will moderate a panel on water quality, an issue that has complicated efforts to move polluted water from Lake Okeechobee.
Politicians including U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Patrick Murphy and Alcee Hastings will join representatives from the Everglades Foundation, the Everglades Law Center, the Sierra Club and more than 40 other groups for what Draper called environmentalists’ largest annual “meet and greet.” U. S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell is scheduled to address the group. Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy, former U.S. Senator and Florida governor Bob Graham, Major General John Peabody and Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Gus Pago are also scheduled to attend.
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“Parts of Everglades National Park are bone dry, even though other parts of Florida are wet, because water just doesn’t flow,” Draper said. “We’re trying to put water back into the greatest wetland in the world.”