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Rubio Introduces South Florida Ecosystem Enhancement Act
Miami, FL — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the South Florida Ecosystem Enhancement Act to reauthorize and reform the South Florida Geographic Program (SFGP) to support ecosystem restoration and monitoring efforts across the contiguous aquatic ecosystems of southern Florida. Congressman Carlos Gimenez (R-FL) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. The South Florida Ecosystem Enhancement Act is supported by Audubon Florida, the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, the Coastal and Heartland National Estuary Partnership, the Everglades Foundation, the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program, and the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.
“Restoring South Florida’s ecosystems is crucial because these habitats are the beating heart of Florida’s lifestyle and economy,” Rubio said. “Reauthorizing the South Florida Geographic Program is an important step to restoring these unique habitats.”
“South Florida includes some of the nation’s most rich ecosystems expanding from the Everglades to the Florida Keys,” Gimenez said. “It’s an honor to partner with Senator Marco Rubio to introduce the South Florida Ecosystem Enhancement Act. Our bill reauthorizes the South Florida Geographic Program and helps get much needed money to South Florida ecological restoration projects. These projects will help preserve South Florida’s precious ecosystems for generations to come.”
“This is a historic investment in the South Florida Geographic Program. We applaud Senator Rubio and Representative Gimenez for their commitment to reauthorizing this important effort to advance conservation goals across the South Florida footprint.” – Julie Wraithmell, Executive Director of Audubon Florida
“Reauthorization of the South Florida Ecosystem Enhancement Act and the amendments to the South Florida Geographic Program proposed by Senator Rubio and Congressman Gimenez are essential to help restore and protect the aquatic ecosystems of southern Florida”. – Dr. Duane DeFreese, Executive Director, Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program
“The Coastal & Heartland National Estuary Partnership strongly supports the reauthorization of the South Florida Geographic Program (SFGP), which will be accomplished through the South Florida Ecosystem Enhancement Act. This legislation that Senator Rubio and Congressman Gimenez have introduced will provide $50 million dollars of funding per year over the next 5 years; critically needed resources to protecting water and wildlife, as well as the Everglades – a national treasure. Passage of it will create transformational results in enhancing South Florida’s economy and quality of life as well.” – Jennifer Hecker, Executive Director, Coastal and Heartland National Estuary Partnership
“Clean water and healthy habitat are vital for our fisheries. We are grateful to Senator Rubio and Representative Gimenez for introducing the South Florida Ecosystem Enhancement Act to reauthorize and update the South Florida Geographic Program. This program has played an important role in improving South Florida ecosystems, and expansion of this program to include the Indian River Lagoon and Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Programs, along with providing funding opportunities and coordination with the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force will deliver even more benefits to Florida’s iconic natural resources.” – Kellie Ralston, Vice President for Conservation and Public Policy with the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust
“The reauthorization of this important program will support much-needed grant opportunities for ecosystem restoration and monitoring efforts by state, local, and tribal governments as well as non-governmental organizations within the SFGP boundaries.” – James Evans, Chief Executive Officer, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation
The South Florida Ecosystem Enhancement Act:
- Reauthorizes the South Florida Geographic Program (SFGP) for fiscal years 2022-2026;
- Integrates the Geographic Program authority into the Clean Water Act, which houses the authorities for other geographic programs such as the Great Lakes Geographic Program, Chesapeake Bay Geographic Program, and Columbia River Geographic Program;
- Expands the geographic scope of the SFGP to include the study areas of the Coastal and Heartland National Estuary Partnership and the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program (large portions of which already fall inside the current SFGP study area) to better coordinate restoration and monitoring efforts in these contiguous ecosystems;
- Establishes a grant program to make funding opportunities available for ecosystem restoration and monitoring efforts by state, local, and tribal governments, as well as nongovernmental organizations within the boundaries of the SFGP;
- Directs the SFGP Senior Advisor to solicit priority projects and activities from the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration (SFER) Task Force and authorizes the Senior Advisor to enter into interagency agreements and cooperative agreements with federal, state, local, and tribal entities to carry out those projects and activities; and
- Establishes an education grant program to facilitate efforts to improve environmental literacy education, with a priority focus on funding field trips for socially disadvantaged students in public K-12 schools to facilitate access to publicly protected lands and natural resources.