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1. Plan Background and Purpose

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Addressing the Unintended Consequences of Growth

Overview of the Restoration Effort

By the 1970s and 80s the imbalance between natural system functioning and the growth of urban, agricultural, and other human uses had become a focus of decision making in Florida, as well as in Washington D.C. Since that time, a growing body of state, federal, tribal, and local programs and massive appropriations have been directed at restoring and protecting the natural environment of South Florida.

During the past two decades the Florida Legislature and the U.S. Congress have enacted a series of laws to redress environmental harm to the Everglades. Many of these laws provide the authorities under which the state and the federal governments operate and fund programs that collectively comprise the South Florida restoration effort. In 1992 Congress directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to take steps to restore the Kissimmee River floodplain, which was disrupted when the river was channelized during the 1960s. In 1996 Congress established the intergovernmental South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force (the Task Force) to coordinate the restoration efforts among the state, federal, tribal, and local agencies involved in the effort. At that time Congress also directed the USACE to submit a comprehensive review study of the C&SF Project for the purpose of modifying the project to restore, preserve, and protect the South Florida ecosystem. In 2000 Congress authorized the implementation of the $8 billion Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), which will be implemented over the next four decades by the federal and state governments. The CERP will modify the C&SF Project to increase future water supplies for the purpose of restoring the Everglades to a more natural state, while also providing for other water-related needs in the region.

As public land managers of much of the Everglades, and with program responsibilities for fish and wildlife and Indian trust responsibilities, DOI plays a key role in the intergovernmental effort to restore and protect the natural resources located within the South Florida ecosystem. This is a collaborative effort, in which coordination among many agencies at all levels of government is critical to the successful restoration of the ecosystem. Within this collaborative work environment, DOI is both a steward, with specific mandates from Congress, and a partner, working with other agencies to achieve their own particular mandates in ways that are most advantageous to the ecosystem as a whole.

The Department of the Interior as Steward and Partner

Two DOI bureaus, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Park Service (NPS), are responsible for the resource stewardship and public use of extensive public federal lands in the region, including Everglades National Park (the largest national park east of the Rockies), Biscayne and Dry Tortugas National Parks, Big Cypress National Preserve, and the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee, Florida Panther, National Key Deer, and Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuges. The FWS has responsibilities for threatened and endangered species and other species of concern under such authorities as the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. DOI also has a trust responsibility for American Indian communities, including the Seminole and Miccosukee Indian Tribes.

DOI also chairs the Task Force, which provides a forum for sharing information, coordinating research, and facilitating the integration of the work efforts of the many agencies involved in ecosystem restoration. The Task Force has set three overarching goals for South Florida restoration:

  1. Get the water right.
  2. Restore, preserve, and protect natural habitats and species.
  3. Foster compatibility between the built and natural systems.

The CERP is the foundation for Everglades restoration. The overarching goal of the CERP is "the restoration, preservation and protection of the South Florida ecosystem, while providing for other water-related needs of the region, such as flood protection and water supply." Led by the USACE and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), the CERP is the blueprint for a significant portion of ecosystem restoration activities in South Florida. The CERP focuses on improving the quantity, timing, and deliveries of fresh water feeding the system. It also addresses improvements in water quality. These hydrologic improvements are anticipated to contribute to restoring natural terrestrial, estuarine, and marine habitats, which will promote the restoration of biological functions.

However, these improvements are insufficient, by themselves, to restore and sustain the ecosystem. Restoring habitats and biological function will require additional efforts, such as removing invasive exotic species and reintroducing and recovering species. Ultimately restoration success will depend on implementing a reasonable balance between human needs and the needs of the ecosystem. South Florida's 'built environment' has experienced unprecedented accelerated growth over the past several years with increasing pressure on natural resources. Much of this developing landscape is sandwiched between Everglades and Biscayne National Parks. Restoration of the Greater Everglades requires sustainable compatibility of the built and natural systems; specifically, flood control, water supply and water quality.


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Last updated: 04 September, 2013 @ 02:04 PM(KP)