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5. Land and Resource Management Projects

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Overview of Management Activities and Authorities

As the steward responsible for the protection and management of more than 3.25 million acres in the Everglades ecosystem, DOI conducts two primary activities related to ecosystem restoration:

Effectively manage DOI lands and waters to restore, preserve, and protect natural habitats and species. This requires physically protecting the land from development, restoring natural ecosystem characteristics and processes, and mitigating or avoiding impacts on resources caused by adjacent land uses, management actions, and visitor use.

Assess the responses of ecological communities and species as a basis for adaptive management

In addition to the overarching issues related to the CERP, each management unit poses its own set of challenges. Included in these challenges are deciding how a particular habitat should be managed to meet unit-specific objectives, and how to evaluate and mitigate the impact of various activities on native plants, animals, and habitats. Many of these questions faced by individual managers are local in scope and are therefore not addressed in this science plan, which is focused on the questions that need to be addressed to support implementation of the highest priority restoration projects. Nonetheless, these unit-specific issues still need to be addressed and require science support.

Restoration of appropriate hydrology and water quality, as discussed in other sections, will be critical for long-term protection of DOI resources. The projects in this chapter address the additional need for appropriate, science-based management of exotic plant and animal species and the restoration and use of the natural processes, such as fire, that helped shape and maintain the natural system.

More than 1,200 introduced plant and fish species have become established in Florida and now comprise 31% of all the plant species documented in the state. Approximately 225 of these introduced species are successfully reproducing and invading natural areas. The introduction of invasive exotic plants is the second greatest threat to biodiversity, next to habitat destruction. More than $90 million per year is spent in Florida by local, state, and federal agencies to control invasive exotic plants.

National recognition and guidance for management of invasive exotics has only been forthcoming in the past decade. The Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act (1990) was reauthorized in 1996 as the National Invasive Species Act.

In February of 1999, the National Invasive Species Council (NISC) was established by Executive Order 13112 to provide leadership and coordinate federal efforts to curb invasive species. NISC is an inter-departmental council that helps to coordinate and ensure complementary, cost-efficient and effective federal activities regarding invasive species. Council members include the Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, State, Defense, Homeland Security, Treasury, Transportation, Health and Human Services, and Administrators for the Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. NISC works with the Invasive Species Advisory Committee (ISAC), which was established to advise the federal government on the invasive species issues and act as representatives of many interested parties and stakeholders. A key to achieving success with the issue of invasive species was the development of a National Invasive Species Management Plan, which provided a framework for stakeholders to solve issues with exotics strategically.

The Federal Interagency Committee on the Management of Noxious Exotic Weeds (FICMNEW) coordinates federal agency activities on exotic weeds and develops a national "early-warning system" for invasive plants. The Federal Interagency Committee on Invasive Terrestrial Animals and Pathogens (ITAP) provides a forum for technical coordination and cooperation on problems associated with invasive plant and animal pathogens, insects, and other vertebrate and invertebrate animal pests in terrestrial ecosystems.

Control activities and planning are further advanced for exotic invasive plant management than for exotic invasive animal management. Scientists are generally able to provide quantitative predictions of invasiveness for individual plant species where sufficient studies are available. Predictions of invasiveness for groups of similar plants, plant communities, or regions are more qualitative and less reliable. A risk assessment system to evaluate existing and forthcoming species and a comprehensive invasive species information scheme are needed for Florida and the United States.

Fire management is another critical component of ecosystem restoration. Because fire was a natural process that helped shape the Everglades, hydrologic restoration without the incorporation of fire will not result in true restoration. Fire has the potential to both help and hurt efforts to control exotic species and recover threatened and endangered species.


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