Councilman Stephen R. Shelley, a member of the Board of Directors of the Everglades Association, attended this year’s Everglades Coalition Conference, the largest annual forum for debate about Everglades’ conservation and restoration.
The conference, which seeks to raise critical, timely issues about the Florida Everglades, was attended by various decision-makers from federal, state and local governments who discussed their positions and pledged their support to the National Park’s restoration. Among those elected officials in attendance were Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Congressman Joe Garcia, Congressman Patrick Murphy, Florida Governor Rick Scott, former U.S. Senator Bob Graham and many others.
“The restoration of the Everglades is an issue that concerns us all because it is a beautiful and unique ecosystem full of rare species of plants and animals that must be preserved for future generations but most importantly, because it is the primary source of drinking water for those of us living in South Florida,” said Councilman Shelley.
Councilman Shelley is an avid outdoorsman who spends much of his free time fishing or engaging in photography inside Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve or Biscayne National Park. Last year he was appointed to the Board of Directors for the Everglades Association for his keen interest in South Florida’s environment, his professional experience, as well as Homestead’s close proximity to both Everglades and Biscayne national parks. Councilman Shelley is also a Board Member at the Youth Fishing Foundation, a non-for-profit that teaches children how to fish and educates them on South Florida’s flora, fauna and abundant marine life.
The 28th Annual Conference, titled America’s Everglades; Our Legacy, Our Future, was also attended by agency representatives, stakeholders and a vast array of public and private interests including scientists, educators, contractors, conservationists, the media, students and the general public. The Everglades Coalition, which organizes the event, is an alliance of 57 local, state and national conservation and environmental organizations dedicated to full restoration of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem through advocacy, education, research and other efforts.
“This important conference brings together both public and private parties to share their ideas and pledge their support towards the restoration efforts of America’s River of Grass,” said Councilman Shelley. “Although each party attending may have a different vision or methodology as to how to restore or preserve the Everglades, the underlying goal is the same for everyone, Everglades restoration, preservation and conservation.”
According to the National Parks Conservation Association, recreational and Eco Tourism Activities related to the Everglades contribute millions of dollars each year to the local economies of the surrounding communities. Every year close to a million people visit Everglades National Park alone. Hundreds of thousands more also visit Big Cypress National Preserve and the thousands of acres of protected land associated with the Everglades ecosystem north to the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area.
The recreational economic impact of a restored Everglades ecosystem over the next 50 years is in excess of 16 billion dollars for park visitation, commercial and recreational fishing and wildlife viewing and hunting and over 46 billion dollars when including other non-recreational economic benefits..
“The City of Homestead is the “Gateway to South Florida’s National Parks” and is uniquely situated to capitalize on the Eco Tourism dollars generated by the Everglades ecosystem.” said Councilman Shelley.
The City of Homestead is continuing to work with the National Park Service, Miami-Dade County, the State of Florida and Federal Government to secure funding to construct the Biscayne-Everglades Greenway project. The Biscayne-Everglades Greenway project is a 42 mile round trip bicycle path that will connect Biscayne National Park with Everglades National Park. The Greenway project would be the first and only bike trail in the U.S. to connect two national parks and would have an immediate economic impact to Homestead and the surrounding communities.
In addition to its economic impact Everglades restoration also creates jobs. Over the last four years, Everglades restoration projects have generated 10,500 jobs in Florida with more than 442,000 jobs expected to be created over the next several decades in tourism, real estate and the commercial and recreational fishing industries. More than 10 years after the original Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was adopted by Congress, Everglades restoration projects are beginning to make a difference state wide both environmentally and economically.
For more information contact City of Homestead Public Information officer Begoñe Cazalis at firstname.lastname@example.org (305)224-4435 or email Councilman Stephen R. Shelley at email@example.com