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Contact: Susan Gonshor, 305-230-1144, x3019
Biscayne National Park’s efforts to rejuvenate coral reefs, monitor bird populations and increase emphasis on educating underserved students in South Florida are 3 of 201 proposals National Park Service Director Mary Bomar and Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announced at a press conference in Yosemite National Park today to celebrate the 91st anniversary of the NPS.
“The National Park Service has, after a rigorous review, certified these proposals as eligible for Centennial Challenge matching funds,” Bomar said. “And they are ready to go in Fiscal Year 2008 which begins October 1st.
The three projects are part of nearly $370 million of proposals eligible for Centennial Challenge matching funds. The certified proposals are:
$110,000 for Coral Reef Rejuvenation: A Community Program
Working with the South Florida National Parks Trust and the Cordis Corporation, the program seeks to regrow previously unsalvageable branches of coral, eventually reintroducing the coral to the reef when they have reached a size when they are able to survive. Through this cutting edge technology, Biscayne National Park looks to protect and revitalize the coral reef system off Florida.
$190,000 for Biscayne’s Birds: Baseline Monitoring and Training Local Youth
Working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, this project will develop a scientifically based monitoring program, a training program for NPS personnel, volunteers and local teens, and use the information to create education and outreach opportunities aimed at informing visitors about the importance of park habitats and risks to coastal ecosystems.
$1,629,848 for Creating Future Park Stewards Through Education
Working with the South Florida National Parks Trust, Everglades Association, Friends of Big Cypress and the League of Naples, this 2-3 year joint proposal (with Big Cypress National Preserve, and Dry Tortugas and Everglades National Parks) will provide for 24 seasonal and temporary park rangers, transportation of students to the parks and funding for supplies to allow 50,000 local children to connect with their National Parks.
To be certified, proposals had to be imaginative and innovative, addressed critical Service needs, had a philanthropic partner, required little or no additional recurring operating funds to be sustainable, improved the efficiency of park management, operations and employees and produced measurable results.
Director Bomar said, “The Centennial Challenge is a critical element in the National Park Centennial Initiative put forward by President Bush and unveiled by Secretary Kempthorne one year ago. The full Centennial Initiative is a potential $3 billion investment in our national parks, two-thirds of it a public-private partnership of matching money.”
The President’s fiscal year 2008 budget called for an additional $100 million a year for 10 years to be dedicated to bolster basic park operations, Bomar said. Congress has included the first $100 million for operations in the fiscal year 2008 budget that awaits final passage.
“The second part of the initiative is the Centennial Challenge – a funding mechanism to match up to $100 million a year over 10 years of public money with $100 million a year for 10 years in private donations,” Bomar said. “Congress has yet to finish legislation necessary to create the public-private Centennial Challenge.”
Financial commitments to the first round of proposals exceeded the President’s challenge. “We have about $370 million in proposals with not $100 million in private commitments but $216 million committed from park visitors, friends groups and other partners,” Bomar said.
“I’ve testified before Senate and House subcommittees and judging by the warm reception we received, I believe Congress will include centennial challenge money in our next budget. We look forward to working with members from both sides of the aisle to provide the key to the Centennial Challenge. When that happens we can make decisions on which of these wonderful proposals to begin in the fall.”
Park Superintendent Mark Lewis said, “the South Florida National Parks Trust and other local partners have committed matching money for all three proposals. The new fiscal year begins October 1 and we are excited to get these Centennial projects underway."
Two of Biscayne’s other proposals that were not certified for 2008 but will be submitted in 2009 pending partner sufficient support include:
A multipurpose park and trail system that links natural, cultural and historical resources of southern Miami-Dade County.
Joint Visitor Center on Virginia Key
Partnering with the City of Miami and the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve to develop a multiagency Visitor Center complex on Virginia Key will dramatically increase the agencies' visibility and ability to interact with and educate local boaters as well as thousands of out of town visitors. It will also provide a premier venue for a multitude of federal, state and local interagency functions.
"The Miami Urban Area offers tremendous partnership opportunities and over the next 9 years we will continue to seek partners who can help us fulfill our collective vision for Biscayne National Park, the largest marine park in the National Park system," confirms Superintendent Lewis.
“There is a huge wave of excitement among National Park Service professionals and our partners,” Bomar said. “We will create park-based centers for Junior Rangers, implement cutting-edge energy projects like fuel cells and geothermal and build multimedia wayside exhibits that “talk” to visitors. This is a victory for national parks and over 270 million park visitors we see each year.
“Last week, I sent an email to the men and women of the National Park Service to inform them of our announcement. One of the replies I received says it best: ‘This is thrilling! A win/win opportunity like we've never seen before. Thanks for the energy and vision for the NPS.’
“That thanks,” Bomar said, “is for the many who worked to transform vision into action: Secretary Kempthorne and our friends in Congress, from both sides of the aisle who introduced legislation to support the Centennial. But most of all, our thanks go to park superintendents, friends groups, partners and an army of supporters.”
“When history is written,” Bomar said, “the Centennial Initiative will be second only to the creation of the national park system itself.”
The full list of Centennial Challenge-eligible projects and programs is available at www.nps.gov/2016.