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Contact: Linda Friar, 305-242-7714
Homestead, Florida – Everglades National Park’s efforts to remove invasive exotic vegetation from park lands, restore critical crocodile and wading bird habitat on Cape Sable, 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 recently announced at a press conference in Yosemite National Park 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."
These projects are part of nearly $370 million of proposals eligible for centennial challenge matching funds.
• $20,000,000 Restore native habitats by controlling invasive species and reintroducing key plant and animal species
This project will support restoration of remaining areas of disturbed land in the park. These areas include former farmland, developed areas, canals, roads, etc. Restoration of these areas will eliminate more than 3000 acres currently dominated by exotic vegetation and restore them to high quality wetland.
• 1,661,680 Restoration of Critical Crocodile and Wading Bird Habitat on Cape Sable
This project would repair or replace two failed plugs on Cape Sable leading to reduced salt water intrusion and restoration of fish and wildlife habitat on the Cape. Unsafe conditions at the failed plugs will be corrected and illegal motorized access to wilderness through the canals will be restricted. Sediment deposition in Lake Ingraham will be reduced as will sediment and nutrient export to Florida Bay.
• $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 joint proposal (with Big Cypress National Preserve and Biscayne National Park) 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.
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."
Locally, Superintendent Dan Kimball said, "The South Florida National Parks Trust, National Park Foundation, and other local donors have committed matching funds for these projects. Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks stretch from Miami to Naples and into the Florida Keys and offer tremendous partnership opportunities. We have identified a number of important projects for Everglades and Dry Tortugas over the next 10 years, and we will continue to seek partners who can help us fulfill our vision to preserve,protect, and restore these national treasures. The new fiscal year begins October 1st and we are excited to get this Centennial Initiative underway here in south Florida."
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.
• Lewis and Clark National Historical Park adopting the Class of 2016 with the goal of turning students to stewards.
• Additional student education through Acadia National Park’s "No Child Left Inside" project.
• Strengthening efforts to save Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles – the world’s most endangered sea turtle – with citizens assisting park
rangers to observe and relocate nests on Padre Island National Seashore, the turtle’s most important U.S. nesting habitat.
• Restoration of more than 50 miles of important foot trails in Yosemite National Park.
• Climate change research of glaciers at Mount Rainier National Park and
• Utilizing scientists and volunteers to study life along the Appalachian Trail seeing national parks as an environmental barometer.
"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.