Last week I had the opportunity to visit the Everglades and the Kissimmee River region in Florida along with Jo Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Sam Hamilton, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Tom Strickland, Assistant Secretary at the Department of the Interior. Despite unusually chilly temperatures, I had a fascinating visit to a dynamic network of sawgrass prairies, hardwood hemlocks, mangrove islands and cypress forests that make up the largest wilderness east of the Mississippi River and the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. We saw a vibrant and diverse landscape, but also one that is fragile and threatened. The Everglades are critically important to both the State of Florida and the Nation as a whole.
On Thursday I attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the Picayune Strand Restoration project, that will work to preserve and enhance native Florida wetlands by restoring the natural hydrology of the area, and improving the water quality of downstream coastal estuaries. On Friday, I participated in the Everglades Coalition Conference and discussed ways to meet the challenges that growth and climate change place on the long-term sustainability of the Everglades. I enjoyed speaking with so many of the people who are working to preserve this region and was happy to have the opportunity to recognize incredible accomplishments of those dedicated to Everglades restoration and applaud their energetic advocacy.
I conveyed to the people of Florida a simple message: we are committed to the conservation and restoration of this iconic ecosystem and it is a key priority for the Obama Administration. I look forward to continuing to work with this region in the future.
Nancy Sutley is the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality