$100M to Be Used in Everglades Restoration

Restoration of 24,000 acres of agricultural land planned

More money is coming to help with restoration of the Florida Everglades, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Florida officials announced Thursday during a tour of land that feeds into the vast sub-tropical wilderness reserve known as the "River of Grass."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it will use $100 million to acquire permanent easements from eligible landowners and assist with wetland restoration on nearly 24,000 acres of agricultural land in the Northern Everglades Watershed.

"This is an important day. It's an important day for the United states. It's an important day for Florida," Vilsack said of the effort to reduce the amount of surface water leaving the land. The goal is to slow water runoff and the concentration of nutrients entering the public water management system and ultimately Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades.

USDA plans to purchase these permanent easements from eligible private landowners, and assist with wetland restoration, in Glades, Hendry, Highlands and Okeechobee counties.

Vilsack said the project will preserve jobs and natural resources during a difficult economic time.

He called the land owners key partners in the effort. "After all, their livelihood is dependent on the environment," he said as he prepared for a swamp buggy tour at the Winding Waters Natural Area in West Palm Beach.

There are roughly four million acres in the northern Everglades, where they are providing the restoration. The announcement was made at the Winding Waters Natural Area.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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