Seagrass is a key habitat within the Everglades ecosystem. This project would implement small-scale seagrass restoration using methods such as planting plugs of seagrass in strategic areas to expedite recovery of healthy seagrass meadows.
Why Florida Bay Forever Specialty Plate?
Florida Bay is a vast, shallow-water estuary situated at the end of the Everglades watershed. There is nowhere else in the world quite like it. Its renowned fisheries and diversity of birds and wildlife beckon travelers from around the globe. Generations of families and visitors have discovered the wonder of its untamed wilderness. However, the health of the Florida Bay ecosystem faces many threats, and the future of the bay is in our hands – we must work together to protect and conserve this special place for today and forever.
Marine Debris Removal
The accumulation of debris poses a significant challenge to wildlife. Debris can affect eating and breeding habits, as well as cause irregularities in wildlife lifestyles. The funding would support volunteer-based efforts and contracted removal of larger items.
Florida Bay is for everyone – even those without a boat of their own. This free weekly fishing program would serve more than 500 visitors annually and would be targeted towards first-time fishers. This program provides a firsthand catch-and-release experience.
It’s undeniable that maintaining the water quality of Florida Bay is crucial to the prosperity of the fauna and flora found there, as well as to the livelihood of the human inhabitants of South Florida. Regular sample collection from Florida Bay will help the park quickly identify any potential challenges that could affect the quality of the water.
This mandatory Boater Education Program for the park’s marine waters is based on the strong public concern for the protection of marine resources and the quality of visitor experiences in the park’s marine areas. In 2019, the Park launched the free Everglades Boater Education Course to orient and educate boaters to the unique features of the Park’s marine waters.
This program will improve the park’s ability to determine the status of fishery resources, evaluate how the Park’s waters compare with other major estuaries around the state, and ensure that fishing is continued in a sustainable manner.
Access to the waters of Florida Bay is one of the greatest draws to Everglades National Park. More than 400 channel markers and in-water navigation aids are in constant need of maintenance and replacement – and locations for new markers are being identified all the time.
Since its inception in 2013, over 50 BioCorps interns have helped support the park’s natural resources. Several former interns joined the Everglades and Biscayne workforce following their internships.
Long Term Funding Priorities
The proceeds from the Florida Bay Forever specialty plate will support conservation, education, and scientific programs in Everglades National Parks, including water cleanup, removal of derelict vessels, seagrass restoration, and aids to navigation, as well as long term funding projects. These long term priorities include wilderness waterway chickees, waterway trail maintenance, law enforcement staff support, interpretation staff support, historic fish cleaning stations, and Everglades environmental education programs.
Specialty plate vouchers can be purchased online, at all county tax collector offices, and tag agencies in Florida for $25 plus applicable charges.
This project will provide chickees with ongoing maintenance and replacement of 2 – 4 structures per year. In 2021, three chickees will be updated with a new and improved design. Much like the seaside wayfinding signage, the remote location of these campsites within the wilderness of the waterway exponentially increases the time and effort it takes to maintain them.
This project addresses maintenance of popular backcountry water trails including: Nine Mile Pond, Noble Hammock, Bear Lake, Mud Lake, West Lake, and Hell’s Bay water trails. Work includes reducing encroaching vegetation to a manageable level along 29 miles of the over-water trails. Wayfinding signage will be replaced or installed where needed and structures such as docks will repaired or replaced.
Park use increases around 80% during winter season. The annual spike in visitorship needs to be complemented with a boost in law enforcement to protect backcountry resources. This support would provide Everglades National Park with two patrol rangers for a six-month period, during prime winter season when the park is busiest.
Interpretation rangers are the backbone of the visitor experience throughout the national park system. They interpret nature within the park for guests in a relatable and palatable way, providing experiences and insights that leave guests more knowledgeable about the world around them than when they arrived.
Historic Fish Cleaning
Fishing Florida Bay is a favorite pastime of Floridians, as well as an activity that attracts visitors from across the globe to Flamingo. And where there is fishing – especially in a remote location – a cleaning station is needed.
This program connects youth ranging from second grade through high school to the outdoors, encourages critical thinking about the environment, and instills a sense of wonder and stewardship for the natural world. In 2020, this program quickly pivoted to provide lessons 100% virtually, which extended the learning season and doubled the number the children it was able to reach – totaling an anticipated 40,000 students for the 2020-2021 school year.