USDA announces major water quality effort in Florida

August 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Protecting Habitats, Water Quality

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced $100 million in financial assistance to acquire permanent easements from eligible landowners in four counties and assist with wetland restoration on nearly 24,000 acres of agricultural land in the Northern Everglades Watershed.

The wetland restoration will reduce the amount of surface water leaving the land, slowing water runoff and the concentration of nutrients entering the public water management system and ultimately Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades.

This is the largest amount of funding Florida has ever received for projects in the same watershed through the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) in a single year.

“Protecting and restoring the Northern Everglades is critical not just to Floridians, but to all Americans,” said Vilsack.

“Today’s announcement demonstrates the Obama Administration’s strong commitment to conserve our national treasures, enhance the quality and quantity of our water, and secure the economic opportunities afforded by a healthy Everglades ecosystem.

“This announcement would not be possible without our local conservation partners and our relationship with private landowners who play a critical role in restoring wetlands and protecting wildlife in this unique habitat.”

Vilsack also participated in a signing ceremony with A.J. Suarez of Hendry County Nursery Farms — a landowner who will benefit from the funding.

Suarez signed an agreement with USDA to start the process to acquire the easement rights to 3,782 acres.

After the signing ceremony, Vilsack toured the 550-acre Winding Waters Natural Area, a site restored with $1.5 million from WRP in 2007. The nature area, owned by Palm Beach County, is home to bird species such as little blue heron, snowy egret and great egret, white ibis and Florida sandhill crane.

It also contains large areas of pine flatwoods, Cyprus forests, freshwater marshes and wet prairies.

Under WRP, landowners sell development rights to land and place it in a conservation easement that permanently maintains that land as agriculture and open space.

Article source: http://southeastfarmpress.com/government/usda-announces-major-water-quality-effort-florida

South Florida Farmers Achieve Record Year in Water Quality Success

August 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Protecting Habitats, Water Quality

/PRNewswire/ — Farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), south of Lake Okeechobee, achieved a record-setting 79 percent phosphorus reduction in the water leaving the farming region — more than three times less phosphorus than the state requirement.

The South Florida Water Management District, the agency tasked with Everglades restoration, announced today that the EAA’s on-farm Best Management Practices (BMPs), developed by university scientists in collaboration with farmers, are a resounding success. The District praised EAA farmers for being proactive and often implementing more BMPs than what is required.

“We’re proud of farmers’ accomplishments cleaning water, with an average phosphorus reduction of 55 percent over the last 16 years,” said Barbara Miedema, vice president of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative. “When the BMP program was first envisioned in 1991, no one imagined it would be this effective over the long term. It’s an example of the kind of success that can be achieved in partnership with scientists and farmers, who roll up their sleeves to get the job done.”

In addition to improving water quality using high-tech sustainable practices, more than $200 million has been paid by farmers for the construction of Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs) to further clean water. Built on 60,000 acres of former farmland, the STAs have reduced phosphorus to the Everglades Protection Area by an additional 1,470 metric tons. That’s in addition to the 2,400 metric tons of phosphorus removed by farmers.

“Along with being stable economic drivers and job providers for our state and county, farmers have a long track record of supporting and implementing Everglades restoration,” said Gaston Cantens, vice president of Florida Crystals Corporation. “Today’s record-breaking results are another example of the proven success of our sustainable practices and demonstrate the significant role our farms continue to play in protecting and preserving the Everglades ecosystem, as the design was intended.”

Florida Agriculture Fast Facts:

  • Supports 766,000 jobs
  • Generates $100 billion annual economic impact in Florida
  • Responsible for $3 billion in tax revenue for local and state government
  • Florida Sugar Industry provides 7,000 direct jobs 23,500 indirect jobs
  • Florida Sugar Industry generates $2 billion economic impact

About Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative and Florida Crystals Corporation

Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative and Florida Crystals Corporation are two Palm Beach County-based sugar producers and owners of the world’s largest sugar company, American Sugar Refining, whose global production capacity is 7 million tons of refined sugar annually. Its products are marketed through its brand portfolio: Domino®, CH®, Redpath® and Tate Lyle®. Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative, based in Belle Glade, is made up of 46 small and medium size farms in Palm Beach County. The grower members produce approximately 300,000 tons of sugar from 65,000 acres of land. The primary functions of the Cooperative are the harvesting, transporting and processing of sugarcane and the marketing of raw sugar to one of its American Sugar Refining facilities. Florida Crystals Corporation farms 190,000 acres in South Florida, where it also mills, refines and packages sugar and rice products. The company is the only producer of certified organic sugar grown and harvested in the USA, sold through the Florida Crystals® brand. Florida Crystals also produces clean, renewable energy from sugar cane fiber and recycled wood waste in its Palm Beach County biomass power plant.

SOURCE Florida Crystals

Article source: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/08/11/3831541/south-florida-farmers-achieve.html

Endangered species’ top 10 list: Save these ecosystems

January 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Protecting Habitats

Oceana, an international ocean conservation group, yesterday released a new report that identifies vital habitats in need of protection, if key endangered species are to have a chance to survive climate change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 20 to 30 percent of the world’s species will be at increased risk of extinction if global temperature increases exceed 1.5 to 2.5 C (3 to 5 F) above pre-industrial levels. The climate threats to species include increased disease, diminished reproduction, habitat loss, and declining food supply.

For species that are already struggling on the brink of extinction, global climate change threatens to push them over the edge, said Huta. We certainly need to reduce global warming pollution, but we also need to act now to prioritize and protect some of the most important ecosystems for imperiled wildlife. Endangered species don’t have the luxury of waiting for political leaders to act to slow the pace of climate change.

List of top 10 ecosystems to save for endangered species featured in the report:

1. Arctic sea ice, home to the polar bear, Pacific walrus and at least six species of seal

2. Shallow water coral reefs, home to the critically endangered elkhorn and staghorn corals

3. The Hawaiian Islands, home to more than a dozen imperiled birds, and 319 threatened and endangered plants

4. Southwest deserts, home to numerous imperiled plants, fish and mammals

5. The San Francisco Bay-Delta, home to the imperiled Pacific salmon, Swainsons hawk, tiger salamander and Delta smelt

6. California Sierra Mountains, home to 30 native amphibian species, including the Yellow-legged frog

7. The Snake River Basin, home to four imperiled runs of salmon and steelhead

8. Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, home to the imperiled Whitebark pine, an important food source for the threatened Grizzly bear and other animals

9. The Gulf Coasts flatlands and wetlands, home to the Piping and Snowy plovers, Mississippi sandhill crane, and numerous species of sea turtles

10. The Greater Everglades, home to 67 threatened and endangered species, including the manatee and the red cockcaded woodpecker

Climate change is no longer a distant threat on the horizon, said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. It has arrived and is threatening ecosystems that we all depend upon, and our endangered species are particularly vulnerable.

Seven additional ecosystems were nominated but did not make the Top 10. They nonetheless contain important habitat for imperiled species. These ecosystems include Glacier National Park, the Jemez Mountains, Sagebrush Steppe, U.S. West Coast, the Maine Woods, the Grasslands of the Great Plains and the Southern Rocky Mountains.

The new report, which includes information about each ecosystem, as well as recommended conservation measures, is available online at www.StopExtinction.org.

Scientists ranked Arctic sea ice and shallow water corals as two of the highest priority ecosystems threatened by climate change in an Endangered Species Coalition report demonstrating the urgency of saving habitat for endangered species. The report, entitled Its Getting Hot Out There: Top 10 Places to Save for Endangered Species in a Warming World was released January 5th, and examines how the changing climate is increasing extinction risk for imperiled fish, plants and wildlife.

Have your say: Is the reality of climate change still in question?

Article source: http://www.examiner.com/green-living-in-national/endangered-species-top-10-list-save-these-ecosystems