IGFA Attends Everglades Summit

The Everglades is much more than a Florida landmark. It is an International Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site, and a Wetland of International Importance that supports world-renowned fresh and saltwater fisheries. However, nearly a century of poor water management has severely impacted the Everglades and its adjacent estuaries. Harmful water discharges from Lake Okeechobee has caused algal blooms and fish kills in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, while a lack of freshwater flowing south to Florida Bay has resulted in the loss of nearly 50,000 acres of seagrass in just the last three years.

On April 24th and 25th, IGFA Conservation Director Jason Schratwieser joined nearly 200 fellow anglers and conservationists at the America’s Everglades Summit held in Washington D.C. The focus of the event was Everglades restoration and the construction of a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, Florida that will reduce harmful discharges and help reestablish historic sheet flow of freshwater to the Everglades and Florida Bay.

The first day of the Summit included panels comprised of prominent Congressional leaders, anglers and business owners that discussed the economic importance of the Everglades and how the Federal-State partnership is vital for Everglades restoration projects. In May of last year, Florida Senate Bill 10 was officially signed into law that provides $800 million in funding to create a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to store, clean and move water south to Florida Bay. Now the push is to get the Federal funding share of the reservoir approved as part of the Water Resources Development Act that is expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives later this year.

On day two, Summit participants were assembled into teams that descended on Capitol Hill to meet with Congressional leaders. Jason Schratwieser joined Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg and Maverick Boat Group CEO Scott Deal to meet with members of Congress and their staff to educate them on the imperiled state of the Everglades and how crucial Federal funding is to restore water flow and help reverse the damage that this ecosystem has endured.