Among the environmental programs on the chopping block under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget is a little-known grant program administered through the Environmental Protection Agency called the South Florida Geographic Initiative. The program funds efforts to monitor water quality in the Everglades and the Florida Keys as well as efforts to monitor the health of seagrasses and coral reefs. The proposed loss of that federal support has some environmental researchers in Florida on edge.
The South Florida Geographic Initiative provides grant funding for environmental monitoring efforts administered through the EPA’s Water Quality Protection Program. Among those efforts is the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Coral Reef Evaluation and Monitoring Program, or CREMP. Since 1996, that program has provided annual monitoring of 40 coral reef sites throughout the Florida Keys, making it the second longest ongoing coral reef monitoring program in the world. Since its inception, CREMP has relied on funds from the South Florida Geographic Initiative. Just since 2015, the program has received $540,000 dollars from the EPA grant program. Rob Ruzicka is a research administrator and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Principal Investigator for CREMP. He said the EPA program is critical to his work.