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Many local South Floridians have come to know the Everglades as a tourist attraction to bring out-of-towners to when they visit the Sunshine State. But there is so much more to this ecosystem than a place for snowbirds to visit. Did you know that Everglades National Park is home to one of the largest wetlands in the world and contains nine distinct habitats? Did you know that the Everglades provides for numerous plant and animal species found nowhere else on the planet? Did you know that Everglades National Park contains the largest contiguous stand of protected mangroves in the western hemisphere? The Everglades is a critically important ecosystem for countless animal and plant species, as well as for the survival of our own South Florida community. But this majestic River of Grass is being threatened by our changing climate and other natural and man-made issues.

The Southeast Environmental Research Center (SERC) within the Institute of Water and Environment (InWE) has been working to protect the Everglades for over a quarter of a century. Encompassing nearly 4 million acres from the Kissimmee River basin north of Lake Okeechobee all the way south to the Florida Keys, the Everglades ecosystem is also the focus of the world’s largest intergovernmental watershed restoration effort. The South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force supported by the Office of Everglades Restoration Initiatives (OERI) is an important partner to SERC and plays a unique role in this restoration effort by facilitating coordination among the numerous bureaus of the US Department of the Interior involved in Everglades restoration. 

The Task Force, authorized by Congress through the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 1996, facilitates and provides long-term coordination of conservation and restoration efforts being planned and implemented in the Everglades. Four sovereign entities (federal, state and two tribes) are represented on the Task Force. Fourteen members sit on the Task Force itself, representing seven federal departments, three state agencies/offices, two American Indian tribes and two local governments. The initiative provides a forum for the participating agencies to share information about their restoration efforts, resolve conflicts and report on progress. The Task Force has developed a restoration framework that includes a shared vision, strategic goals and system-wide ecological indicators to organize and assess the restoration, preservation and protection of the South Florida ecosystem.

The FIU Southeast Environmental Research Center (SERC) within the Institute of Water and Environment (InWE) houses the offices of the Task Force and has facilitated the linkage between scientists and local, state, and federal agencies. Some of the restoration and protection efforts include addressing challenges that arise because of invasive species in the area, responding to water quality issues in the Everglades, and contributing to effective water management decisions for the National Park.

The OERI and Task Force is supported by a team that includes many long-term OERI staff and several FIU graduates. The OERI also recently welcomed Adam Gelber as its new Executive Director. 

Learn more about the Task Force’s Everglades Restoration Initiatives.