November 9th, 2011 by

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What do alligators and pine trees have in common? They’re both found in the Everglades ecosystem, along with hundreds of other plant and animal species. In fact, this ecosystem has one of the highest concentrations of threatened or endangered species in the country. Although the Everglades is known for its natural beauty and abundance of wildlife, this uniquely American ecosystem is becoming increasingly stressed from threats like climate change and habitat fragmentation. Wildlife habitat is coming up against human development as urban areas continue to expand. Animals like the Florida panther, the Florida black bear and the red-cockaded woodpecker are threatened and endangered as a result of their habitat loss.

To address this issue, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has developed a proposal to restore and protect the Everglades for generations to come and help reconnect habitats in the Everglades that have been fragmented. The plan, entitled the Everglades Headwaters Proposal, will work with landowners to use scientific modeling and careful progress monitoring to develop a long-term conservation management strategy. In other words, the agency will actually work with the people that know the land to determine a workplan. The plan would also continuously look for updates in technology to lower costs. This proposal is the first step in a larger conservation plan to help recover key species and habitat for all of south-central Florida.

Protecting and restoring wildlife habitat is a great idea, but getting the work done requires lots of people working together. That’s why restoration efforts like the Everglades Headwaters work best as a collaborative process — bringing all parties to the table, from Congress to the general public. The proposal came up at a House hearing last week to discuss restoration priorities for the Everglades. The FWS also wants to hear what you have to think. They will be accepting public comment on the proposal through November 25th. American Forests has also submitted comments on the proposal.