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Protecting Our Natural Treasures Benefits Us All
Published in Florida Today

Washington, August 4, 2017 - Growing up around Cocoa Beach, raising my family along the Lagoon and working in local real estate for many years has helped me understand why it’s so important for us to work together to care for our environment. Our quality of life, economy and tourism, property values and the survival of many indigenous species of plant and wildlife depend on our efforts. Advancing common sense ideas that strengthen our economy, protect our Lagoon and preserve our natural beauty remains a top priority for me.

Because the National Estuary Program (NEP) is an important component in maintaining our nation’s environmental treasures like the Indian River Lagoon, I co-authored bipartisan legislation which was signed into law to reauthorize and improve this program. The legislation includes my bipartisan plan to reprioritize existing federal funds so more money is available through competitive grants for estuaries with critical needs like our Lagoon. I’m pleased to report that the House Interior Appropriations bill includes $1.5 million for the NEP’s competitive grants program. 

To ensure that our nation’s estuaries have a stronger voice and presence in Congress, we founded the first bipartisan National Estuary Caucus. In just seven short months, thirty-six Members of Congress have joined the Estuary Caucus, and together with their staffs, have become informed and engaged in efforts to support estuary restoration and conservation.  With the involvement of local leaders like Lynda Weatherman of the Space Coast EDC and Dr. Duane Defreese of the Indian River Lagoon Council, the Caucus has already held three briefings on Capitol Hill about the challenges to these delicate ecosystems. 

While restoring our Lagoon is critical, there is more we can do to ensure our environmental treasures are protected. Maintaining our beaches and shores is necessary to promoting tourism and supporting marine life. That’s why I introduced bipartisan legislation with members of the Florida delegation to place a moratorium on seismic exploration off the coastline of Florida so we can study its effects on our sea life. There are strong concerns that these seismic activities may be harmful to undersea mammals like dolphins, disrupting their ability to communicate and navigate. The moratorium remains in place until science proves there is minimal impact on fish, sea turtles, and the various marine mammals that inhabit the waters off our coast.

We need to work together and collaborative efforts by individuals and local, state and federal governments are essential to safeguarding our environment. Some of these partnerships like the Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Program which receives partial funding through the EPA have been in jeopardy for many years. It’s common to read stories about stranded dolphins, manatees and other wildlife in our waterways. And, as you know, time is of the essence to rescue these creatures. That’s why every year I have successfully fought to restore proposed funding cuts for this program, which matches local funding for stranded marine mammal response.

There are many other initiatives to protect Florida’s natural treasures, including beach re-nourishment and Everglades Restoration. My staff and I have been working with community leaders and concerned residents, local institutions of higher learning, the private sector and public officials at every level of government to stay engaged and find solutions that protect our environment and keep our economy strong.

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