Funds to Monitor Alligators Eliminated

They Are Considered Ecological Barometer

       Funding for scientists to monitor alligators in Everglades National Park has been eliminated from the wetlands’ ongoing restoration program,
despite their status as one of the region’s most iconic species.
       Though alligators are considered an ecological barometer by experts assessing the effects of water management projects being carried out as
part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, the lack of resources to keep them under surveillance means a loss of valuable data,
said Frank Mazzotti, an associate professor of wildlife ecology at the University of Florida’s Everglades Research and Education Center.
       Addressing guests at the Society of Environmental Journalists conference in Miami as part of a discussion entitled, “Florida’s Iconic Critters,” he explained how CERP – a state and federally funded program – aims to restore the South Florida ecosystem by way of projects that include removing canals to creating new water storage facilities.
       “For a little more than a dime an acre, we can assess how successful it is,” he said, referring to the specific monitoring of alligators and
crocodiles. “But that funding has been eliminated from CERP. Why?” he asked.
       The alligator is a species that is “an indicator that’s so effective at telling us how the Everglades responds and that is so popular with the public,” said Mazzotti.
       “More people come to see alligators and crocodiles in Florida than any other critter,” except perhaps Mickey Mouse, he said.
       Around 1.7 billion gallons of water drain from the Everglades to coastal waters every day. Under the $7.8 billion CERP program, more of this water will be captured and stored, to supply the natural system and service urban and agricultural needs.
       By removing more than 240 miles of canals and levees, the natural north-south water flow will be restored, assisting the regeneration of
endangered species such as the snail kite, which numbered 3,300 in 1999 and are now down to just 700. This year saw 110 successful nests, hatching 200 young.
       Dramatic fluctuations in water levels in Lake Okeechobee – the highs caused by rainmaker storms, the lows wreaked by drought and mismanagement – have led to a reduction in the snail kite’s only food, the apple snail.
       “It’s us, it’s people,” said Paul Gray, Okeechobee science coordinator for Audubon of Florida.
       “Nobody wants the lake to fluctuate wildly, so until we build better water storage we can’t protect kites.”
       Matthew Schwartz, executive director of the South Florida Wildlands Association, explained how the Florida panther’s problems – which stem less from water issues than developmental encroachment and traffic – are also facing challenges.
       Florida Power & Light, the utility company, is building “the biggest power plant in the country in the middle of collared panther territory,” he
said, while an access road into Ave Maria, a university community in Naples, had been built right through a major panther corridor.
       “The biggest problem for the Florida panther is habitat. They want it. We want it. They can’t go to court for it, but I can,” he said. “That’s what I
spend my life doing – litigating.”
       Panelists also discussed the problem of invasive Burmese pythons – “Now we have a new iconic critter in Florida,” said Mazzotti – and threats to manatees from watercraft, cold weather and, in a recent twist, the Tea Party, whose Citrus County branch made international headlines earlier in the year with its objections to measures drawn up to protect the portly marine-dweller, an endangered species.
       Attempts to restrict boating activities locally, to save manatees from harm, put nature above man and consequently went “against the Bible and the Bill of Rights,” activists complained.
       Pat Rose, executive director of Save the Manatee, told Friday’s conference discussion: “Suddenly now manatees are against the Constitution.”

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4 responses to “Funds to Monitor Alligators Eliminated”

  1. Yaelherman says:

    It’s very sad that government agencies fail to appreciate the gift nature is to humans. Instead of finding alternatives for ways both humans and animals can enjoy their daily activities without getting in each other’s way, they advocate for issues that constantly harm animals. It makes no sense to eliminate funding to monitor alligators, and it makes no sense to invade areas that have large populations of animals.

  2. AC says:

    By no means am I an expert on any environmental concern, but I have read the alligator populations in the Everglades have made a remarkable comeback over the last few decades thanks to preservation efforts made by environmentalists and other concerned citizens. If this is the case, and alligator populations are stable, I think it makes sense to cut funding from it. These issues don’t exist in a vacuum, state and federal budgets are already overstretched and there has to be some sort of moderation in spending (hopefully it comes across the board and does not affect environmental programs disproportionately). These issues are often far more complicated than we are led to believe initially. For example, FPL’s parent company, NextEra Energy, is one of the largest green energy companies in the world and produces a lot of energy from renewable resources. The article above mentions that FPL is building on panther lands. We all agree that we need more clean energy infrastructure and power generation, we all agree that preserving the FL panther is desirable, but where is the trade off? We need both things but sometimes we can’t have it both ways in the short run.

  3. Adam Frenkel says:

    Preservation of the Everglades is absolutely necessary not only for alligators but the economy too. Everglades National Park is a major contributor to the local economy and remains a top tourist attraction.
    According to the U.S. National Park Service, the park generates approximately $120 million dollars in revenue annually, all of which is given back to the economy. Beyond moral grounds, politicians should exhaust all angles to get the CERP program launched. It is a minor contribution that will bring benefits for years to come.

  4. No amount of money is ever enough, even if we must borrow it from Communist China…..!

    Never mind the fact that the alligator population has grown so large over the last 20 years that they are now visiting the city via the drainage system and snatching dogs from the end of leashes along with actually attacking and dragging humans into the canals.

    What needs to be done is extend the alligator hunting season to all year and raise the bag limits. Lowering the cost for permits to out of state hunters would easily triple the amount of revenue to the state in tourism dollars and create much needed jobs in the private sector.