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Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release June 17, 1997
            Federal-State Agreement Will Lead to Acquisition
                    of 31,000 Acres for Restoration

Vice President Al Gore traveled here today (6/17) to announce a $25 million Federal grant to help Florida acquire 31,000 acres of private land in the Everglades, marking the next significant step in the Administration's landmark efforts to restore this unique, ecologically sensitive area.

"I am very proud of the great strides that this Administration has made in the most ambitious environmental restoration project this country has ever attempted," the Vice President said in his morning stop at Everglades National Park. "Parcel by parcel, we have acquired high-priority lands. They will help us both restore this pristine area and contribute to the economy of the entire region. "

Along with a $25 million state matching grant, the Federal funds will enable Florida's Department of Environmental Protection to acquire the contiguous parcels that were formerly part of South Golden Gate Estates, Fakahatchee Strand and Belle Meade.

Most of these lands will go to establish Picayune State Forest in Collier County. The rest will significantly benefit Everglades National Park, Big Cypress Preserve, and Florida Panther and Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuges.

Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, whose department is releasing the Federal funds, said, "These lands have a history rich in panthers and black bears, royal palms, bald cypress and rare orchids, but more recent history marred by failed land developments, hundreds of miles of dredging and bulldozing for canals and roads. We now stand at the verge of being able to turn Senator Bob Graham's Save Our Everglades initiative, from his days as governor 20 years ago, into reality."

The lands in question have faced increasing pressure from developers due to the rapid residential growth in southwest Florida. Their acquisition will provide not only environmental benefits to the Everglades ecosystem but also recreational and educational opportunities for Florida residents and visitors.

"This a truly historic moment, almost 50 years from the day former Governor Millard Caldwell gave the Secretary of the Interior $2 million to acquire the last private land needed to complete Everglades National Park," Vice President Gore said. "The lands that will be acquired can once again become an extraordinarily productive and diverse habitat for wildlife, plant and aquatic species." ###