South Florida and Treasure Coast Regional Planning Councils Partner to Protect the Reef
The South Florida and Treasure Coast Regional Planning Councils are actively involved in activities to further the study and protection of the Florida Reef Tract. Over the last four years Florida has been struggling to diagnose and treat a cataclysmic nearshore coral reef disease outbreak affecting the Florida Reef Tract between Martin and Monroe counties. It is spreading rapidly and unfortunately, in April, was found in the nearshore reefs in the lower Florida Keys.
This issue is of such great importance that in January the Councils convened a shared staff working group to identify and implement action steps to raise awareness and find resources to protect and save this important state and national treasure. This initial working group includes Councilmembers and staff from both regional planning councils, the region’s counties, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and The Nature Conservancy. Over the last few months notable successes include passage by State Senator Lauren Book and State Representative Kristin Jacobs of Senate Bill 232 and House Bill 53 establishing the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Ecosystem Conservation Area as well as continued funding by Congress of the South Florida Geographic Initiative. Full funding of the South Florida Geographic Initiative is a critical part of ensuring that additional science, data, technical assistance, and financial resources for understanding and treating the reef disease are available.
Councilmembers Mayor Beam Furr (Broward County) and County Commissioner Doug Smith (Martin County) updated the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) at their April meeting in Fort Lauderdale. The FFWCC is working with staff to provide a more extensive update at their upcoming June meeting in Sarasota. In addition, the staff working group is organizing a special briefing for the region’s Chambers of Commerce leaders and Tourist Development Organizations on the disease outbreak and response efforts by local, state, and federal agencies. The Councils will be requesting their assistance with coordinated messaging and marketing efforts, and engaging these business leaders in advocacy for the Florida Reef Tract. If you are interested in learning more about this initiative, please contact Isabel Cosio Carballo (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Michael J. Busha (email@example.com).