The Year Water Became a Rallying Cry
Annual Report 2015
The Everglades Foundation is dedicated to restoring America’s Everglades. As you’ll read here, we made great strides toward that goal in 2015. Thousands took up an urgent rallying cry for restoration—and we celebrate everyone who contributed to the year’s successes. But our work is not done, and we invite you to join us as we continue this critical effort.
In keeping with our commitment to the environment, this year’s annual report uses an interactive digital format to reduce the need for printed copies. You may also download a printable version.
AN URGENT RALLYING CRY FOR CLEAN, ABUNDANT WATER
Water cleanses us, energizes and sustains us. But in 2015, water scared us in a way we’ve never seen before. This was the year Americans awakened to the dangers of our threatened water supply.
In Toledo, Ohio, continued signs of hazardous toxins in the water kept a community on edge—one that had already suffered a three-day water crisis the year before. Flint, Michigan’s water crisis bubbled into a national fury as citizens demanded answers about a flood of lead poisoning at the kitchen sink. Here in Florida, concerns rose that bacteria in the Indian River Lagoon may have caused a Port St. Lucie fisherman’s death. Despite annual rainfall of almost five feet, South Florida now regularly faces water shortages that trigger wildfires in the marsh and leave Florida Bay drier and saltier than ever.
For better or for worse, we’ve reached a turning point in our relationship with water. It’s now impossible to ignore we’re in the midst of a massive water crisis; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has called water pollution “one of America's most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems.”
Given all that’s at stake for our nation and for Florida’s economy, which depends heavily on water for tourism and recreation, it became clearer than ever this year that action is needed. And specifically, scientific evidence shows the best solution is to open up the flow of water south from Lake Okeechobee, to clean and store that water to sustain 8 million people and preserve a fragile ecosystem that has become an ailing, endangered national resource.
The Everglades Foundation took up this rallying cry to “send the water south,” and we’re heartened by the widely diverse, passionate supporters who joined us—people from around the country, as well as every corner of Florida, from the Panhandle to Miami. Whether you are a realtor who relies on Florida’s property values to make a living, a local Chamber of Commerce member or Kiwanis Club leader, a small-business owner struggling to survive, or an advocate for clean water everywhere, we heard your rallying cry. And so did legislators in Tallahassee, who introduced the “Legacy Florida” bill in December— a tremendous step toward allocating resources for this important endeavor and setting the stage for future action.
We’re grateful to each and every voice that joined this rallying cry, driving this crucial, evidence-based discussion not just in Florida but also in Washington as we look to lead the way in defining creative solutions to the world’s water problems.
Our work is far from over, but the tide is turning now that citizens and legislators alike are recognizing we must protect this World Heritage Site and make the River of Grass flow freely again. Thank you for joining this rallying cry and continuing its momentum to achieve our goals together.
It was an unprecedented year for the Everglades Foundation and the 2 million acres of precious wetlands we and our dedicated partners and supporters work so hard to protect. While our chorus of rallying cries elevated the water crisis into a top priority for action, we continued to advance all aspects of our work, grounded in science, to restore America’s Everglades. We’ve continued to fight for one of the world’s richest sources of natural beauty and ecologic ingenuity, a revered place that draws tourists, students and scientists from around the world to explore it.
Thanks to the tremendous contributions of our partners and donors in this milestone year with record support, we made significant progress in 2015 for Everglades restoration—and for water crises the world over—across three specific areas. Here’s a look at the year’s highlights:
Much is yet to come as we continue to advance the End Point Restoration Plan and anticipate the launch of our $10 million George Barley Water Prize, which will identify a cost-effective solution to the world’s phosphorus pollution. Thank you for joining with us in restoring America’s Everglades, reconnecting Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay and helping us advance the discovery of bold new solutions to today’s environmental challenges.
Hosted 46 tours and 30 briefings on the Everglades to educate the public about the importance of Everglades restoration.
Trained our 1,000th teacher in our K-12 curriculum about Everglades restoration, in partnership with Florida Atlantic University’s Pine Jog Environmental Education Center.
Expanded our educational program to reach 30,000 students across 10 school districts.
Published 5 new peer-reviewed studies conducted by our science team on issues related to Everglades restoration.
Secured 207 signatures from leading scientists on a petition calling to send Florida’s water south from Lake Okeechobee, which we delivered to the Florida Senate President, the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives and the chair of the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District.
Celebrated the Florida House of Representatives’ subsequent introduction of the “Legacy Florida” bill, which establishes a dedicated funding source to restore the Everglades by setting aside several hundred million dollars a year for evidence-based restoration projects.
Provided local, national and international organizations with more than $1.2 million in grants to focus their professional staff and members on effective, science-based Everglades restoration efforts.
Established our first international partnership with the signing of an MOU with the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change in Canada, which has committed support for our $10 million George Barley Water Prize launching in 2016, which is one of the largest environmental science prize competitions in history.
Expanded the George Barley Water Prize by announcing that an additional $1.2 million in prizes will be given out, totaling $11.2 million over five years.
Added Christine Todd Whitman, former administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and former governor of New Jersey, to the George Barley Water Prize Advisory Board, and established the Barley Launch Circle of noted supporters.
Continued to deliver on the End Point Restoration Plan, a detailed roadmap for getting Everglades restoration back on track to completion; this year we made great progress on the Plan through hydrologic modeling and exploration of water storage alternatives north and south of Lake Okeechobee.
Added new staff to expand our science and development teams, including an environmental engineer, a computational hydrological researcher and an economist; these experts will help make the End Point Restoration Plan a reality and support our future efforts to track the implementation process.
Zoological Society of Florida
Deering Estate Foundation
South Plantation High School
The Everglades Foundation inspires the next generation of conservationists and scientists by providing literacy programs that serve area schoolchildren—who will be entrusted with the Everglades’ future.
In partnership with Florida Atlantic University’s Pine Jog Environmental Education Center, the Foundation develops teacher-trainings that offer free Everglades lessons and materials for the K-12 classroom. These lesson plans introduce students to key aspects of the Everglades ecosystem, including its watershed, endangered species, water conservation and other topics to help raise awareness about America’s most important wetland ecosystem.
In 2015, the Everglades Literacy Program became part of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools STEM initiatives. By the end of the year, the Everglades lessons successfully became a new focus in classrooms statewide.
In 2015, Everglades Foundation scientists hosted 46 tours and 30 briefings to educate the public about the importance of restoration. Each educational opportunity makes a tremendous difference.
“I first visited the Everglades with my parents 60 years ago for an airboat ride... I never forgot it. More recently... I enjoyed another airboat trip through that frontier in the company of Dr. Stephen Davis, Wetlands Ecologist for the Everglades Foundation. Dr. Davis, waist-deep in the water, explained to his visitors about the various components of what we were riding across and enjoying. His lecture was fascinating and brought home to me the importance of what the Everglades Foundation is working so hard to achieve.”
-- Hollis Petersen
Dr. Steve Davis was awarded Best in Miami 2014 for “Leaders in Science” by Miami Today News for his work to educate the general public and policymakers about the importance of Everglades restoration.
The Everglades Foundation offers educational grants to numerous community organizations interested in promoting environmental literacy, such as Zoo Miami, Deering Estate at Cutler, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and South Plantation High School.
ForEverglades Scholars and Fellows, the Everglades Foundation also encourages researchers at Florida’s greatest institutions to join us in studying how to restore and protect the Everglades. The Foundation offers between $60,000 and $100,000 annually in fellowships and scholarships to graduate research students who are developing innovative scientific methods.
At just 10 years old, South Florida’s Christopher Ramos joined the Everglades restoration rallying cry after a lesson in school from the Everglades Literacy Program. He went on to inspire his family and community to raise money to save the Everglades.
Christopher Ramos was so inspired by the Everglades Foundation’s lesson plans about endangered species, he enlisted his father to help him take action. Together, they researched nonprofits to support with fundraising and settled on the Everglades Foundation—before he even realized that it was the Foundation that had created his school’s lesson plan.
Christopher then organized a bike ride through Shark Valley in Everglades National Park. With the help of a few friends from his Boy Scout Troop, he raised nearly $4,000. His rallying cry garnered national attention when the superintendent of Everglades National Park invited Christopher and his dad to stand next to President Barack Obama when he visited the Everglades on Earth Day 2015. Chris isn’t stopping there, and is working on a campaign called “Ramos Boys Save the Everglades,” which has now launched its own website and social media page to raise money and awareness. The campaign has garnered media attention and support both locally and nationally.
These words echoed across Florida and beyond throughout 2015. They represented an incessant rallying cry to restore the historic water flows that would nourish not just the Everglades, but the entire southern portion of the state.
It’s a rallying cry that made a difference this year, as everyone from real estate agents to fishermen and small-business owners recognized that Mother Nature had it right originally. Before manmade dams and canals interfered over a century ago, there used to be a natural flow of clean, usable water from Lake Okeechobee in Central Florida, which supplied water to all of the rest of Florida to the south. But today Lake Okeechobee’s polluted waters are held captive by massive construction projects dating from a century ago, as agriculture and other pursuits took precedence over conservation.
As a result, the lake’s water levels often rise to threatening heights—and officials seeking to prevent flooding have no choice but to open the dams over and over again to let billions of gallons of hazardous, algae-infested lake water flow into surrounding rivers and estuaries east and west of the lake. The areas served by those rivers and estuaries suffer greatly, as the polluted water triggers alarming health and safety warnings and destroys wildlife.
At the southern tip of the state, meanwhile, Florida Bay between the mainland and the Florida Keys suffers from the reverse problem—not too much freshwater, but too little. This, too, is inherently dangerous as it upsets the precarious balance of freshwater and salt water; some research has even shown a connection between Alzheimer’s disease and the algae toxins that too frequently populate the algae blooms in Florida Bay as a result.
It’s a complex problem, but the Everglades Foundation and our partners and supporters championed a simple rallying cry to address both issues: send the water south from Lake Okeechobee, restoring the water flow Mother Nature initially intended.
The “Send it South” rallying cry was distinct in its diversity—across all ages, regions and professions, inside Florida and beyond. We heard your voice from north to south, east to west; we heard it in the elementary school kids’ grassroots campaign (the Ramos Boys Save the Everglades), and we heard it from real estate agents, teachers, fishermen and tour operators.
Even the president of the United States sounded the rallying cry during an Earth Day visit to the Everglades:
The rallying cry was notable in its strength, as more than 1,500 Floridians from across the state came together for the third-annual Everglades Action Day in Tallahassee. Jimmy Buffett made a special appearance at the rally to champion the purchase of the pivotal piece of Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) land south of the lake, to build a deep-water reservoir that will aid in Everglades restoration and protect drinking water for 8 million Floridians and tourists. Following his remarks, Buffett played a short acoustic set with Mac McAnally and Robert Greenidge.
The rallying cry also paved the way for the December introduction of the Legacy Florida Act, which is poised to secure long-term funding streams for Everglades restoration over the next 20 years.
Together with our supporters, we helped make the Everglades the high priority it simply needed to be, both for our environment and for Florida’s economy. And the rallying cry continues to build momentum; but much more work remains to be done in 2016. Our priority now is to ensure that legislators take the next step and identify a concrete plan to “Send it South.” We invite all our partners and supporters to continue joining us as we raise this rallying cry even louder in the coming year.
Given all that’s at stake in addressing the urgent restoration priorities in the Everglades, the Everglades Foundation has built a robust team of dedicated full-time scientists. This team is advancing the world’s understanding of ecology, hydrology, water quality and project planning and implementation—and how these factors interact.
Our scientists, including two new Ph.D.s we added to our team in 2015, spent the past year conducting in-depth computer modeling and using other state-of-the-art techniques to explore a number of scenarios that will inform future actions—ultimately, identifying various possibilities for how to restore the Everglades by sending water from Lake Okeechobee south.
As the only non-governmental non-profit organization with the capacity to conduct such high-level scientific modeling, the Everglades Foundation has advanced discussions in an important way.
We’ve helped to clarify what options are available for creating water storage sites north and south of Lake Okeechobee, and what each site would offer in terms of resources, costs and effectiveness. It’s not an easy task; there are many variables that must be considered, and it’s our job to explore all the “what if” possibilities so that future planning can be based upon a solid scientific foundation.
As the primary engine of Everglades restoration, the Everglades Foundation brings together the world’s best resources to collaborate on effective solutions. In 2015, the Everglades Foundation provided $1.2 million in grants to local, national and international organizations to focus their professional staff and members on effective, science-based Everglades restoration efforts. Grant recipients include the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, Florida Oceanographic Society, Audubon Florida, and the Florida Wildlife Federation, among others.
We recognize that our water crisis isn’t just a Florida problem; worldwide, the World Resources Institute has warned that 15,000 freshwater bodies in the U.S. and around the world are now imperiled by phosphorus pollution.
We’re doing our part to search for a global solution. In 2016, the Everglades Foundation will launch the largest clean water prize ever run, the $10 million George Barley Water Prize. Our goal: to enlist the smartest minds—scientists and entrepreneurs from around the world—to once and for all identify a solution to phosphorus pollution, by designing and completing a cost-effective technology to remove excess phosphorus from freshwater bodies.
The Foundation was recognized by the White House and had the opportunity to highlight the George Barley Water Prize on the world stage. The prize was announced by Dr. Peter Preuss, Chief Innovation Officer of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—the same agency that calls nutrient pollution “one of America’s most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems…resulting in serious environmental and human health issues, and impacting the economy.”
The five-year competition will incorporate multiple stages and benchmarks, with the first three years of the competition including three stepping-stone prizes. The first two prizes enable entrants to test technologies at lab scale and compare performance under similar operating conditions. The third stepping-stone prize enables entrants to test technologies for three months at pilot scale to demonstrate proof-of-concept that guides full-scale implementation.
Officially launching in summer 2016, The George Barley Science Prize is designed to attract more than 80 applicants from over 10 countries and benefit over 100,000 miles of freshwater bodies.
Also this year, the prize earned some notable supporters, including the addition of Christine Todd Whitman, former administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and former governor of New Jersey, to the George Barley Water Prize Advisory Board. It was also endorsed by Sir Harold Kroto, a British chemist and recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
Nearly 8 million people depend on the Everglades for drinking water, recreation and economic growth. Yet humankind has endangered ourselves by allowing this once-flourishing water supply to dwindle to a trickle—half its original size.
The Everglades Foundation has spent the past 20 years studying this subtropical wetland system and identifying solutions rooted in both scientific evidence and practical feasibility. Our scientists have waded deep into the wetlands to investigate what strategies are working and to help educate decision-makers, students and the public about what’s at stake. Our partnerships and advocacy have helped make restoring America’s Everglades a national priority. With science as the foundation of everything we do, we have helped to promote evidence-based solutions to seemingly intractable problems such as poor water quality and restricted water flows.
We’re identifying bold new science-based approaches that will preserve this international treasure for future generations, demonstrating the way forward for the Everglades as well as other protected regions around the world. A thriving ecosystem that balances Mother Nature’s needs with human interests is entirely possible, and the Everglades Foundation is the leading voice in making this happen.
While the rallying cry to restore the Everglades has intensified in the past year, it’s a call to action that has resonated since the Everglades Foundation was founded more than two decades ago. Our co-founders both recognized early on the value of this unique ecosystem.
A self-made success, Paul Tudor Jones II is founder, chairman and chief executive officer of the Tudor Group of companies. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia. In 1983, Jones formed Tudor Investment Corporation as the Tudor Group’s primary asset management affiliate. He commits a substantial amount of his personal time to philanthropic and natural resource conservation efforts. Jones is the founder and a director of the Robin Hood Foundation, an organization dedicated to the singular mission of ending poverty in New York City. Jones is a resident of Greenwich, Connecticut and has a home in Palm Beach, Florida.
He commits a substantial amount of his personal time to philanthropic and natural resource conservation efforts such as education, poverty and environmental protection. Jones is a former chairman of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and serves as chairman of the board at the Everglades Foundation.
It began with Paul and George, two outdoorsmen, a fishing trip and encountering one of the killer algae blooms destroying one of the world’s most beautiful tarpon flats. That fateful fishing trip sparked the beginning of Jones’ two-decade commitment to Everglades restoration. “I was struck as much by moral outrage as I was my desire to protect the environment,” said Jones. “I told George I want to help.”
A n avid outdoorsman, successful real-estate developer and Everglades champion, the late George McKim Barley Jr. co-founded the Everglades Foundation, bringing world-class research and cutting-edge science to Everglades restoration efforts. Barley, a seventh-generation Floridian, was born in Jacksonville, graduated from Harvard University in 1956 and went on to emerge as one of Florida’s most successful real estate developers of his time. Barley’s enthusiasm for business was rivaled, if not exceeded by, his love for science, the environment and the great outdoors.
Nearly 30 years ago, while fishing in the Everglades, Barley discovered an algae bloom that offered no sign of life beneath. Seventy-five years of man-made damage had spawned thick mats of decomposing matter that destroyed plant and marine life. He realized that the problems in Florida Bay reached all the way north to Orlando, and the key to solving the problems was restoring the Everglades. Angered by his discovery, he began a lifelong fight to reverse the damage done to the Everglades and protect one of the world’s most unique ecosystems. For decades, Barley worked tirelessly on both the state and national level, to ensure these impacts were mitigated. Perhaps his most notable contribution to Everglades’ restoration was the role he played in establishing the Everglades Foundation along with co-founder Paul Tudor Jones II. Tragically, his life's work was cut short in 1995 when his plane crashed on his way to meet with the Army Corps of Engineers to discuss the restoration of the Everglades, but his legacy remains.
Today his vision lives on through the work of the Everglades Foundation and most recently the creation of the George Barley Water Prize to inspire new action. The George Barley Water Prize, an ambitious and pioneering endeavor to combat phosphorus pollution, is a fitting legacy for a man who brought a fierce commitment and entrepreneurial spirit to Everglades’ restoration.
The Everglades Foundation’s success is the result of the generosity of people who believe in our mission and support our urgent rallying cry.
Our donors ensure that our scientists continue leading major initiatives to save the Everglades. Our capacity to preserve and protect the Everglades as a natural source of drinking water for nearly 8 million Floridians is a direct result of your financial support.
This year our donors heeded our rallying cry more than ever; 2015 was a record year for donations, up 32% from last year—and we’re ForEver grateful for this unprecedented support.
We are forever grateful to our 2015 supporters and it was an honor to come together for the annual ForEverglades Foundation Benefits in Palm Beach, Naples and Miami.
Your gift will empower solutions benefiting not just the Everglades but all conservation efforts around the world.
100% of your contribution directly supports Everglades restoration. Administrative costs are funded through the generosity of the Everglades Foundation Board of Directors, meaning every dollar you give is dedicated to protecting and restoring one of the world's unique natural ecosystems.
To send a gift by mail or speak with us by phone, please contact us:
18001 Old Cutler Road, Suite 625
Palmetto Bay, FL 33157
Click here to find the contact information for your state elected officials. Let them know you’re an Everglades voter asking for their leadership in storing water south of Lake Okeechobee to protect our Everglades, estuaries and economy.
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The Everglades Foundation’s success is the result of the generosity of people who believe in our mission of protecting and restoring one of the world’s unique natural ecosystems. On behalf of our Everglades Foundation Family, thank you for your support. 2015 saw successes driven from a rallying cry that brought us together. We look forward to continuing that momentum through 2016.