The 39th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference

January 30, 2024

The Everglades Coalition is an alliance of 57 local, state, and national conservation and environmental organizations dedicated to the full restoration of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem, from the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes into Lake Okeechobee and to the estuaries, through the River of Grass, out to Florida Bay and the Keys. 

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida has worked for 60 years to protect the water, land, wildlife and future of Southwest Florida and was honored to serve as the conference host this year at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa in Bonita Springs, FL. The conference began with a reception on Thursday, January 25 at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida located at 1495 Smith Preserve Way. The reception was sponsored by our annual fishing tournament  RedSnook Catch & Release Charity Tournament.

Conference Day One: Friday, January 26

Water Study: Clean H20 – A Formula for Ecological Health and Economic Success

This session held on Friday was a look into our recent Impacts of Water Quality on the Southwest Florida Economy Study, partnered with Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) and Captains for Clean Water and prepared by Greene Economics.

Coastal water quality and the economy are inextricably linked. How do events such as harmful algae blooms or chronic pollutant loadings impact the various markets in South Florida? It is crucial that community leaders and policymakers understand the impacts that land use and water management decisions have on water quality, our economy and ultimately our way of life in South Florida.

Investment in Everglades restoration is essential; however, we must implement policy changes that will protect that investment and further safeguard our economy and ecosystems for future generations.

“We know water is the lifeblood of Florida and we have had the opportunity to quantify that. As we plan our communities, and we aren’t thinking about water quality and attaining healthy water, we are not thinking about the future of Florida.”

James Evans, CEO of Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation

Click on the image to read graphics.

If you would like to read the full report, head over to our website to read more on this water study.

Remarks were made by James Evans (SCCF), Captain Daniel Andrews (Captains), Chloe Vorseth (FIU), Dr. Gretchen Greene (Greene Economics), John Lai (SanCap Chamber) and moderated by Michele Arquette-Palermo (CSWFL).

“I don’t see any disconnects between water quality and the economy – they are one in the same.”

Captain Daniel Andrews, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Captains for Clean Water

Conference Day Two: Saturday, January 27

Western Everglades: Threats and Opportunities

The Western Everglades is an important part of the overall Greater Everglades ecosystem. Home to Big Cypress National Preserve, Tribal lands, national wildlife refuges, and a network of public and private conservation lands, the Western Everglades is a beautiful yet threatened region.

Expert panelist discussed opportunities to advance protection and restoration – including the Western Everglades Restoration Plan (WERP) and efforts to protect the elusive Ghost Orchid and Florida Panther – as well as ongoing threats in the form of energy and land development and expanded recreational use.

“When I’m able to sit up next to my nephew from the Miccosukee Tribe, next to the Army Corps of Engineers, and representatives of an NGO that supports the National Park Service, I think that’s a milestone.”

Tina Osceola, Seminole Tribe of Florida

Western Everglades session panelists
Conservancy’s Amber Crooks with the panelists

Remarks were made by Dr. Melissa Abdo (National Parks Conservation Association), Howard Gonzales (US Army Corps), Curtis Osceola (Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of FL), Tina Osceola (Seminole Tribe of FL), and moderated by Amber Crooks (CSWFL).

“The WERP study aims to improve the quantity, quality, timing, and distribution of water in the Western Everglades.”

Howard Gonzales, US Army Corps

Other Highlights

The conference ended with a dinner hosted by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

The keynote address was made by Congresswoman Debbie Wassermann-Schultz, Representative, U.S. House of Representatives.

Rob Moher, CEO of the Conservancy, speaking at dinner
Rob Moher and Congresswoman Debbie Wassermann-Schultz

Conservationist Award was given out to Marisa Carrozzo, Senior Coastal and Wildlife Program Manager, at National Parks Conservation Association.

Amber Crooks awarded Marisa Carrozzo
Marisa Carrozzo at the podium

Charlette Roman, South Florida Water Management District Governing Board Member and the Chair of the Big Cypress Basin Board, was awarded the Public Service Award. Michele Arquette-Palermo, Water Policy Manager, honored Charlette Roman at the conference.

Conservancy’s Water Policy Manager, Michele Arquette-Palermo, awards Charlette Roman with the Public Service Award

Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s policy team alongside Congresswoman Debbie Wassermann-Schultz (center), Rob Moher, CEO of the Conservancy, and Katy Hennig, Director of Communications and Marketing at the Conservancy.