Everglades National Park, home to the Great White Heron (shown), is still a threatened environment, say activists.© U.S. Fish & Wildlife
In a move that mortified many American environmentalists, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO) last week removed Florida’s Everglades from its list of World Heritage Sites in Danger. In announcing the move, United Nations (UN) officials "commended the U.S. for its investment of scientific and financial resources to rehabilitate the site."
But scientists, government officials and environmentalists in South Florida who have been working to save the troubled Everglades from pollution, water shortages and urban development view the decision as a setback for their ongoing efforts. UNESCO uses its World Heritage Site list to mobilize support for important places around the world in need of protection.
In its announcement, UNESCO said the Everglades "had been threatened by urban growth and pollution, as well as by the damage caused to Florida Bay in 1992 by Hurricane Andrew."
"It had been?" asked Jonathan Ullman, Everglades field representative for the nonprofit Sierra Club. "Urban growth and pollution went away? I didn’t get the news flash. The Everglades is more threatened than ever. I’d like to take the UN on a tour of the Everglades."
While the federal government and the state of Florida have pledged millions to remedy environmental problems in the Everglades, environmentalists contend that the area is still threatened and can use all the help it can get if future recovery is to remain viable.
Linda Friar, spokesperson for the 1.5 million-acre Everglades National Park, said leaders of the park and the Interior Department were pleased with the UNESCO announcement but recognize that their work is far from done.
"We believe it was in recognition of the progress that has been made in addressing key issues that led to the listing of the park," she says. "We realize there still remains a great deal of work for all the partners in Everglades restoration to accomplish our long-term goals."