Everglades Victory $1.1 Billion for Restoration

Great news! Last month, the Biden Administration announced an investment of $1.1 billion for Everglades restoration from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act! For decades, NPCA has been leading advocacy efforts to protect and restore America's Everglades. Our steadfast bipartisan outreach to agency and elected leaders has helped garner the widespread support for Everglades restoration that made this historic announcement possible. We will continue to safeguard and restore the habitats of the Greater Everglades so that future generations can explore and enjoy this iconic, wild, beautiful ecosystem. Check out this statement of support from NPCA President Theresa Pierno for more: Parks Group Celebrates Historic Investment in Everglades National Park.

Celebrating Black History Month: Exploring the history of the Saltwater Underground Railroad

Today in the 21st century, many of us have heard of, read about, or personally known people seeking refuge, freedom, or asylum by any means possible. Yet few people have heard the astonishing stories of people traveling across the straits of Florida for freedom -- stories that began more than 200 years ago when generations of enslaved people traveled far south, traversed the wetlands of Florida, and then braved the ocean currents around South Florida to seek freedom in the Bahamas, Cuba and other Caribbean islands. This courageous effort led by people of color became known as the Saltwater Underground Railroad.

Brave travelers boarded everything from canoes to ships, buffeted by tall waves and rough sea currents. Vessels primarily used this southern route to reach the Caribbean islands, and there are many stories that have yet to be uncovered of the people, pathways, waystations and communities that were part of the brave journeys along the Saltwater Underground Railroad. NPCA's Sun Coast region is in the first phase of a long-term effort to research and better understand these stories. Some of the historic points that helped serve as waystations along the journeys south are well-known, like Fort Mosé, the first legally-established free African settlement in North America and now recognized as a National Historic Landmark.

The stories of other sites are lesser-known, like present-day Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, which is officially recognized for its role in being a coastal launch point for people heading across the waters of present-day Biscayne Bay and Biscayne National Park and towards the Bahamas. Stay connected with NPCA as we continue our work to learn about the people that sought freedom across the deep blue ocean: their stories must be discovered and told, the places they stopped at need to be located and honored, and historical narratives uncovered and uplifted.

Employee spotlight: meet Marisa Carrozzo, senior coastal & wildlife program manager for the Sun Coast region of NPCA

What is your job, Marisa? I work to advance park protection campaigns and outreach and engagement throughout the Sun Coast Region with a dual focus on coastal resources and imperiled wildlife in park units such as Biscayne National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve and beyond. I collaborate closely with the Sun Coast Regional team and community partners, contributing to NPCA's Greater Everglades ecosystem program, advancing our work to protect Florida's iconic wildlife, expanding our efforts to build coastal resilience, and broadening connectivity across the region. I am also currently serving my second consecutive term as co-chair of the Everglades Coalition, an alliance of over 60 conservation and environmental groups dedicated to the restoration and protection of America's Everglades.

What is the best part of your work? I grew up near Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio and other conservation areas, and I love working with an organization that is so authentically committed to protecting these special places. Working in collaboration both with the NPCA team and with partners across diverse groups to achieve shared goals is inspiring. Plus, there are endless learning opportunities, challenges and variety every single day.

What is your favorite national park and why? It's very difficult to pick a favorite national park, with so many stellar options. If I had to choose, I would go with the one right in my backyard: Big Cypress National Preserve. I love Big Cypress because it has such an ancient feel to it. Being in the swamp is the closest I can get to time travel. (Bonus answer: runner-up national park outside of the Sun Coast is Acadia National Park in Maine.)

Advocating for an Iconic Species: NPCA files Petition to List Ghost Orchids under the ESA

The Sun Coast Region of NPCA recently advanced an important effort to advocate for listing the ghost orchid, Dendrophylax lindenii, under the Endangered Species Act. NPCA joined the Institute for Regional Conservation and the Center for Biological Diversity in submitting a petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requesting protection of the ghost orchid due to many threats the orchid is facing. The ghost orchid, one of the most famous and imperiled flowers in our region, has declined by more than 90% globally. Ghost orchids have long captured people's attention and part of their elusive allure is that, as “leafless” orchids, for most of the year they nearly blend into their swamp surroundings as a jumble of roots attached to trees, until the fleeting time comes when their white flowers bloom at the peak of the humid summer. Our petition details the many compelling and science-based reasons why the ghost orchid should be a federally protected species ranging from threats such as climate change and hurricane impacts, hydrologic changes to its native deep swamp habitats, illegal poaching, and more. NPCA is calling upon the Fish and Wildlife Service to designate the orchid as well as to designate critical habitat that is essential to the survival and recovery of the orchid.

Florida’s State Legislative Session Underway

Floridas sixty-day legislative session began on January 11, 2022. NPCA has a number of priority issues for our state lawmakers, including:

  • Invest in Everglades restoration. NPCA supports the state’s current proposal of $441M to advance the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) and Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir. This funding will go directly to implementing projects to improve water quality, and in doing so, bolster our economy, enhance climate resiliency, create quality jobs for Floridians and protect our water supply and national parks.  
  • Protect and restore coral reefs and seagrass habitat. The Florida Reef Tract is the third largest coral reef ecosystem on the planet, and provides critical ecological and economic benefits. Corals, seagrass and other marine habitats are threatened by unsustainable fishing, climate change, disease and degraded water quality. NPCA supports stricter protections and expansions for marine protected areas, increased funding for coral disease research and mitigation, and improved fisheries management to protect our reefs.
  • Promote a clean energy future and prevent new oil development inside park ecosystems. As Florida grows, so must our investment in clean energy that will power our communities while mitigating the threat of climate change. Expanding the use of renewable and water-smart energy, and not authorizing new oil exploration or drilling within sensitive ecosystems, are the responsible ways to plan for our future and protect our treasured national parks.

Thank you for all you do, and I hope you will stay connected with us at NPCA. Your support means so much!

Warm regards,


Melissa E. Abdo, Ph.D.
Regional Director, Sun Coast

Photos, from top: Everglades from the air | © SimonSkafar / iStockphoto; Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is a designated site in the Saltwater Underground Railroad network. | © istock, Wilsilver77; Ghost orchids, recently proposed for listing under the ESA, are found in only one national park unit: Big Cypress Natl. Preserve. | © Haniel Pulido / Falcon Shots