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Local and State News Update

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Here’s a local news update from WFIT, Florida Today, and the Florida News Exchange.

Army Corps To Spend Over $1 Billion On Everglades Projects

Wednesday the Biden administration announced a $14 billion dollar Army Corps spending plan to make the nation’s bridges, roads, ports and other infrastructure more resilient.

The spending includes just over a billion dollars for the Everglades.

The money will pay for five projects from the Indian River Lagoon to Biscayne Bay that will help better manage water as restoration work progresses.

“The overarching theme in these projects is protect the coastal habitats”.

Jerry Lornez has been working in the Everglades for three decades. He is a biologist with Audubon Florida. He says that’s going to help fend off sea rise and the impacts of climate change.

Two reservoirs in Brevard County will help freshwater flow in the northern Indian River Lagoon, where manatees have been starving. A Broward County preserve will keep Everglades water from seeping out of marshes and into western neighborhoods.

There’s also money for planning a complex suite of projects in Miami-Dade County that will help Biscayne Bay and restore wetlands that protect drinking water and absorb greenhouse gases.

“They do all fit. It's how can eight million people live in cohabitation with an Everglades that if we lose it, we lose our we lose our habitation anyway? So there isn't a choice here.”

The pace of work has been slowed by the inconsistent funding that never equaled the amount Congress projected when it approved the plan in 2000. The feds share the cost with the state of Florida. The work is now expected to cost $23 billion. That’s four times higher than the original projection.

Never say goodbye: Bird advocates hold out hope that ivory-billed woodpeckers still live

There hasn't been a reliable account of an ivory-billed woodpecker in nearly eight decades, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is ready to give up on the bird and declare it extinct.

Environmental groups and bird advocates, however, say the bird should not be removed from the Endangered Species List as there is a possibility that it still exists. Plus, protecting the bird helps guard vital wildlife habitat from logging and development.

The Fish and Wildlife Service says there are no more ivory-billed woodpeckers in the United States. A public hearing on the proposed delisting is scheduled for Wednesday via Zoom. .

Ivory-billed woodpeckers mainly ate wood-boring larvae that burrowed between the bark and sapwood of dead trees.

Those old-growth trees, however, were harvested over the past century-plus, and the ivory-billed disappeared with them.

Some of the most recent accounts were based on video footage taken in the deep swamps of Arkansas, which is also the last place that generated a reliable account of the bird (1944).

Jerry Jackson is a retired Florida Gulf Coast University professor and expert on the ivory-billed woodpecker.

He said he's disappointed that the FWS is going to remove the bird from the Endangered Species List

"With a species that has a wide range and lives in a very difficult habitat to work in, one can't prove that it doesn't exist," Jackson said.

Jackson said the draining of swamps to create space for agriculture and development was a major factor in the disappearance of the species.

"It's very hard to prove something doesn't exist," said Julie Wraithmell, director of Audubon Florida. "It's been the Holy Grail bird my whole life, and it breaks my heart to let that go. I think I'll always hold out hope that in some remote forest that there are a few birds hanging on. For all intents and purposes, it's extinct, but I refuse to give up."

For these stories and more www.floridatoday.com

Terri Wright has held the position of General Manager at WFIT since 1998.