Florida was beautiful today.
I joined Secretary Salazar, a host of other dignitaries, and a literal busload of environmental reporters to view a road project that will elevate a one-mile stretch of the Tamiami Trail highway. This is a fill causeway, completed in 1915, running east-west across the Everglades. It's been a major factor in starving the "River of Grass" (the Everglades' nickname) of its lifeblood -- water.
It was incredible to see the restoration of this resource happening before my eyes, and inspiring to know that USFWS employees have been leaders in this effort.
Later, we helicoptered up to Pelican Island NWR where we were joined by Evan Hirshe (National Wildlife Refuge Association President) and John Pope (Ducks Unlimited Board Chairman), and other partners and employees. We were meeting for a great purpose: to add four new planks into the Centennial Boardwalk Trail.
The 4 planks represent the four new units added to our conservation system:the Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area; the Dakota Grassland National Conservation Area; the Tulare Basin Wildlife Management Area; and Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
Charlie Pelizza and his refuge team were great hosts, and joining were many from the Vero Beach Field Office, including new project leader Larry Williams. I got to see Walt Stieglitz, father of Pacific Islands Refuge Complex manager Barry Stieglitz. Walt worked with my dad, and I spent a few moments reflecting over some of the planks that they are responsible for, like St. Vincent Island NWR. That made me remember former St. Vincent's refuge biologist, Thom Lewis, a wonderful man who who was killed in a tragic crash earlier this year.
All and all, it was a great day--a day punctuated by inspiration and hope for the future and happy memories from the past.