With the recent news that the White House budget plan recommends the elimination of federal funding for Rookery Bay and the 29 National Research Reserves, the Friends of Rookery Bay has launched a Call to Action on our website. Our campaign is simple: It is Congress that determines the federal budget, and those of us who care about this 110,000-acre pristine wildlife sanctuary need to let our representatives in Congress know about our concerns. That’s how our democracy works.
Rookery Bay was designated as a National Estuarine Research Reserve 39 years ago, as the outcome of local community action in response to concerns about saving Rookery Bay from planned development that would have changed this unique landscape forever. Since that time, the national system of Reserves has received strong bipartisan support from Congress, serving as a model for working with coastal communities and local government with a non-regulatory approach that works. For over 40 years, this unique federal/state/local partnership has effectively leveraged resources and delivered a strong return on the investment.
In 2004, President George W. Bush visited Rookery Bay’s Environmental Learning Center, giving a nationally televised speech about the values of environmental stewardship and volunteerism. Rookery Bay Reserve has received national recognition for environmental education efforts that have reached over 30,000 local students, and helping to sustain the health of our coastal waters by providing science-based information to local decision-makers.
Our business partners in the local community, from the hotel and tourist industry, to sport fishing and recreational boating interests, can speak to the powerful economic engine of Rookery Bay and the Ten Thousand Islands that generates millions of dollars in revenue each year, while supporting thousands of local jobs.
The loss of federal funds for Rookery Bay Reserve would be devastating. The annual federal investment in this long-standing partnership is over $600,000 per year to Rookery Bay Reserve, supporting core staffing and key education and research programs that are fundamental to the Reserve’s mission. The federal contribution is matched by additional funding from the State of Florida through a cost share agreement.
For 30 years, the Friends of Rookery Bay has worked with partners in the local community to raise additional funds and services that effectively leverage the federal and state investment, supporting needed environmental education, research and stewardship programs. Last year, our members contributed 14,300 volunteer hours to Rookery Bay, equating to a value of over $300,000 in services.
The story of Rookery Bay Reserve has always been about people: an engaged local community that feels strongly enough about this special place, and the important work required to sustain it, to step up and become a part of it. And that is our Call to Action, once again seeking to save Rookery Bay, so that our children and grandchildren can continue to experience what we have been so fortunate to have. I have cherished memories of spending many fun-filled days in Rookery Bay with my daughters as they grew up exploring the wonders of an estuary, and I am compelled to act. Many of you have had your own personal connections and experiences with Rookery Bay. We need your help.
Over 1,350 people signed our local petition delivered to Congress, voicing their concern about the potential loss of federal funding for Rookery Bay. Over 250 people have also written to their Representatives in Congress.
Gary Lytton, Executive Director
Friends of Rookery Bay