Left: Julie Wraithmell (l) and Celeste De Palma (c) present the Everglades Champion award to Ms. Rebecca Shultz who accepted the award on behalf of her mother, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schwartz. Right: Julie Wraithmell (l) and Celeste De Palma (r) present the Everglades Champion award to Todd Reid who accepted the award on behalf of Senator Marco Rubio. Photos: Luke Franke/Audubon
TALLAHASSEE, FL – More than 300 participants from across the state met at the 2019 Audubon Assembly in Gainesville Florida to discuss conservation, water, and birds. Field trips, learning sessions, a plenary panel, and keynote presentation by Dr. Tom Frazer, Chief Science Officer for Florida, focused on science-based strategies for clean water and healthy watersheds, while awards recognized individuals and organizations that went above and beyond to create a more resilient Florida.
There were two recipients of the Champion of the Everglades Award for 2019: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Senator Marco Rubio. Everglades restoration is a great example of what is achievable with cross-party and bi-cameral cooperation. Senator Rubio and Congresswoman Schultz were both recognized for their individual achievements and their exemplary bipartisan partnership to secure much-needed funding to advance the largest ecosystem restoration project in the world. Both members of Congress this year were able to accomplish an appropriations bill in their respective committees that secures a historic $200M for Everglades restoration projects.
Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz has been instrumental in passing the bill out of her committee and through the full House this year, which builds on all of her years of support and leadership for America’s Everglades. Senator Rubio led the charge in the Senate’s Appropriations Committee and managed to push the bill out of committee ensuring that $200M for Everglades restoration remained in the Senate’s version. The Senator also fought to secure an additional $100,000 in funding to support Florida Grasshopper Sparrow recovery efforts and committee language emphasizing the importance of the captive breeding program to help recover one of the most endangered birds in North America.
The work by Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz and Senator Rubio gets us closer than ever before to finally achieve the level of funding needed to accelerate the completion of ongoing Everglades projects and continue critically important Endangered Species recovery.
Todd Reid, Senator Rubio’s State Office Director, accepted the award on Senator Rubio’s behalf. And Ms. Rebecca Schultz, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s daughter, accepted the award on her mother’s behalf.