The Florida Everglades is a vast and dynamic landscape characterized by pulsing flows of water, iconic wildlife, tree islands, and a complex mosaic of floral assemblages. The Everglades ecosystem was referred to as Payhay- okee, or grassy lake, by the Seminole Indians and has been designated as a World Heritage Site, a Ramsar Convention Wetland of International Importance, and a World Biosphere Reserve. Unfortunately, the “grassy lake” has been transformed into a highly managed network of canals and water management structures designed to reclaim the Everglades for agricultural use and settlement. Recognizing the deleterious impact of water management in the Everglades, the state of Florida and the U.S. federal government have agreed to an ambitious attempt to revive natural flow regimes called the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).4 Policymakers and researchers are realizing that conservation and management planning efforts, including the CERP, must incorporate the reality of global climate change.
This article seeks to help incorporate adaptive management strategies into the CERP to improve climate resilience. Specifically, this article recommends that Congress amend the farm bill13 to encourage Everglades farmers to adapt to the reality of climate change by restoring agricultural fields to native habitat. Part II provides the context of the recommendations by reviewing the baseline conditions of the Everglades ecosystem including efforts to manage water, the current legal apparatus governing Everglades agriculture, and the projected impact of climate change on the system. Part III then provides a spatially explicit adaptive management plan for Everglades farmers, and describes amendments to the farm bill that support efforts to adapt Everglades farming practices to the reality of climate change. To facilitate this process, the author argues that a direct subsidy should be extended to Everglades farmers who plant and adaptively manage stands of native vegetation in order to increase water quality and climate resilience.
Environmental Claims Journal, 26(1):63–83, 2014