Everglades to be put back on U.N. endangered list?

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is meeting with a task force charged with overseeing the restoration of the Florida Everglades this week. He intends to tell them that the Obama administration will ask the United Nations World Heritage Committee to put the national park back on its endangered list when the committee meet in Spain this week.

Two years ago, in what has been viewed as a controversial decision, the Bush administration requested that the U.N. remove the Everglades from the list. At the time, the Department of the Interior defended the decision by citing progress being made in protecting the region and the species that lived there, despite the fact that the restoration program had failed to meet milestones, and was billions over budget.

The current administration believes restoring the Everglades National Park to the list of endangered places will send a strong signal to environmentalists that they are committed to the protecting the environment. If restored to the list, the park will join the Galapagos Islands, the Old City of Jerusalem and Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley as the other World Heritage Sites considered to be in danger. The Everglades were originally added to the list back in 1993 when the area was damaged by Hurricane Andrew and the effects of prolonged exposure to water pollution became known.

Despite the issues effecting the park, the Everglades remains a popular tourist destination. There are more than 156 miles of canoe/kayak and hiking trails, with 47 designated campsites, inside the 2500 square miles of subtropical forest that define the parks boundaries. The Park Service reports that over one million visitors experience the Everglades each year.