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SCCF, BIG ARTS and Everglades Foundation to present conservation forum

By Staff | Feb 3, 2009

South Florida Water Management District Governing Board Vice Chair Shannon Estenoz will be on Sanibel on March 4, to participate in the annual Conservation Lecture at BIG ARTS sponsored by the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, BIG ARTS and Everglades Foundation.
“U.S. Sugar, Local Aquatic Preserves and the Everglades: How Getting the Water Right in the Everglades Agricultural Area Helps Our Estuary” will feature Estenoz, who has been instrumental in the vote to support the purchase; Dr. Thomas Van Lent, Senior Scientist for the Everglades Foundation; and Rae Ann Wessel, SCCF Natural Resource Policy Director who has brought the voice of the west coast and our estuary to the discussions and decision-makers. Kirk Fordham, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, will moderate the panel discussion.
Estenoz will present a brief overview of the status of the purchase. Dr. Van Lent will present a program on restoration alternatives after the land purchase, including the science of storing one million-acre feet of water in the Everglades Agricultural Area and positive benefits for Southwest Florida resulting from the acquisition of 180,000 acres south of Lake Okeechobee from U.S. Sugar Corp. The presentation will be followed by an interactive public participation panel discussion and question-and-answer session.
Following the presentation, attendees are invited to a wine and cheese reception on the Gainer Veranda, sponsored by BIG ARTS.
This is a unique opportunity to access these decision-makers, ask questions about the deal and find out how you can help make this historic opportunity a reality.
The program will be held on March 4 at BIG ARTS. (It was scheduled for Feb. 17 but has been moved due to a conflict in events on the Island.) Tickets will be $20 per person. BIG ARTS is located at 900 Dunlop Road, Sanibel. Tickets are available at BIG ARTS or by phone at (239) 395-0900; for more information on the program, please call SCCF at (239) 472-2329.

Speaker biographies

Shannon Estenoz is the vice chair, Board of Governors of the South Florida Water Management District. Since 1996, Shannon has worked in the NGO sector for the restoration of the Everglades, She began her Everglades career as the executive director of the Environmental & Land Use Law Center. In 1997 Shannon joined the World Wildlife Fund as its Everglades field representative, and later as its Everglades program director. Shannon joined the National Parks Conservation Association as the director of its Sun Coast Region, a position she held until July 2007. In April of 2007, Gov. Charlie Crist appointed Shannon to the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District, and today she serves as the Board’s vice chair, and as vice chair of the Water Resources Advisory Commission. Shannon also chairs the Broward County Water Resources Task Force. In 2001 Shannon won a National Wetland Award for her role in the passage of the Water Resources Development Act of 2000, which authorized the $8 billion Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. Shannon is a fifth generation native of Key West and holds degrees in international affairs and civil engineering from Florida State University.

Tom Van Lent, Ph.d., P.E., is currently the senior scientist at the Everglades Foundation where he works on providing scientific and technical support to non-governmental environmental organizations supported by the Foundation.  His responsibilities include presenting expert analysis of hydrologic, engineering, and ecological information to assist in development of Everglades restoration alternatives and meeting Everglades restoration and protection objectives. Van Lent has a distinguished career as a scientist and engineer. He graduated from South Dakota State University before attending the University of Minnesota and Stanford University where he received master’s and doctorate’s degrees respectively. He has also worked at the South Florida Water Management District, Everglades National Park and as an assistant professor at South Dakota State University.  Van Lent is a resident of the Florida Keys.

Rae Ann Wessel, SCCF natural resource policy director, is a limnologist and marine scientist with 26 years of experience working in the environmental field in South Florida. For 19 years, she managed her own environmental consulting firm, Ecosystem Specialists, working both in the field and with regulations at the local, regional, state and federal levels. In 1994 Wessel assisted with coordination of a community forum on issues related to the Caloosahatchee. The forum resulted in the creation of the non-profit Caloosahatchee River Citizens Association. Since that time, she has been involved with identifying critical Caloosahatchee issues and building support for sustainable solutions. In addition, she is involved in oxbow research, historical documentation, natural resource policy issues and education projects on the Caloosahatchee and its estuary. Wessel has developed and guides educational river cruises about the history, folklore, ecology and current issues related to this historic river.

Kirk Fordham is a veteran political operative, having worked on numerous House and Senate campaigns. He currently serves as chief executive officer of the Everglades Foundation, the only national organization dedicated solely to protecting and restoring one of the world’s most unique natural ecosystems. Previously, Fordham worked as head of Rock Creek Strategies, his own public affairs and government relations firm. For 14 years, he served as a chief of staff and senior legislative staffer on Capitol Hill for three Members of Congress. In 2004, he was the architect of the successful fundraising effort for then-HUD Secretary Mel Martinez’s winning Senate campaign.  A graduate of the University of Maryland-College Park, Fordham is a native of Rochester, New York and now lives in Miami.

About the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation

The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, Inc., is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of natural resources and wildlife habitat on and around Sanibel and Captiva through environmental education, land acquisition, landscaping for wildlife, marine research, natural resource policy, sea turtle conservation and wildlife habitat management. As part of the SCCF Marine Laboratory’s work, real-time water quality data from the SCCF RECON (River, Estuary & Coastal Observing Network) sensors can be found at www.recon.sccf.org. Community support through membership dues and tax-deductible contributions makes this work possible.

Known as Sanibel and Captiva’s home for all the arts, BIG ARTS is dedicated to providing quality cultural and educational experiences to the residents and visitors of Sanibel, Captiva and neighboring communities. BIG ARTS has been providing cultural enrichment and fulfillment to island residents since 1979. It began when a group of artists dreamed of a cultural center on the island. Today, BIG ARTS members and participants enjoy a wide spectrum of performing and visual arts events and the community participates in more than 170 educational classes and workshops each year. For more information, visit www.bigarts.org

About the Everglades Foundation Mission

The Everglades Foundation, Inc. is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit, charitable organization dedicated to protecting and restoring one of the world’s unique natural ecosystems that provides economic, recreational and life-sustaining benefits to the millions of people who depend on its future health. Since 1993, the Everglades Foundation has played a leadership role in advancing Everglades restoration through the advancement of scientifically sound and achievable solutions. The Foundation seeks to reverse the damage inflicted on the ecosystem and provide policymakers and the public with an honest and credible resource to help guide decision-making on complex restoration issues. For more information, please visit www.evergladesfoundation.org