FAMU assists in South Florida Everglades restoration

Faculty members will play a role in restoring the Everglades in South Florida. The campus’s Center of Environmental Equity and Justice will assist the South Florida Water Management District and Army Corps of Engineers in executing an environment and economic equity plan.

Richard Gragg, assistant director of the Environmental Sciences Institute, said the mission of the plan is to “access the possible impact of the restoration project on minority and low-income projects.”

Two of Gragg’s colleagues will also assist in the plan.

Larry Shannon is a visiting professor from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Hazel Taylor serves as the center’s coordinator of programs and services. Taylor said, that as part of the plan’s mission, she will develop a community outreach and education program in Leon and surrounding counties.

“The program is geared towards informing residents about environmental equity,” Taylor said. “We will have seminars to acquaint participants about what’s happening in their backyards and be able to help them if they have problems”.

These problems, according to Taylor, include the lack of information residents have to report environmental hazards in their communities.

“Most of them don’t report environmental problems because they don’t know where to get help,” Taylor said. “Through the outreach program, we can provide them with assistance or tell them who to call. Hopefully, we can stir them in the right direction.”

Reaching out to the FAMU community is no stranger to Taylor or the Center for Environment Equity and Justice, established in 1998 within the Environmental Sciences Institute,

The Florida Environmental Equity and Justice Commission, created in 1994, recommended the establishment of the center after reporting that certain communities were centers of environmental hazards.

Gragg said FAMU has been working on the plan for almost two years and became involved in the restoration project through Larry Robinson’s, the director of the Environmental Sciences Institute, affiliation with the National Academy of Sciences. Robinson serves on the academy’s Scientific Advisory Board.

Although FAMU has been working on the plan for almost two years, the restoration project made state headlines when President George W. Bush and Gov. Jeb Bush signed an agreement Jan. 9 guaranteeing water for the Everglades project.

The plan calls for $7.8 billion to be spent over the next 30 years.

Gragg, who is also an associate professor in the Environmental Sciences Institute, said he is in the process of establishing a cooperative contract where graduate students will serves as interns, assisting South Florida Water Management District and Army Corps of Engineers officials to implement the plan.