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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – President Barack Obama, on Earth Day, put the national spotlight on the country’s largest subtropical wilderness—the Everglades.

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National leaders were at South Florida’s iconic River of Grass to bring awareness to the effects of climate change, and to highlight the one-of-a-kind environmental treasure that is the Everglades.

The president spoke around 3:15 pm after touring the Anhinga Trail in Everglades National Park.


Obama, during his speech under cloudy skies in the Everglades, said rising sea levels threatens South Florida aquifers and called on Congress to provide money for a land and water protection fund.

WEB EXTRA: Click here to WATCH President Barack Obama’s full speech

“The sawgrass prairies and mangrove forests are home to an incredibly diversity of wildlife,” said the President to a group of political and environmental leaders, as well as national and local media.

The President spoke of the dangers of climate change, and rising sea levels to delicate areas like the Everglades. And he emphasized his administration’s commitment to the world’s largest public plumbing project, as environmentalists call it, the Everglades restoration.

CLICK HERE to watch Natalia Zea’s report

“South Florida, you’re getting your drinking water from this area. It depends on this,” said the President, motioning to the sweeping green landscape behind his podium.

Eric Eikenberg, CEO for the non-profit group the Everglades Foundation which actively pushes for the completion of the restoration projects, is thrilled the President spotlighted the Everglades and the concerns of climate change.

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Eikenberg was invited to attend the president’s speech.

“It’s vitally important that we restore this ecosystem, not just for today but for generations to come,” Eikenberg told CBS4’s Natalia Zea.

Eikenberg emphasized that the 240-million proposed in the President’s 2016 budget is critical to the project’s success to keep freshwater flowing, and preventing it from being contaminated and in some cases, dumped out into the ocean and Gulf.

“Money is the key,” said Eikenberg.

Governor Rick Scott sent out a statement criticizing a backlog of federal dollars to maintain the Everglades. And the governor added in his statement, criticizing the Obama administration, “We also need the federal government to step up their commitment to Everglades restoration by immediately requiring the Army Corps of Engineers to repair the Lake Okeechobee dike.”

However, Eikenberg says the restoration project is also waiting on the state to approve a large land deal with big sugar that would help clean and ease the waste of freshwater.


The President promised continued support on his end.

“I want Malia and Sasha not only to be able to enjoy this amazing view. I want my grandchildren, way way, long time from now to enjoy this amazing view.”

President Obama also announced a program called Every Kid in a Park which gives free passes to public parks for all fourth graders and their families for a full year- so they can enjoy natural beauty like the Everglades.

Earth Day’s mission each year is to broaden, diversify and activate the environmental movement worldwide through a combination of education, public policy and consumer campaigns, according to the website.

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The first Earth Day was on April 22, 1970.