Florida Ranchlands Environmental Services Project (FRESP)
Launched in 2005, FRESP took a collaborative, entrepreneurial approach to addressing some of south Florida's toughest environmental challenges.
Efforts to drain the greater Everglades over the past century changed the hydrology of the Everglades ecosystem to allow for rapid urban and agricultural development across south Florida. However, these developments also contributed to degraded water quality and flow into Lake Okeechobee and the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries, threatened vulnerable wildlife habitat, and resulted in massive loss of freshwater into the ocean.
The six-year FRESP pilot project was a stakeholder partnership that included ranchers, environmental groups, state and federal agencies, and research scientists. The pilot project's goal was to design a "payment for environmental services" (PES) program in which willing ranch-owner "sellers" could enter into contracts with state-agency "buyers" to provide water retention and nutrient load reduction services above and beyond regulatory requirements critical to improving the health of Lake Okeechobee and the estuaries as well as contributing to greater Everglades' restoration.
© Linda McCarthy / Lykes Bros Inc
The FRESP team succeeded in its mission with the launch in November 2010 of the newly created Dispersed Water Management Northern Everglades--Payment for Environmental Services (NE-PES) program. A program of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), the NE-PES program is administered collaboratively with other state and federal agencies. Having successfully completed its mission in contributing to the design of the NE-PES program, the FRESP pilot phase is coming to a close in 2012.