Nelson, Crist to tour Everglades with DOI’s Salazar

Gov. Charlie Crist will tour the Everglades today with U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Kendrick B. Meek.

They will receive a briefing on invasive species control and the Burmese python and will take an airboat tour of Alligator Bay, according to a news release from Meek. Assistant DOI Secretary Thomas Strickland and Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mike Sole also will be along for the tour.

Burmese pythons, having escaped from or having been released by reptile enthusiasts and the pet trade industry, have increased in numbers across the Everglades. They can consume large mammals and could threaten populations of endangered Florida panthers and wood storks, according to researchers at Davidson University.

Meek said the House Appropriations Committee last year provided $195 million for Everglades restoration. On Wednesday, Crist touted a $50-million appropriation for Everglades restoration in the 2009-10 state budget.

“It will allow continued efforts to restore our natural water flow and improve water quality,” Crist said. “It protects the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.”