After the United Nations decided to drop the Florida Everglades like a cheating ex from its list of threatened World Heritage Sites, the U.S. Congress rather gallantly stepped into the breach. Three major Florida water projects that will help restore what writer Michael Grunwald calls "the ecological equivalent of motherhood and apple pie," are now part of a $21 billion national water bill that made it through House and Senate negotiations.
The White House isn't enthused about picking up the potential tab, but political analysts say there might be enough Senate votes in favor of the bill to override a Presidential veto. "After years of congressional inaction to tackle Florida's Everglades restoration, I am pleased to see Congress reaffirm its commitment," says Ron Klein, a U.S. Representative from Florida who has repeatedly backed a series of Everglades restoration bills that failed to pass.
Good intentions aside, the region's pesticide-intensive agricultural practices may impede any sizable attempt to restore the 16,000-square-mile ecosystem, mainly by leaching chemicals into the groundwater.
Could hemp be the answer? Sunn hemp, a tall, herbaceous annual that grows rapidly to a height of 6 to 7 feet, can reduce groundwater contamination, say scientists from the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the University of Florida, while reducing soil erosion, discouraging weeds, and enriching soil. The widely misunderstood crop can also be used to manufacture cloth, twine, paper, and rope.