Understanding citizens for better Everglades restoration

Mustafa Kamal Sikder wants more people to engage in Everglades restoration efforts.

Mustafa Kamal Sikder

Mustafa Kamal Sikder

The FIU environmental studies student is examining Floridians’ opinions on the various benefits they currently enjoy from the River of Grass, including water purification, storm protection, recreational opportunities and wildlife habitat. He also wants to explore their attitudes about restoring it. His research project is funded by the Everglades Foundation FIU ForEverglades Scholarship.

“This Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan is one of the largest restoration efforts ever attempted in our country. It is being implemented in 16 counties over an 18,000 square-mile area, but its outcomes will be felt in the entire state,” Sikder said. “Restoration can affect everything from fisheries, which are major, economic drivers, to how we extract ground water for our consumption. People need to be informed of and care about what’s happening with Everglades restoration.”

In 2000, the U.S. Congress authorized the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan to restore, preserve and protect the water resources of the Florida Everglades. By redirecting freshwater flow to areas that need it most, the plan would likely alter the various ecosystem services it provides.

While research has generally focused on the science behind Everglades restoration, Sikder is collecting information from residents living in different areas throughout Florida, including coastal, inland, agricultural and urban communities, through an online survey. The study will also analyze the public’s perception on climate change and sea level rise risk, and how these perceptions align with the restoration plan. According to Sikder, decision-makers need to understand how residents are going to respond to the plan as it is implemented in the next 30 years.

“Policy decisions that have a direct or indirect impact on people requires knowing the public’s preference to ensure its sustainability,” said Sikder, a graduate student conducting research under Earth and Environment Professor Pallab Mozumder.

Sikder hopes the body of knowledge derived from his work will assist policy-makers in introducing, modifying or evading legislation pertaining to Everglades restoration; avoiding local conflicts; and better implementing the restoration plan.