Everglades National Park, Florida (CNN) - On Monday, Vice President Joe Biden found himself in the midst of predators, with alligators in the water and snakes in the grass.
It was all part of a carefully crafted tour through a slice of the Florida Everglades near Miami. The 4.5 million acre Everglades is home to birds and beasts as well as various other wildlife, many of them threatened or endangered.
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After his tour via airboat, the vice president took to a podium before a small audience, and used a joke to explain that it was his first time touring the Everglades.
"I know Ronnie Bergeron is here," Biden said, referring to well known Everglades advocate and Florida businessman Ron Bergeron. "He tried to get me out there about 10 years ago. But he didn't want me to go see it. He wanted me to wrestle alligators. Y'all think I'm kidding. I'm not kidding. He's one crazy son of a gun."
As the audience laughed, Biden continued his joke.
"You see this man right here? My Secret Service guy?" the vice president asked, referring to an agent just off stage.
"He said that if I go, he'll shoot you, Ronnie. I'm only kidding. That's not true. He didn't say he'd shoot Ronnie. He said he'd shoot the alligator if I went."
The purpose of Biden's visit was to highlight the environmental, economical and ecological benefits of the Everglades – and tout the administration's efforts to further all three. Two Florida lawmakers, both Democrats, appeared with Biden: Sen. Bill Nelson, certain to face a tough re-election this fall, and Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings. After speaking himself, Hastings introduced Nelson as primed to win his "third term as our United States Senator."
Seemingly in anticipation of such political posturing, the Republican National Committee emailed reporters a statement in advance of Biden's visit, summing up its view of the trip.
"Vice President Biden's taxpayer funded trip to the swing state of Florida today demonstrates how worried the Obama campaign is about its chances in November," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus wrote. "Floridians are not better off today than they were four years ago and President Obama's plans to increase taxes, increase spending, and grow the size of government would only make things worse for Floridians in the next four years."
Just after his speech, a reporter asked Biden about those comments.
"Tell him to come down and take a look and see the good work we're doing," Biden said.
Whether political or not, Biden did highlight the administration's efforts to restore the vast landscape. The area includes wet grasslands, wilderness, ranch lands and waterways. The national park alone covers 1.5 million acres.
"It ranks up there with any other monument I can think of," Biden said. "Whether it's the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone Park, the Rockies, Niagara Falls, Redwood Forests."
Two areas Biden zeroed in on: the natural and human resource benefits of the Everglades
"The truth of the matter is, people around the country, you know, they know the Everglades," Biden said. "But they just, they have no comprehension, no comprehension of what a federal and national treasure it is."
"It supports some of the greatest biodiversity on the planet – including 68 threatened and endangered species, 350 species of birds," Biden added. "And it's the only place on earth where the Florida panther lives."
Biden also called the landscape an "economic engine."
"Just last year, in one year, the [Army] Corps Of Engineers construction project generated 6,600 good paying jobs for Floridians and their families – and thousands of indirect jobs," Biden said, adding that nearly 1 million tourists visited the Everglades National Park in 2011 and citing 4.3 million who visit portions that are federal lands from around the world.
"So what we're talking about here is an economic engine that generates millions of tourists to Florida: from renting hotel rooms, buying food, renting automobiles, taking out airboats, and everything else you can imagine that goes along with it," Biden said.
"It's a gigantic economic engine."
Biden also said restoration projects currently underway would garner "$46.5 billion net additional revenue to the state of Florida – just as a consequence of this restoration."
"All these projects have the benefit of preserving tens of thousands of more jobs in the industries that Florida is known for in the tourist industries," Biden said.
The vice president also talked about the Everglades' importance as related to water.
"Almost a third of Florida's population depends on the Everglades as the primary source of their drinking water," Biden said. "So do Floridians as well who are engaged in agriculture…citrus, all kinds of vegetable farmers rely on water from the Everglades. That's why so many of our projects here are focused on restoring natural water flow back to the Everglades."
He added, "Working with partners like the state of Florida, our work here is going to help prevent the kind of damaging water shortages that can cripple any community, particularly large ones."