Biden tours Everglades, brushes off GOP criticism
April 23rd, 2012
07:14 PM ET
11 years ago

Biden tours Everglades, brushes off GOP criticism

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."

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Filed under: Florida • Vice President Biden
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. gt

    joe .. jobs.... no jobs...dont you get it... you guys stink running the country...

    April 23, 2012 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  2. aaron

    Eco jobs are apparently nothing in comparison to the Repub plan to have all average Americans working at Wal-Mart for a pittance and few if any benefits, but they're a start.

    April 23, 2012 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  3. Graham Krueger

    At least when Biden talks like a progressive, it doesn't feel like I'm being lied to as I do whenever Obama does. I hear he's already signing staff up for 2016. I'm not wild about the idea, but I'm not hostile to it either. It's also encouraging to see that whenever there's debates over war policy, Biden is always the more cautious one, hesitating to commit additional troops even when Obama wants to. Now that I think about it, I guess I can vote for these guys after all, if only because of Biden. I hope we don't have to wait for another cycle to get a government that understands the importance of environmental protection.

    April 23, 2012 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  4. Severely Moderate

    Regretting my previous support for Rmoney (before he flip flopped on environmental protection).

    April 23, 2012 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  5. fred ca

    Joe, joe, joe. People ask you about the mansion you live in (like a 'blue-collar boy', albeit one who has never done an honest day of work' should) and you shrug. You use an honest, hard-working Secret Service agent to make a bad joke (good timing joe...maybe you should have a translator who can give you a review of the news in one small Dr. Suess words so you may be able to understand it) and you shrug. You denigrate and lie about union truck drivers and you shrug. You use the tax-payers dime for crass political stunts and you shrug. Come to think of it a good shrug is a perfect talent for a person who has reached the vice-presidency only because he is so shallow and intellectually challenged that he makes his boss appear to be semi-intelligent.

    April 23, 2012 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  6. Larry L

    Republicans want to do away with the EPA, Department of the Interior, and drill, strip-mine or sell off much of our natural wilderness areas.It's very easy to see which political party has any concern for our natural environment.

    April 23, 2012 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |