Students from Madison Area Technical College show off some of the trash they collected on the north end of Elliott Key in Biscayne National Park in January 2013.

The South Florida National Parks Trust has delivered grant checks worth $80,000 to Biscayne National Park in recent weeks to support critical park programs and projects, thanks in part to the generous support of Pescanova USA.

The grant payments will fund environmental education programs for South Florida school children, volunteer projects for college students on spring break, boater education classes for South Florida boaters and additional resource protection for the park itself.

“We are deeply grateful to Pescanova USA for its continued support, which has allowed us to provide this support to Biscayne National Park at a critical time,” said Don Finefrock, executive director of the South Florida National Parks Trust.

One week’s worth of trash collected by Alternative Spring Break volunteers from beaches on Elliott and Sands Key in Biscayne National Park.

“Pescanova USA is proud to be able to make a meaningful contribution to this vital organization. The South Florida National Parks Trust and its directors have done an outstanding job supporting our prized National Parks in South Florida. We look forward to continuing to support them,” said Rafael Bru, president of Pescanova USA in Coral Gables, Florida.

Across-the-board spending cuts that took effect this month at the National Park Service and other federal agencies will result in a 5% budget cut at Biscayne National Park – a reduction of $200,000 in the park’s annual budget. Other national parks face similar cuts.

The SFNPT’s grant payments to Biscayne National Park were approved by the SFNPT board in September, before the spending cuts, but the timing of the grant payments highlights the important role that private philanthropy plays in our national parks.

“Private support for national parks is needed now more than ever to support park programs and projects like environmental education that make a critical difference for all of us in South Florida, especially children,” Mr. Finefrock said.

The grant payments from SFNPT to Biscayne National Park include:

• $25,000 for environmental education programs at Biscayne National Park that bring 3,000 school children to the park each year, many for the first time, for day programs and overnight camping, and reach another 6,500 students in classrooms.

• $10,000 to fund a volunteer program at Biscayne National Park that recruits college students to spend spring break in the park, working as volunteers to remove marine debris from park beaches in advance of turtle nesting season. More than 240 students from 22 colleges participated in the program last year.

• $35,000 to install 50 floating markers at the Featherbed Banks in Biscayne National Park to guide boaters and protect shallow habitat in Biscayne Bay.

• $10,000 to fund a boater education program at Biscayne National Park to reduce boat groundings in the park that damage sea grass beds and coral reefs.

In addition to these projects, the SFNPT approved an additional grant of $2,600 to help pay for two citizenship ceremonies this fiscal year at Biscayne National Park for new citizens of the United States – one for adults and one for children and their families. The citizenship ceremonies were held in December.

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