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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NOAA 04 - R413
Feb 19, 2004

CONTACT:

Cheva Heck
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
(305) 292-0311

NATIONAL LEADERS ATTEND GROUNDBREAKING FOR FLORIDA KEYS ECO-DISCOVERY CENTER

National and local leaders joined Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere Tim Keeney today at the groundbreaking of the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center. President Bush’s chief environmental advisor Jim Connaughton, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau and Key West Mayor Jimmy Weekley participated in the event. The groundbreaking was hosted by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (NMSF), the nonprofit partner of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Sanctuary Program.

The Eco-Discovery Center will be a world-class visitor facility, part of the three-building Dr. Nancy Foster Florida Keys Environmental Complex, which is slated to open in the summer of 2005 at the Truman Annex in Key West. The center will feature 6,000 square feet of interactive, professionally developed exhibits on the Florida Keys, and focus on human interaction with the environment, the management of marine protected areas, and the maritime culture and history of the area.

“The Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center will help NOAA and our federal partners reach the public with important information about how we can all contribute toward the protection and conservation of the coral reef ecosystem for future generations,” said Keeney. “Conservation starts with education.”

“As a frequent traveler to the Florida Keys for 25 years, I have joined countless others in enjoying their ecological beauty, marveling at their rich marine history, and basking in their warm hospitality and the recreational adventures they provide,” said Connaughton. “I am pleased to represent President Bush and his Administration in helping to break ground on the new Eco-Discovery Center that will inspire even more Americans to cherish the natural wonder of the Keys and preserve and protect its shores, waters, reefs, and vibrant ecosystems for generations to come.”

“The Florida Keys possess one of the most unique and beautiful environments on the planet,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “It is only fitting that a visitor center of this caliber dedicated to the environment and our ecosystem be built in Key West. The Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center will have a significant impact on how the public views these resources in the future and will motivate both residents and visitors to help further protect them.”

“The Eco-Discovery Center will be a world-class visitor facility focused on the Florida Keys,” said Cousteau. “We want people to have an opportunity to be a permanent part of this incredible environmental education center. This way we can all be Ambassadors for the ocean.”

“The Florida Key Eco-Discovery Center will give visitors and residents an opportunity to experience the natural environment of the Florida Keys without ever having to put on a snorkel or hike through a mangrove forest,” said Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Superintendent Billy D. Causey. “The center also will offer visitors a compelling look at our fragile coral reef ecosystem.”

The Eco-Discovery Center is a cooperative effort of the NOAA’s Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The federal partners are being supported by the fundraising capabilities of the NMSF.

NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program (NMSP) seeks to increase public awareness of America’s maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration and educational programs. Today, 13 national marine sanctuaries encompass more than 18,000 square miles of America’s ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources.

NOAA’s National Ocean Service (NOS) manages the NMSP and is dedicated to exploring, understanding, conserving and restoring the nation’s coasts and oceans. The NOS balances environmental protection with economic prosperity in fulfilling its mission of promoting safe navigation, supporting coastal communities, sustaining coastal habitats and mitigating coastal hazards.

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is the private sector, nonprofit partner to the federally managed National Marine Sanctuary Program, part of the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Through public and private sector partnerships, the foundation creates conservation-based programs designed to preserve, protect and promote these underwater treasures.

The Commerce Department’s NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.


On the Web:
NOAA - http://www.noaa.gov
NOAA National Ocean Service - http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/
Florida Keys NMS - http://www.floridakeys.noaa.gov
National Marine Sanctuary Foundation - http://www.nmsfocean.org

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