A Message for the Fourth

Why America must answer the call to save a national treasure.

In marshalling support for our 100 Yards of Hope coral reef restoration project in the waters off South Florida, the veterans of FORCE BLUE and the scientific partners with whom we work, often speak about the challenges facing these fragile ecosystems globally— how 75% of the planet’s coral reefs are now dead or in decline; how 500 million people currently rely on them for food, and how storms and rising sea levels could create 2 billion refugees by 2100 if these reefs are allowed to disappear.

We also talk a lot about Florida. How, in the distance between Fort Pierce and The Dry Tortugas, all the threats posed to the world’s coral reefs are somehow distilled and magnified. How, though it is only a fraction of the size, Florida’s Coral Reef generates more jobs (70,000) and revenue ($6B) than Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. And how, if we have the courage and determination to make it so, Florida’s Coral Reef can become “Ground Zero” in the fight to save coral reefs everywhere.

“America is a tune. It must be sung together”
Gerald Stanley Lee, Crowds

What sometimes gets lost, however, is the American component — how as citizens of the greatest nation on earth and beneficiaries of what French diplomat Alexis de Tocqueville first coined “The American Experiment” — we have an obligation to make rescuing the only barrier reef system in the continental United States a national priority. Not simply because we should, but because we can.

At a time when so much of what confronts us seems beyond our control, this is not. We have the ability to preserve and restore this national treasure, and, in so doing, to remind the world what America is capable of when we all “sing” together.

This July 4th, as our nation gathers to celebrate the first team of Americans who declared “We have a better idea”, the veterans and scientists of FORCE BLUE and 100 Yards of Hope, invite you to join the next.

One team. One fight

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The 100 Yards of Hope team is actively seeking support from all those who believe in the mission and would like to play a part in its success. 

Those corporations, companies, organizations and individuals who would like to contribute to the effort should contact Jim Ritterhoff, jim@forceblueteam.org / 914.841.7230

Members of the media who would like to help tell the 100 Yards of Hope story should contact Emily Patrolia, emily@forceblueteam.org / 703.718.6189

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100 Yards of Hope is a large-scale coral reef restoration project located offshore of Key Biscayne, FL on the middle reef (what is currently known as “Rainbow Reef”). The water depth on-site ranges from 17-28 feet and is accessible to both snorkelers and divers. The project, which unites veterans from FORCE BLUE and the SEAL Veterans Foundation with marine scientists and ocean advocates from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School’s Rescue A Reef Program, Phillip & Patricia Frost Museum of Science, The Florida Aquarium, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Ocean Conservancy (the “100 Yards of Hope Team”) is using the best available restoration techniques to increase the abundance and accelerate the recovery of key coral species within our depleted reefs.

100 Yards of Hope is a football field-length ecosystem restoration effort including corals, sponges, gorgonians, diadema, and other marine life native to Florida’s Coral Reef. This project will result in the out-planting of 1,250 coral colonies (including branching, brain, and star corals) and 10,000s of coral larvae.

Built to address to seemingly unrelated problems — the rapidly declining health of our oceans and the difficulty too many servicemen and women face in their transition back to civilian life once their service ends — FORCE BLUE is the only nonprofit organization in the world that retrains, retools and redeploys former Special Operations veterans and military-trained combat divers to work alongside marine scientists on missions of environmental conservation and preservation. By adopting a trans-partisan, mission-focused approach, FORCE BLUE has created a model of caring, cooperation and positive change with the power to restore lives and the planet.

NFL Green, the NFL’s environmental program, has managed environmental-related Super Bowl projects for nearly 30 years. These environmental projects are part of a larger program of community events and initiatives implemented each year by the NFL and Super Bowl Host Committee to leave a positive benefit in each Super Bowl host community. NFL Green forms partnerships that can create a positive, “green” legacy in host communities. These efforts include urban forestry and community greening projects, food recovery and distribution, recycling and solid waste management, recovery and donation of event and building materials, the use of “green energy” to power events, and the Super Kids-Super Sharing community project which puts books, sports equipment and school supplies into the hands of local children in need.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship, protecting our air, water and land. Protecting water quality and preserving the state’s natural resources remains a top priority for the DEP in addition to protecting Florida’s reef systems through its Coral Reef Conservation Program, co-management of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and through its roles in the US Coral Reef Task Force and US All Islands Coral Reef Committee. The department leads national and statewide coral reef-related policy, management and stakeholder engagement actions while also maintaining the state’s aquatic preserves. For more information, visit FloridaDEP.gov.

The Florida Aquarium actively participates in and promotes stewardship of the natural environment as part of our mission of conservation. As a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, The Florida Aquarium provides an opportunity to see over 8,000 aquatic and terrestrial animals, explore complex ecosystems, look for wild dolphins in Tampa Bay, play at the Splash Pad and more! The Florida Aquarium’s Coral Conservation Program is dedicated to caring for threatened species of coral and leading critical initiatives that facilitate our ability to restore the Florida Reef Tract. Our team of coral experts have made several ground-breaking and globally recognized advancements by inducing the sexual reproduction of several threatened species of coral in our laboratory and developing excellent husbandry techniques to raise healthy coral babies. To learn more, follow us on social media at @floridaaquarium and visit www.flaquarium.org.

The University of Miami is one of the largest private research institutions in the southeastern United States. The University’s mission is to provide quality education, attract and retain outstanding students, support the faculty and their research, and build an endowment for University initiatives. Founded in the 1940’s, the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science has grown into one of the world’s premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary academics, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to helping communities to better understand the planet, participating in the establishment of environmental policies, and aiding in the improvement of society and quality of life. For more information, visit: www.rsmas.miami.edu and Twitter @UMiamiRSMAS

Located in Downtown Miami’s Maurice A. Ferré Park, the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science is a leading-edge science museum dedicated to sharing the power of science, sparking wonder and investigation, and fueling innovation for the future. Sitting on four acres, the 250,000-square-foot museum divides into four distinct buildings: the Frost Planetarium, Aquarium, and the North and West Wings. At Frost Science, visitors can explore the world of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in an experiential setting with interactive exhibitions and unique shows. Frost Science is supported by the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners of Miami-Dade County. This project is supported by the Building Better Communities Bond Program and the City of Miami. Sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture. The museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution and a member of the Association of Science and Technology Centers. Learn more at frostscience.org.

The Coral Reef Conservation Program was established in 2000 by the Coral Reef Conservation Act to protect, conserve and restore the nation’s coral reefs by maintaining healthy ecosystem function, and is a partnership between the NOAA Line Offices that work on coral reef issues. The program brings together expertise from across NOAA for a multidisciplinary approach to understanding and conserving coral reef ecosystems. The Coral Reef Conservation Program focuses on four main pillars of work: Increase resilience to climate change, reduce land-based sources of pollution, improve fisheries’ sustainability, restore viable coral populations.