I am 156 miles long, winding, mysterious and full of life. I dance with the wind, I’m washed by the rain, and I provide food, shelter, and nursery to a complex web of life – dolphins, manatee, mullet, redfish, blue herons, pelicans, osprey, shoals of oysters…and people.

Encompassing 40% of the East Coast of Florida, millions of people live, play, and make a living along my shores. Billions of dollars flow from the benefits I bring. Over time, I’ve been part of human endeavor from Native Americans to astronauts. I’ve proven my resilience and value as an international treasure and the lifeblood of Florida.

I can take away your hunger. I can make you forget your worries. I am an invitation to millions who want to visit. I create the stories you will tell your grandchildren. But sadly, I am not understood. Over time, I have become unhealthy and unappreciated, even among the people who live right along my shoreline.

Now, instead of being the backdrop for your family fun and adventure, I am known for unwanted algae blooms and horrendous fish kills. But this moment does not define what I could be once again. I need people to work together to fix my problems. The causes are complex. No single entity is at fault, and no single solution will work.

I want to support your children and grandchildren by providing food, jobs, natural beauty, clean water, and opportunity. I will always be here – but in what form is up to you. Ultimately, what you do with me will unite or divide you. And as I go, so goes potentially all of Florida…and maybe the world.

For my human friends, for all of the life that I sustain, I must be heard, understood and respected. I am resilient, but I need your help to recover my biological diversity, water quality and health. Please, remember what I once was…with clean, clear water, world-class fishing and boating opportunities, with a robust, diverse wildlife population…and respect what I could be again. I can be strong with your stewardship and diligent assistance. This is our moment. Please work with me in a thoughtful and sustainable way. We could ignore the size and impact of our challenges or together we can ensure a dynamic coastal economy, put innovative technologies to work, and lead the way to a sustainable future with worldwide appreciation of our unique coastal assets and intimate connection.

I am worth fighting for. I am your friend. I am your future.