(CNSNews.com) – Vice President Joe Biden visited the Florida Everglades on Monday to promote the Everglades Restoration Project and joked about his Secret Service detail threatening to shoot the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation commissioner.
During his speech at Everglades National Park, Biden pointed out Commissioner Ronald Bergeron, who he said tried to convince him to visit the Everglades 10 years ago. Bergeron was appointed to the commission in 2007 by then Gov. Charlie Crist.
“He wanted me to wrestle alligators. You all think I’m kidding. I’m not kidding. He’s one crazy son-of-a-gun. Where are you Ronnie? There he is. And the worst part is, [Sen.] Bill [Nelson] introduced me to him. I wondered, Bill, why? He said, ‘No, he wants [you] just to do a little project with him. I thought the project was something about restoring the Everglades. It was about seeing whether or not I was really an athlete,” Biden said.
“But you see this man right here, my Secret Service guy? He played in pro-football, also was on that national championship team – that Clemson had. He said if I go, he’ll shoot you, Ronnie, so …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. I just think it’s incredible, and I still think you’re nuts, Ronnie,” Biden said.
The Everglades is made up of four million acres of interconnected wetlands – 1.5 million of which makes up the Everglades National Park. It is home to more than 60 endangered and threatened species.
The Everglades Restoration project is considered the largest environmental restoration project in the nation’s history at a cost of $13.5 billion paid for through a 50/50 state-federal partnership. The project covers 16 counties over an 18,000 square-mile area.
“The Everglades Restoration project passed back in 2000 because of the guys behind me and work started by the governor, but not one project encompassed in that entire … everglades preservation, restoration project had started until we came into office,” the vice president said.
“And since we’ve come to office, with the priority of the men behind me, we made a commitment investing almost $1.5 billion that’s already begun to have a profound economic impact on the state,” Biden added.
The restoration project will generate $46.5 billion net additional revenue for Florida, “just as a consequence of the restoration,” Biden said.
“I want to talk about the economic impact for just a second. Just last year, in one year, the Corps of Engineers construction project generated 6,600 good paying jobs for Floridians and their families, and thousands of indirect jobs – from the guys making the material, to the equipment, to everybody who goes and eats in the local restaurant. It makes a gigantic difference in terms of the economy of this part of the state. And it’s only one part of it,” he added.
Overall, 4.3 million people worldwide visit the federal lands of the Everglades, and last year alone, almost 1 million tourists visited the Everglades National Park, Biden said.
Audio coverage of the press conference was provided by the White House.