Everglades restoration boss from the Keys named to top wildlife and national parks role
Shannon Estenoz, a fifth-generation Key West native known as a fierce and pragmatic Everglades restoration advocate, will lead the Department of Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service.
Estenoz, who oversaw Everglades restoration at the department under President Barack Obama’s administration, was named principal deputy assistant secretary on Wednesday, according to a statement. She was already part of President Joe Biden’s Interior transition team since early December.
The self-described “Broward County Public Schools and Carnegie Mellon Mom, engineer, musician, 5th generation Key West Conch,” according to her Twitter profile, had been serving as chief operating officer and vice president of policy at the influential Everglades Foundation since April 2018.
Eric Eikenberg, the foundation’s CEO, said Estenoz is an exceptional appointment for the Interior given her knowledge of environmental issues from state and federal perspectives, as well as experience in the nonprofit world.
“She is one of a handful of people that I’ve met over the years that has a firm grasp of conservation issues,” Eikenberg said.
In 2010, when then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar appointed Estenoz to run Everglades restoration projects, he said her “vast knowledge of Everglades issues and long involvement in South Florida water management issues” made her the right person to keep the federal and state partnership moving ahead to achieve restoration goals.
At the time Estenoz’s role focused on developing polices for the Everglades and coordinating the work of three Interior agencies — the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Geological Survey — that were involved in the restoration effort. She also worked with the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, which was established by Congress in 1996 to handle intergovernmental collaboration among the federal, state, tribal and local governments.
Working with various conflicting interests that have battled for decades over how to reconnect the Everglades and recreate its natural water flow, Estenoz was able to push ahead with a key restoration project: the Tamiami Trail bridge rising above the River of Grass and allowing more water to flow through the marshes all the way to Florida Bay.
Estenoz began working on restoration in the 1990s as a South Florida Water Management District governing board member before taking on Everglades restoration at the Interior Department. Her career also included roles as executive director of the Environmental & Land Use Law Center, Everglades program director of the World Wildlife Fund, three terms as national co-chair of the Everglades Coalition, and regional director of the National Parks Conservation Association.
She holds degrees in International Affairs and Civil Engineering from Florida State University.