#12 Everglades (FL)

 “The Everglades is a test. If we pass it, we may get to keep the planet.” – Marjory Stoneman Douglas

There is no other place on the earth like the everglades.

Because of strong characters such as the “Father of the Everglades” Ernest Coe and Marjory Stoneman Douglas who penned “River of Grass” we have the Everglades National Park; protecting a mere 20% of what was the natural and fragile ecosystem of the Everglades. Since the 1880s people have been “tinkering,” as a ranger put it, with the water-flow that supplies the Everglades. (More about conservation here.) The delicate balance of the Everglades ecosystem has always survived a natural cycle of wet (summer) and dry (winter) seasons. This ecosystem depends on waters from the Kissimmee River and Lake Okeechobee – flooding from these during the wet season providing the natural Everglades area with the change of environment needed to keep its balance, restore fresh water and encourage the vast balance of brackish waters so many plants and animals in the Florida Bay rely upon.

Historic - Current - Restored

Image courtesy of the Everglades National Park Service

The “tinkering” has included two canals draining all flood waters from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico (to the west) and the Atlantic (to the east). A huge damn of land is built on the southern end of the lake and a vast system of canals built to drain the excess water and for agricultural use of the past glades, now farmland that stretches from Lake Okeechobee to the protected boundaries of the park. Another added burden on the delicate ecosystem are the chemical remnants from current agricultural practices causing poisoning and high mercury levels in fish and the Florida Panther population.

florida_landcover_change

 

Image from here: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/DeepFreeze/deep_freeze3.php

The Everglades are certainly endangered and some form of restoration has to be addressed. There are many debates as to what is best/needed/possible to restore balance, and this blog certainly is not a platform for political debate, but I think Ms. Douglas said it best “There must be progress, certainly. But we must ask ourselves what kind of progress we want, and what price we want to pay for it. If, in the name of progress, we want to destroy everything beautiful in our world, and contaminate the air we breathe, and the water we drink, then we are in trouble.”

My hope in writing about the Everglades is that it will help – at least a little bit. Water is the lifeblood of the Earth. There is a shortage of fresh water, and the more we shrink things like the Everglades, the more the problem grows.

For more information about the park start here at the NPS site

For information on how you might want to help check the NPS link above or Friends of the Everglades

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We had a fabulous visit and learned so much. Most people, myself included, think of the Everglades as a swamp. This is totally not the case. The water in the everglades is continually flowing, filtered by the grasses and replenishing the aquifer. It is the only place of its kind on the planet. It is also the only place where the American crocodile and the alligator exist together!  The water is crystal clear. I was blown away. We saw a large abundance of returned population of birds and the alligator which is a positive sign and a sign of hope for the area. We explored the Mahogany Hammock, the Anhinga trail and stayed at the Flamingo Campground all the way to the south in the park. Wren fell in love with the Manatee, we saw great examples of the Alligator and even had a great view (from the car) of a good-sized diamond back rattle snake. The grasshoppers and the dragonflies we saw were huge! So many interesting and cool things to learn, touch and see.

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