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The Everglades
Restoring a National Treasure

The Everglades makes up a unique environment. Its 1.5 million acres contain a variety of plant and animal communities. The Everglades provides a place for such endangered species as the alligator, egret, and bald eagle. In early times, the abundant fish, turtles, alligators, and other water species provided a source of food for the Seminole and Miccosukee peoples who lived in the Everglades.

Changes in the Everglades
Beginning in the late 1800s, Floridians built canals, ditches, and dikes to drain areas of South Florida to build farms and homes. Construction of bridges and more canals continued as the population of southern Florida grew. After two devastating hurricanes struck the area in 1947, the Army Corps of Engineers took control of the area's water management. The Corps built canals to move water to the Atlantic Ocean and built up land to prevent flooding. The changes in the Everglades region allowed more people to live there and more land to be used for farming. However, these changes also had a harmful effect on the ecosystem of the Everglades.

Changes brought by agricultural and residential development in South Florida have shrunk the Everglades to less than half its original size. The ecological balance has been thrown off. Many of the habitats for the animals of the Everglades were lost. Water from the Everglades, which recharges the Biscayne Aquifer, was also endangered. This aquifer is the source of drinking water in South Florida.

Everglades Map

Saving the Everglades
Long before scientists became alarmed at the devastation of the Everglades, environmentalist and writer Marjory Stoneman Douglas wrote about the problems of the Everglades.

Douglas called the Everglades a “River of Grass.” She described the plains of tall, sharp grass over which shallow waters flow. She organized the Friends of the Everglades and led a group of citizens that helped establish the Everglades National Park. The Everglades was designated as a national park in 1947, but the struggle to preserve the Everglades continues.

The Everglades National Park is important because it is our nation’s only true subtropical wilderness. The Park covers an area of 2,120 square miles.

Governor Jeb Bush notes: “It is time we, as a state and a nation, protect the beauty, the natural water systems and the endangered species that make the Everglades a truly unique and precious landscape.” Restoring the Everglades to a healthy ecosystem is a massive task. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project will cost billions of dollars and take more than 20 years to develop. Federal and state agencies, the people of the Miccosukee and Seminole tribes, local governments, industry, and private citizens are part of the restoration.


"There are no other Everglades in the world. They are, they have always been, one of the unique regions of the earth; remote, never wholly known. Nothing anywhere else is like themů." —from Everglades: River of Grass by Marjory Stoneman Douglas

 


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