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.
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