South Bay, FL 2012
South Florida development drives demand for sod. Run-off from sod and other fields, lawns, and golf courses contains phosphorus. Phosphorus in fertilizers and soils promotes plant growth, but when released into the Everglades it becomes a pollutant.
The Everglades is a naturally phosphorus-starved ecosystem, which will choke with vegetation and fundamentally transform unless the phosphorus concentration remains very low (the much debated target is 10 parts per billion). Water quality remains a significant barrier to save both the Everglades ecosystem and wetlands around the world.
Armando Najera Ramos
Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW)
La Belle, FL 2014
People have long moved through the Everglades by necessity, whether it be Seminoles escaping US military onslaught, immigrants, or migrant farm workers.
After African American farm workers in the mid-1900s resisted unfair labor conditions on sugarcane farms, employers turned to temporary H-2A workers from the We Indies. Farm laborers today mostly hail from Mexico and Central America.
There are approximately 1,200 H-2A workers in the Everglades region, most working in citrus groves. Overall, the region has more than 30,000 farm workers.
Of Florida’s farm workers, seventy percent report undocumented status. As with other species, the ways people are categorized—such as migrant, seasonal, or temporary guest worker, or as citizen or non- citizen—define their rights and shape their futures.
US Geological Survey Reston, VA 2013
Ecosystem restoration blurs the boundaries between the past and the present. Dr. Lynn Wingard of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) uses core samples from Florida Bay to estimate the pre-drainage flow of fresh water through the Everglades wetlands into the estuaries.
Core samples are taken to calculate the historic distributions of living mollusks. Because different species of mollusks prefer distinct levels of salinity, their historical locations in the bay enable estimations of freshwater volume exiting the Everglades into the bay.
Wingard and her colleagues’ historical model suggests that a great deal more fresh water owed through the Everglades than some models indicate. Scientific research about the pa shapes present day restoration strategies in the Everglades and elsewhere.
Everglades National Park, FL 2014
Harmful, invasive species thrive in the Everglades. Motion-activated cameras monitor species—such as the black and white tegu lizard—that are newly introduced, and potentially disruptive, to the ecosystem.
Species fall into three categories of scientific and legal import: natives; exotics that have been introduced from elsewhere; and invasives, which are exotics that cause harm. Once established, invasive species are extraordinarily difficult and costly to extirpate. Early detection is key.
A.E. "Beanie" Backus painting
Clewiston, FL 2012
It maters how we see nature. A century ago, the Everglades was disparaged by settlers as a wasteful hindrance to Florida’s prosperity. Today, it is celebrated by artists, environmentalists, and outdoor enthusiasts.
Much of the current artistic representation of the Everglades celebrates nature, harkening back to the Romantic-era notion of art as a vehicle that reconnects the viewer to the natural world. Intrinsic to this idea is the belief that living in the industrial world has estranged humans from nature.
Tamiami Trail (rt. 41), FL 2014
Alligator mississippiensis is Florida’s official reptile and an Everglades icon. Once endangered by hunters who sold their hides for boots and bags, alligators successfully repopulated as a result of public awareness, game laws, and enforcement.
The alligators’ rebound propels it into competition with human use of land and water, whether on Florida’s roadways, in residents’ yards and swimming pools, or waterways like Lake Okeechobee, which no longer beckons swimming and water skiing. Distinctions among prey, commodity, icon, and threat blur in one species.
Picayune Strand Restoration Project
Naples, FL 2014
Prior to modern human intervention, water flowed unimpeded through the greater Everglades at varying seasonal rates. That process is called “sheet flow.” As Everglades restoration gained momentum during the late 1900s, sheet flow became a powerful symbol, and it remains a restoration goal for some advocates. Yet the Everglades landscape has been so changed by humans that today sheet flow from the northern end of the ecosystem into the Everglades National Park cannot be achieved without direct human intervention in the form of huge water pumping stations.
Today, flood control, agriculture, and environment regulate water’s flow. There is no future for the Everglades without pumps, culverts, budgets, and water managers.
Jim Shore Seminole
Tribal General Counsel
Hollywood, Florida 2014
Law shapes the basic ecology of the Everglades today, and settlements from major lawsuits govern water management. In turn, Everglades restoration is transforming environmental law—for example, by granting rights to the natural system as an end user of Everglades water—with ramifications far beyond Florida.
Mr. Shore (Bird clan) has been General Counsel of the Seminole Tribe of Florida since 1982. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Big Cypress Reservation was drained. Despite being a recognized sovereign polity, the Seminole Tribe had little input. Water users to the north of the reservation flooded it during the wet season and let it parched during the dry season. Seminole cattle owners struggled, flora and fauna changed, and indigenous dispossession continued. In 1987, however, Shore led Seminoles in a negotiated water rights settlement with the South Florida Water Management District and the state. Today, Seminoles are major players in South Florida water management.
Sugar cane field burn
Northeast of Belle Glade, FL 2013
Farmers burn sugarcane fields before harvest in order to remove leaves and other biomass. Burning increases the e efficiency of eld-to-mill transportation and milling. Many residents of nearby towns call the ash falling on vehicles and outdoor furniture “Florida snow.”
Fire is not new to the Everglades: before drainage and irrigation, lightning strikes ignited the swamps and played an essential role in the ecosystem.
Non-Native Seminole reenactor Seminole War reenactment
Big Cypress Reservation 2014
Reenacting the nineteenth-century Seminole wars, which aimed to cleanse Seminoles from Florida, is a pastime for non-Indians throughout the southeastern United States.
Efforts to dispossess and relocate Seminoles did not end with the wars. For example, Seminole and Miccosukee indigenous peoples were evicted from their lands to create the Everglades National Park (e . 1947). Similar stories are true of other national parks.
A er a 2009 meeting of the South Florida Ecosy em Re oration Working Group, Seminole elected official Joe Frank referred to the creation of the Everglades National Park as “the last Indian Removal Act ,” comparing it to the devastating 1800s relocation of Seminoles, Cherokees, and others to present-day Oklahoma. Wetlands conservation, not only drainage, has disposed peoples and cultures.
Coral Springs, FL 2014
Half of the historical Everglades has been drained, the ecosystem largely destroyed. Real e ate development, along with tourism and agriculture, fuels Florida’s economy. Everglades environmental fixes often focus on rural Florida, and most coastal residents believe—many incorrectly—they are living outside of the Everglades.
The vexed question of who should be financially and ethically responsible for both the ecosystem’s destruction and restoration provides an opportunity to examine the categorization of human groups and what obligates them to one another.
Florida Cattlemen’s Miss Sweetheart
Avon Park, FL 2012
Beauty queens representing the beef cattle industry and environmental advocacy may not seem like an obvious combination. But they show that it is possible to transcend seemingly entrenched political categories and divisions.
Taylor Bolin, as Florida Cattlemen’s Miss Sweetheart, traveled the ate promoting the interests of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association. After their reign many Sweethearts work as Cattlemen’s lobbyists in Tallahassee lobbying for a shared agricultural and environmental agenda.
Audubon Florida supports ranching as a comparatively beneficial use of land for maintaining water quality and quantity, and it has joined with cattle interests to support payment to ranchers for on-ranch ecosystem services, such as water storage and nutrient retention.
City Commissioner and First Bank of Clewiston Vice President
Clewiston, FL 2016
In the early 1960s, many of the Cuban sugarcane engineers and mill administrators fleeing Castro found themselves in the rural, small towns and sugar mills of the Everglades Agricultural Area. The US Department of Agriculture promoted sugarcane to would-be Florida growers as a patriotic crop that would allow the US to wean itself o Cuban imports. Florida sugarcane production long had been shaped by Cuban methods, and immigration deepened that influence.
Mali Gardner (née Soto) comes from generations of sugarcane farmers. In 1961, Gardner’s parents sent her and her siblings from Havana to join their maternal grandparents in the tiny farming settlement of Lake Harbor. She arrived when she was only fifteen months old, wearing a pressed white linen dress and white patent leather shoes. Now a city Commissioner and Vice President at Fir Bank of Clewiston, Gardner has served as Clewiston’s mayor. Her
paternal grandfather was his town’s mayor and a state representative in Cuba.
Tamiami Trail (RT. 41), Everglades National Park 2014
Over a million Floridians work in tourism, from cooks to fishing guides, janitors to lawn care providers. Last year over 100 million visitors spent an excess of $82 billion in the Sunshine State.
As is true in many regions, tourism relies on the very same environment that it threatens. Sandy beaches, eco-tourism sites, beachfront hotels, and recreational fishing illst rate the sometimes parasitic, sometimes symbiotic relationship between tourism and South Florida’s natural environment.
Everglades National Park 2014
The Everglades inspired America’s first generation of federal wildlife laws and showed consumers the impact of their choices on the environment.
By the early 1900s, millions of birds were being killed annually to decorate women’s hats. Everglades rookeries were on the edge of collapse. As some northern socialites adorned themselves with plume hats, others organized to end the killing of birds for fashion and founded the Audubon Society.
Activism resulted in laws, including the important Lacey A of 1900, which prohibits the trade or sale of wildlife captured or sold illegally. Everglades residents who built their livelihood on the plume trade sometimes evaded capture, and in 1905 poachers even murdered Everglades warden Guy Bradley to protect their trade. Fashion’s demands for plume hats was neither the first, nor the last, urban cultural fad to devastate ecosystems of faraway wetlands.
Herbert Hoover Dike
Southern Rim Lake Okeechobee 2012
A forest of pond apples once dominated Lake Okeechobee’s southern rim. The apple forest featured natural muck berms that regulated water movement. Seasonal over flows of this large, shallow lake flooded the forests, and the water owed southward through the Everglades to the Florida Bay.
By 1930, ninety- five percent of the pond apple forest had been removed and replaced with farmland, locks and canals, and earthen levees. Deadly hurricanes in the late 1920s that killed thousands of residents, including many Black farm workers, prompted federal attention to the precarious flood control structures protecting agricultural communities in the Glades. Federal and state governments built the Herbert Hoover Dike, which encircles the lake. Today, out-of-towners arriving at Lake Okeechobee from the south often respond with initial confusion, unable to locate its shore behind the imposing three-story dike.
S5A Pump Station Lead Operator
Everglades Agricultural Area, FL 2013
One of the most powerful governmental entities in Florida is the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), a lead agency in Everglades re oration. The District oversees water quality, flood control, water supply, and ecosystems restoration for most of the Everglades watershed.
The Water Management Di ri employs over 1,600 people and administers a $600 million budget to serve the water needs of seven million residents, including the Everglades National Park, development interests, indigenous governments, coastal communities, and other diverse users.
SFWMD Control Room
West Palm Beach, FL 2013
The Everglades is a thoroughly engineered landscape. The South Florida Water Management District oversees 2,300 miles of canals and levees, 2,200 structures, and over 60 pumping stations. Clicks of a mouse in this room move and monitor millions of gallons of water at more than 2,000 automated remote facilities.
Although the Water Management District is not a household name for most coastal Floridians, it is just that for rural residents of the Everglades watershed. The agency requires multi-year permits from farmers for drainage and irrigation, and leads ecological restoration efforts that have a disproportionate impact the lives of rural people.
Boca Raton, FL 2013
South Florida’s rate of population growth is over fifty percent above the US average. Pfrommer migrated from Connecticut.
Florida’s population boom creates ever-changing water needs for households, lawns, businesses, and golf courses. Population growth increases flood control need and reduces wetlands. With no state income tax, Florida has built its economy on unending growth. In South Florida and beyond, environmental sustain- ability is inextricably tied to the pursuit of policies valuing economically sustainable development and regulation. Environment and economy are bound together.
The Glades at sunrise
Everglades National Park 2014
People rely on the Everglades and other wetlands for combating climate change, for drinking water and recreation, for economic bene t, and more. Conversely, the preservation of the Everglades relies on human management.
Many of the millions of gallons of water flowing daily into the Everglades National Park have been pumped or managed by the SFWMD. Pumps are needed, in part, because soil subsidence from agriculture and development has resulted in three to nine feet of elevation loss to the north.
Throughout many of the world’s wetlands, vistas such as this may appear quintessentially natural, but they are heavily engineered and managed.