Energy and the Everglades
Seemingly never-ending proposals to explore and drill for oil off Florida’s Coasts, in the Big Cypress Swamp, and the Everglades itself threaten the ecological integrity of South Florida in ways never seen before. Added to oil operations are expanded nuclear power generators on the shores of Biscayne Bay, the largest gas-fired power plant in the U.S. proposed for the habitat for the endangered Florida Panther, and pipelines and electrical transmission corridors through sensitive wetlands and public lands. SFWA battles against many of these proposals - while advocating for energy conservation and clean energy solutions to protect native plants and wildlife and build a sustainable economy for the South Florida community.
Covering much of South Florida, public lands of the Greater Everglades (Everglades, Dry Tortugas, and Biscayne National Parks, the Big Cypress National Preserve, plus other local, state, and federal public lands) provide diverse habitats which sustain South Florida’s legendary biodiversity. Unfortunately, new development as well as pollution from adjacent private lands have fragmented and degraded the ecosystems these special places were established to protect. In addition, continued demands for “access” in the form of motorized recreation, hunting, fishing, and even oil drilling, have strained the ability of our public lands to sustain healthy wildlife populations. Consistent with the National Park Service Organic Act of 1916 and all other federal and state legislation, SFWA advocates for land management policies which put protection of fragile natural resources before other considerations.
The River of Grass
The life blood of the historic Everglades was the slow and gentle flow of water south from the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes near present-day Orlando to Lake Okeechobee - and then south again across a varied wetland landscape to the estuaries of Florida and Biscayne Bays. However, years of canal building and the diversion of freshwater to the Gulf and Atlantic to make way for cattle grazing, agriculture and urban development has left the Everglades and the coastal ecosystems which depend upon it on life support. Pollution in the form of agricultural fertilizer and other chemicals, cattle waste, human sewage and urban runoff has further damaged the ecosystem. A multi-billion dollar economy based on fishing, hunting, boating, diving, hiking, and wildlife viewing is at risk of being wiped out. SFWA supports Everglades restoration efforts which focus on public acquisition of agricultural and cattle lands for the recovery of the natural wetlands which once dominated the South Florida landscape. These wetlands can store, clean, and convey water to Florida’s critical underground aquifers and estuaries – while providing habitat for native plants and wildlife in the process. SFWA also supports new urban development only within existing urban and suburban boundaries.
The core of South Florida Wildlands work is the protection of wildlife and habitat in the Greater Everglades. Internationally known for its biodiversity, the region is home to a vast array of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates – some found nowhere else on earth. The Everglades is the only place on earth where crocodiles and alligators live side by side, while the last big cat in the Eastern United States – the endangered Florida panther - still manages to hang on in the more remote areas. Challenges are many. Along with South Florida’s exploding population, the habitat which supports these species is being lost, fragmented and polluted beyond the ability of the ecosystem to support many of these species. Dozens are now on federal lists of endangered and threatened species – or state-listed as threatened or species of special concern. SFWA works relentlessly to protect and conserve the habitats these species need to survive.