What is Everglades Restoration?

Everglades National Park Display

The Everglades is an ecosystem in peril. Once it was a vast, free-flowing river of grass extending from the Kissimmee chain of lakes to Florida Bay. Wading and migratory birds were so prolific they darkened the skies. Panthers, manatees and deer were abundant. These sub-tropical wetlands supported a rich diversity of plants, fish and other animals. Once the Florida Everglades was a vibrant, free-flowing river of grass that provided clean water from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay.

In her 1947 book, "The Everglades: River of Grass" Marjory Stoneman Douglas chronicles the beauty of the Everglades and the rich complexity of its landscapes and seascapes, sawgrass sloughs, cypress swamps and coastal lagoons and bays. The greater Everglades ecosystem, called the south Florida ecosystem, stretches south from Orlando through the Chain of Lakes, the Kissimmee Valley, Lake Okeechobee, the remaining Everglades, and on to the waters of Florida Bay and the coral reefs. Even in 1947, however, the Everglades was already suffering the effects of human encroachment.

People started to affect the Everglades on a large scale as early as the late 1800s, when primitive canals were dug to begin draining south Florida. Changes continued throughout the 20th century but on a much larger scale. The Central and Southern Florida Project was authorized in 1948 to provide flood protection and fresh water to south Florida. This project accomplished its intended purpose and allowed people to more easily live on the land. However, it did so at a tremendous ecological cost to the Everglades. While the population of people has risen from 500,000 in the 1900's to more than 6 million today, the number of native birds and other wildlife have dwindled and some have vanished. Ultimately, more than 1,700 miles of canals and levees vastly changed the landscape, interrupting the Everglades' natural sheetflow and sending valuable freshwater to sea. More than half the Everglades wetlands have been lost to development.



About Everglades Restoration