Why Restore the Everglades - Part 1 Understanding the Everglades Ecosystem - Past & Present

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.

However, people started to affect the Everglades as early as the late 1800s, when primitive canals were dug to begin draining south Florida. These changes continued throughout the 20th century, as 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 were lost to development.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas wrote about the problems of the Everglades in 1947, describing a ecosystem that was beautiful yet already clearly suffering. Just one year later, in 1948, a massive project to provide essential flood protection and water management to south Florida was approved. While the Central and Southern Florida Project allowed the region's rapid growth, it worsened the Everglades' problems.

Today, a plan has been approved to restore the magnificent River of Grass. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan will capture freshwater destined for sea - the Everglades' lifeblood - and direct it back to the ecosystem to revitalize it. It will improve water supplies for people and farms, too. The nation's largest such project, it will cost $7.8 billion and take more than 20 years to develop.


Next: Part 2 - An American Natural Treasure is in Trouble

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