The Ongoing Fight over Florida's Famed Everglades
Yesterday, Garrison Keillor lovingly acknowledged the 1947 dedication of Florida's Everglades National Park by President Truman in his Writer's Almanac - including a brief history of the Everglades themselves, and the many atttempts to capture its rich beauty, including those by naturalist Archie Carr, author Peter Matthiessen, and Florida's own Zora Neale Hurston, who wrote this in Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937):
"To Janie's strange eyes, everything in the Everglades was big and new. Big Lake Okechobee, big beans, big cane, big weeds, big everything. Weeds that did well to grow waist high up the state were eight and often ten feet tall down there. Ground so rich that everything went wild. Volunteer cane just taking the place. Dirt roads so rich and black that a half mile of it would have fertilized a Kansas wheat field. Wild cane on either side of the road hiding the rest of the world. People wild too."
The Florida Everglades are well known to Floridians, in no small part due to the fights that have gone on for decades over who gets to use and control the rich wetlands: years before the Civil War (in 1858), there were already legal battles over building the canals necessary for drainage and land development.
Today, over half of the Florida Everglades has been adapted for human use: we're using it for agricultural purposes, or as urban areas. The fight continues over that other half, and there doesn't seem to be an end in sight: the juxtaposition of land development against the interests of conservationists over best use of the Everglades guarantees courtroom battles for years to come. For example:
The United States Supreme Court just declined writ on November 29, 2010, in a case where the petitioners sought High Court review of the federal Clean Water Act's impact on the question of whether water managers can pump water from a canal into a lake without a permit in Friends of the Everglades v. South Florida Water Management District (10-196).
And, as we discussed in an earlier post, the Florida Supreme Court just announced its ruling in the well-publicized U.S. Sugar litigation, allowing the use of bonds by the South Florida Water Management District in the government's land purchase.
Development vs Conservation: What Does the Future Hold? Consider the Tamiami Trail
Just last year, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided almost a billion dollars ($96 million) toward restoration of the Everglades. Part of this legislation will result in a bridge to substitute for the Tamiami Trail, a road running alongside the northern border of the Everglades National Park which has been controversial since the Tamiami Trail blocks water from getting to the south.
The road itself connects Tampa with Miami, and is the last 275 miles of roadway along U.S. Interstate 41. Famous among Floridians and tourists alike, the Tamiami Trail is its own tourist mecca; for example, it is featured in Fodor's Travel Guide. What happens when the bridge replaces the road? Who knows - and who knows if we won't be seeing future litigation on the impact here, brought either by conservationists or developers whose interests are harmed by this change.
Meanwhile, construction of the mile long bridge has already begun. In 2010, the State of Florida proposed an additional 5+ miles of bridges be added to the Tamiami Trail.
Meawhile: Happy Anniversary, Everglades National Park.