Maintaining ecological diversity is necessary for the survival of a biological community. In the United States, American citizens are on the verge of irrevocably damaging one of the country's most unique and diverse treasures - the Florida Everglades. This national park is now the only remaining patch of a river that used to span 120 miles from Lake Okeechobee to the Florida Bay. Dikes and levees created by the Army Corps of Engineers in the late 1940's drained this river to reduce flooding and increase useable water for the development of the region. This major diversion of water lead to a trickle down effect causing the continual decline of the environmental state of the Everglades. Since then, debates over the Everglades' future have silently raged on for years about how, why, and when the restoration will begin. This ongoing, but virtually unproductive effort has cost taxpayers a great deal without any apparent benefits. Recently, this debate has been amplified by the voices of the sugar industry in Florida, which was attacked for its major contribution to pollution of the Everglades. Now debates rage on with a new effort called the Restudy. Backed by the Army Corps of Engineers, this effort would change the flow of the Everglades, potentially restoring it into the viable community of life that it used to be. The question now is, will this latest attempt to restore the Everglades ever be realized (thus ending the cyclic Everglades debate) or will it simply add up to one more notch on the bedpost of inadequate and failed attempts to save this national treasure. The world is watching to see how the United States will handle this unprecedented cleanup.
The Everglades Defined
"Here are no lofty peaks seeking the sky, no mighty glaciers or rushing streamsÖ Here is a land, tranquil in its quiet beauty, serving not as the source of water but as a receiver of it." Harry S. Truman / Address At Dedication of Everglades National Park (Carr, 1981)
Nearly as large as the state of New Jersey, the Everglades used to measure about 6,000 square miles (Bucks, 1998). The Everglades was a complex wetland consisting of a mosaic of ecosystems. The heart of the Everglades was a slow moving body of water with a span of one hundred twenty miles long and forty miles wide with an average depth of six inches to two feet of water (Lauber,1973). This broad shallow, often called the "river of grass," was covered in a blanket of saw grass (not actually a grass but a sedge) that slowly drained the water from its main source, Lake Okeechobee, all the way to the southernmost tip of the state and into the Florida Bay. Shaped much like a saucer, when full Lake Okeechobee would send its overflow spilling into the shallows of the Everglades river. This natural filling process, along with the wet season's rains, is what fed the flow of the Everglades and the underlying aquifers for centuries.
The grass in the Everglades was very important to the...