Fifty Years Ago:
Marjory Stoneman Douglas was a writer, reporter, and activist, as well as a lifelong advocate for Florida’s wild places. In 1969 at the age of 79, she founded Friends of the Everglades with the intention of protesting a jetport to be built in Big Cypress. After three years of vocal opposition, her determination paid off when Richard Nixon scrapped funding for the project, and the win set an example for other environmental groups of the day. Douglas continued to advocate on behalf of the region for many years, specifically targeting a massive coalition of sugar cane growers as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which had already constructed nearly 1,500 miles of canals to drain the Everglades and create developable and grazable land.
Myriad natural resource issues impact south Florida today, including some of the very same ones that Douglas railed against decades ago. Drainage of the Everglades continues to cause ecological and systemic problems, but also makes agriculture and development in the region possible. An institute in the region would address many of the following topics, as well as others:
Canal and drainage infrastructure in the Everglades today.
Nutrient runoff and impacts on surrounding communities and ecosystems, including public/private partnerships to solve drainage problems.
Algal blooms such as Red Tide in Florida’s lakes, rivers and coastline
Reef health: Bleaching, erosion and dredging.
Sea level rise and extreme weather events in population centers.
Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project.
Agriculture, including citrus farms and the impacts of non-native species.
Wildlife: Invasive species, endangered species, and success stories (pythons, manatees, alligators, pumas, green sea turtles).
Marine health: Fisheries and mammals.