America's Everglades is a land whose rich, largely unknown story almost ended prematurely as it was ditched, diked, and drained almost out of existence over the past century. Today, Audubon, in concert with local, state, federal, and nongovernmental groups, is mounting an unprecedented ecological intervention to restore the Everglades.
Audubon's work to restore the Everglades is focused on securing funding from federal and state sources to complete the large engineerings projects and land acquisition necessary to restore water flows to the 'glades, as well as intensive work in the state to ensure that sound science underpins plans for restoration and that politics don't stand in the way of smart resource management. It involves many aspects of Audubon and depends on contribution from policy, science, Audubon of Florida state office and the 43 chapters in Florida.
Here are some of the main components for Audubon's Everglades work:
Restore the Kissimmee River Between 1962 and 1971, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) channeled the Kissimmee River and created a 30-foot deep, 300-foot wide, 56 mile long drainage canal (C-38). This project converted 44% of the floodplain to pasture, draining approximately 31,000 acres of wetlands. Before channelization, the river was a haven for wildlife, including at least 39 species of fish and 38 species of water birds. River restoration will improve water quality for the Everglades, increase water storage capacity and allow the return of the river’s once-abundant wildlife.
Heal Lake Okeechobee Lake Okeechobee was the historical gatekeeper between the watershed from the north and the Everglades to its south. At times of high water, the lake would overflow its southern boundary, replenishing the Everglades with freshwater. At times of low water, the flow would stop, allowing the ‘glades to dry seasonally. The system no longer functions in this way. Water is artificially shunted in different directions at unnatural times of year, and the quality of that water is far poorer. In recent years, Lake Okeechobee has suffered from hurricane-deepened water levels and intense water quality problems, and has been forced to discharge harmful pulses of freshwater to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. The symptoms are clear — water management in South Florida isn't working for the lake — and Everglades restoration depends on the fate of the Lake.
Ensure Water Quantity for the Everglades There is every indication that Everglades restoration will be a reality in our lifetime. Once restored, however, what will prevent the future degradation of this national treasure? To combat this future threat, the Everglades must be protected from the potentially devastating demands of growing urban populations. We must maintain a balance, once struck, it must be maintained. Once this massive investment in restoration is a reality, the Everglades cannot be sacrificed to shortsighted, short-term competing water needs and inequitable water distribution.