Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170;

December 2014 Prez Sez

"The Everglades is a test.  If we pass it, we may get to keep the earth.”  This quote has been attributed many times to Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, and early activist espousing the need to protect the Everglades and reverse the detrimental effects of agriculture, development and water diversion.  It apparently was actually said many times in the 1980’s by Joe Podgor, a president of the Friends of the Everglades.  In either case, the jury is still out as to whether we pass or fail.

According to a National Geographic article published on May 30, 2014, the federal money for Everglades restoration is stuck in political quagmire.  The House and Senate passed a water bill and the President signed it shortly before the Corps of Engineers completed and published their Central Everglades Planning Project.  The budget included only a fraction of the 2 Billion requested by the COE.  The water bills are usually only enacted about every seven years.

In 2000, Congress passed a 30 year, 12 billion plan to restore the Everglades.  The bipartisan action would fund  the backfill of canals, create reservoirs, eradicate invasive species, and improve water quantity and quality.  But in 2012, those projects were only on the periphery of the wetlands.  And to date, only one of the 68 projects has been completed. 

It is hard to believe that anything will get done by the current or next legislature to get the ball rolling. 

I just returned from a National Geographic expedition to the Galapagos Islands.  Here is where a country that has the will can make great strides to preserve and restore an important resource. In 1936, the Ecuadorian government declared the 97% of the archipelago a National Park.  The rest was inhabited.  They started a tedious regime of attempting to eradicate invasive species, especially those introduced by humans such as rats, goats, cattle, etc. They also started to control insect and plant pests.  There was a burgeoning eco-tourism economy which became part of the problem.

Uncontrolled cruise vessels were bringing more invasive species and tourists were leaving more trash that needed picking up.  Trails were being widened because tourists did not respect the boundaries of the trails.  Now, even though there are about 170,000 tourists per year we only saw another vessel for parts of two days and only once did we have an encounter with a group from another vessel.  We did not see any trash on or near the trails even though there are no trash cans and no staff to pick up trash.  The naturalists are passionate about the islands and the goal is to attract the type of tourist that is already in tune with nature.

In 2007, UNESCO declared the Galapagos Reserve as a Reserve in Danger.  Within two weeks, the government of Ecuador announced new procedures to help get them out of the Danger Zone.  They included new restrictions on tourist vessels, new screening procedures for vessels inbound from outside ports, new assaults on invasive species, new rules regarding immigration to the islands, etc.  They also included new educational materials for the residents, a renewed effort to eradicate invasive species brought in by humans, and restrictions on the types and numbers of tourist vessels and their itineraries and passenger limits. 

Now there is still lots to be done, and it will be hard, but the realization that tourism is the primary driver of their economy and tourists will not come to the islands if they are not preserved, drives the government, the tourist associations, the research  associations and the local population to work together to preserve the islands.

We could do that with the Everglades, if only we had the political will.