I first met Michelle Jones Connor during 2013’s “Lost Summer,” the year coffee colored, sediment-filled water flowed through the gates of the Army Corp of Engineers for most the year, from Lake Okeechobee into our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. At that time, with energy surging as thousands of peoples’ anger ramped-up the River Movement, at a rally Michelle told me about her environmental-legend grandfather and grandmother, Johnny and Mariana Jones.
Ironically, not too long after this, my mother and father discovered the above plaque while on a field trip to the Hungryland, an area also named after the couple.
Who were these incredible people?
The Florida Wildlife Commission’s dedication to Hungryland explains:
“The Hungryland Wildlife Environmental Area honors the conservation legacy of Johnny and Marianna Jones, passionate advocates for the protection of fish and wildlife resources throughout Florida. During their 61-year marriage, the couple lobbied for environmental issues, were leaders of the Florida Wildlife Federation and were instrumental in the establishment of over 3 million acres of public lands, including the John C. and Mariana Jones/Hungryland Wildlife Environmental Area.”
The list of their achievements is incredible! Almost impossible. Could we ever do something like that today? Of course we could; we just have to learn the tricks of the trade before they are forgotten.
Michelle’s grandparents have recently passed as have so many other of the “greats.” We must fill their shoes. We have no choice but to do so. And learning from the past can be a great help along our journey.
Thankfully, Michelle has given us some of the treasures of her late grandparents.
Today I share with you, with the permission of Michelle, three things from the Joneses and their library. First, a fascinating and insightful 2001 University of Florida interview where Mr Jones answers the question: “What are the two or three most important contributing factors that have led to the present problems in the Everglades?”; Second, “The Marshall Plan, Repairing the Florida Everglades;” and third Johnny Jones’ “The Rain Machine,” my favorite, about how human greed, development, and canalization, and drainage of Lake Okeechobee and surrounding areas altered Florida’s water cycle ~and thus Florida’s weather itself ~by removing so much water from the land.
Upon reading, you will notice names, such as Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, Arthur R. Marshall, and Nathaniel Reed ~just to name a few. In spite of the difficulties, pressures, and of course the hottest potato, politics, it was relationships and perseverance that allowed the Joneses to achieve so much. We must do the same.
Thank you Michelle for sharing these rare and valuable documents. We shall honor the legacy of your grandparents and be inspired..
UF/Interview of Johnny Jones by Brian Gridley, 2001:
Link to the Facebook Page Michelle’s Aunt Linda created, shared by Michelle: https://www.facebook.com/FloridaConservation/
Why the name “Hungryland:”…in the mid-1800s, Seminoles seeking to escape the U.S. Army hid out in these wetlands. The Army destroyed and cut off their food supplies, leading local ranchers to refer to the region as “Hungryland.” The slough that still runs through the area was called the Hungryland Slough and was primarily used for grazing cattle.”
Hungryland Slough Guide, FWC: http://discover.pbcgov.org/erm/Publications/HungrylandSloughTrailGuide.pdf
Sofia Memorials, and photo of Johnny Jones above: https://sofia.usgs.gov/memorials/Johnny-Mariana-Jones/
Obituary Mariana Jones: https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/lake-worth-fl/mariana-jones-6456420
UF Interview Johnny Jones/Smather’s Library format: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00005378/00001/1j