Category Archives: Everglades

As Far Away As One Can Go, Flamingo…

My primary 2021 New Year’s resolution was to write more, however my angst over our country’s political, social unrest and the worsening Covid-19 epidemic has caused me to experience  “writer’s block.” Nonetheless, today I will try to get going with my resolution. 

On January 9th, 2021, my husband, Ed, looked at me, “I’ve got a few days off; do you want to stick around Stuart or do you want to go somewhere?”

“Hmmm? Let’s go as far away as one can go, Flamingo.”  I replied.

“Flamingo?” Ed looked like he wasn’t quite sure…

“Yes, Flamingo, at the very southern tip of Florida.”

-Flamingo lies in Monroe County, inside the boundary of Everglades National Park (ENP)

The following day, Ed and I packed up and drove from Stuart to Lake Okeechobee taking Highway 27 south until we arrived in Florida City, just south of Homestead. Next, we drove about an hour along the historic Ingram Highway. It was a beautiful drive – like going into Florida’s past with marl prairies, slash pines, and tremendous bird life.

About forty miles later, we finally arrived in Flamingo. Now a ghost town, Flamingo was once the home of the American Flamingo -thus the name. Although these spectacular long legged, pink birds were all killed for their spectacular feathers a over a century ago, today there have been reports of a few returning. Most of us are familiar with the story of  Guy Bradley, the first Audubon warden hired to protect Everglades wading birds from poachers. This is his land.

Back in the early1900s when Bradley was trying to protect the birds, Flamingo, as all of South Florida, was thoughtlessly being sliced and diced with canals. Today, one can see this most pronounced at the Flamingo Welcome Center along the Flamingo, more modernly called the Buttonwood Canal.  Here lies a “plug” between Florida Bay and the mosaic of fresher/fresh waters in and near Flamingo.

According to our ENP tour guide, Mr Nick, this “Flamingo” or “Buttonwood Canal” was dug by Henry Flagler in the early 1900s and later abandoned when Flagler realized the canal failed to drain the land – instead, due to the tides and topography of the area, bringing  too much salt water from Florida Bay. A cement plug was later placed to ward off this saltwater intrusion.

I was pleased to see that a family of Ospreys had built their nest right on this plug in the midst of much human activity! The female osprey was hard at work, peeking over the side, protecting and incubating her eggs while the male intermittently delivered fish. The large birds appeared absolutely unaffected by people!

FLAMINGO or BUTTONWOOD CANAL                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -Salt water, Florida Bay side of plug-Below: brackish/fresher water on estuary/marsh side of plug leading to Coot Bay (Coots no longer come in droves as the water is still too salty.)-The cement plug cutting off salt water of Florida Bay from canal, note osprey nest! -Our ENP guide, NickThe first day Ed and I took a tour and Mr. Nick was our guide. The second day, we rented a Mako flats boat and followed the same path ourselves. We learned so much. It was incredible. While Ed looked for places to fish, I searched for the Shark River. The Shark River is one of many that extends out from Shark River Slough, the remaining ridge and slough, “river of grass,” of the Everglades. Some of its waters lead to Florida Bay. Taylor Slough, on the other hand, has shamelessly been cut off by development.

 

Flamingo Canal was full of wildlife: wading birds, manatees, and by far the most interesting, crocodiles, of which I had never seen. These southern waters of Florida are one of the only places on Earth where both Alligators and Crocodiles live together. This canal is so salty the crocs have the edge. Our tour led from Flamingo Canal, to Coot Bay, to yet another canal, and then into Whitewater Bay. This track is referred to as the “Wilderness Waterway.” (See map below.)

American crocodile, an endangered species -The most prevalent wading bird by far was the tri-colored heron-There were many baby crocodiles along the Flamingo Canal warming in the sun. It was 37 degrees in the morning of our second day at ENP! -Because of the plug, manatees must enter the protection of the Flamingo Canal by swimming into the rivers entering Florida Bay that lead eventually into  Whitewater Bay! A very long journey. 20 miles? -Our tour guide, Nick, called this tree along the Flamingo Canal  the “perfect mangrove.” -Flamingo/Buttonwood Canal opening to Coot Bay-Entering Whitewater Bay on a cold day!It is very hard to explain how gigantic this area is! Over ten miles long and more than half that wide. Irregular in shape. It was truly “liquid land,” with mangrove forests everywhere and smaller even more beautiful mangrove islands dotting the horizon. One thing was for sure, it would be very easy to lose one’s sense of direction and get lost in Whitewater Bay. No thank you! 

Ed and I spent hours tooling around but never made it to the Shark River as access is limited. Nonetheless, I got a much better idea of the lay of the land for sending water south. I am hoping Ed and I can one day return in a canoe.

I was happy to go as far away as one can go-FLAMINGO!-Learning about a Florida I did not know- Whitewater Bay islands of Flamingo -Ed practices casting-Islands within Whitewater Bay; all of Florida must once have looked this way! -Back on Land: A Walk down the Guy Bradley Trail-Ed watches a fisherman cast in Florida Bay-Moonvine once covered the southern rim of Lake O’s pond apple forest, now gone.-Ed poses with a giant Buttonwood tree-Morning Glory. Is there a more gorgeous flower?-Guy Bradley Trail and an end to a wonderful day!

VIDEOS: 1. FLAMINGO/BUTTONWOOD CANAL; 2. MANATEES; 3. CROCODILE 

SFWMD “Weekly Environmental Report” of the Entire Everglades

One thing is for sure, the South Florida Water Management District puts out a lot of information. One publication I am slowly acquiring the patience to read in the weekly “Environmental Conditions Report.” The District has been great about sharing this important information on Twitter and Facebook, but it is still difficult to find on the website.

Today I am going to share how I read this report hoping that you will start to read it too.  You’ll notice that right off the bat there is a disclaimer: “Information contained in the report addresses environmental conditions only and is not the official South Florida Water Management District operations recommendation or decision.” 

Disclaimer or not, this document  is very important because it is given from the perspective of the entire environment of the Everglades System and of the wildlife if they could talk. The report  is 30 pages long and scientific; how can we make it easier for the layperson to read?

For me, as I begin, I ask myself, “What is this week’s problem?” “What should I know first?” To get myself engaged, I have started reading at the bottom of the document first. I go directly the last page where it says “…Recommendations.” Then I read it all.

The first sentence under the February 13, 2020 Water Management Recommendations reads:  “Current stages in WCA-3A are low for this time of year and salinities are high in Florida Bay.” Hmmm. I know high salinities are not good for Florida Bay because it can cause a massive sea grass die off, and what is this about WCA-3A? What is a WCA?

WCA means “Water Conservation Area.”

Below  is the SFWMD recommendation and a map from the National Academies showing the three Water Conservation Areas. WCAs are protected just like the Everglades and they are part of the Central and South Florida Project of 1948. They have many important functions for people and for wildlife: https://www.sfwmd.gov/sites/default/files/documents/fyi_wca_management.pdf

So now with these “problems” in mind and of course thinking about the importance of my own St Lucie River. (I am so thankful we have not had toxic algae discharges from Lake Okeechobee this year!) I read it all because I want to know about the environment for the entire Everglades as I’m sure you do as well!

Please click here to read. 2-13-10 SFWMD Weekly Environmental Report: wkly_env_conditions_ops_report_2020_02_13

A mullet jumps at sunset, St Lucie River. (Photo Todd Thurlow)

On SFWMD website:The February 13, 2020 Ecological Conditions Report is posted to the portal:https://www.sfwmd.gov/science-data/operational-planning under Operational Reports, lower left-hand side.

Everglades Coalition, The Big Water, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch SFWMD

#EVCO2020

Greetings to my blog readers! Hope your new year is off to a good start.

For me, 2020 started with the Everglades Coalition (EVCO) Conference January 9-11 at South Seas Island Resort in Captiva Island, Florida. The theme for the conference was “All Hands on Deck,” and I would certainly say that the inspirational event achieved such! (https://www.evergladescoalition.org)

As a member of the South Florida Water Management District, (https://www.sfwmd.gov), I was asked by EVCO Co-Chair Mark Perry, to sit on the panel “Lake Okeechobee Management, The Big Water.” Other panelist were: Dr Dale Gawlik, Director and Professor, Environmental Science Program, Florida Atlantic University; Dr Paul Gray, Everglades Science Coordinator Audubon Florida; David E. Hazellief, Okeechobee County Board of County Commissioners; and Col. Andrew Kelly, Jacksonville District Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Thank you to long time River Warrior, Gayle Ryan, for taping and you can find the entire panel video taped on her Facebook page dated January 10, 2:07pm. To say the least, I felt very privilege to sit with such a group. Today, I would like to share my slides and the 13 minute recorded talk below. Thank the Everglades Coalition for the opportunity to share and the SFWMD for helping me prepare.

I am ready. Both of my hands are on deck!

Historic Phytogeography of South Florida with Present Day SFWMD Features Map, 2019

 

Marjory Stoneman Douglas, SLR/IRL

Just last weekend, I presented at the “Future of Florida Summit” at the University of Florida’s Graham Center. Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, gave a passionate speech to hundreds of young people during the lunchtime session. My husband, Ed, usually quiet, turned to me saying: ” He is a really good speaker.”

The crowd listened…

Mr Eikenberg noted that he was a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Broward County, Florida and that even though the school was literally built in what was once the Everglades, there had not been studies on that subject while he attended the school. He talked about the importance of our state waters and the need to involve youth in the education of our natural world, especially here in South Florida.

Ironically, four days later, the horrific shooting at Mr Eikenberg’s alma mater, has called attention, once again, to the shortcomings, and cultural sickness in our society.

In 1991, the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas Everglades Protection Act” was enacted by the Florida Legislature becoming the precursor to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). Douglas ended up asking for her name to be removed from the legislation. At the time, she was 103 years old. After fighting for the Everglades for a lifetime, she said she felt the legislation was too favorable to the Sugar Farmers. “Growers should clean up the water on their own land…” meaning the state and federal government shouldn’t be building Storm Water Treatment Areas with taxpayer dollars to do it for them….

In time, Ms Douglas’ name was removed.

I wonder if she were alive today, if she would want her name removed from the school? I doubt it. She may have been tough on those destroying the Everglades, but she had a soft heart for youth. Lore states that when she was starting her famed organization Friends for the Everglades she refused to have the membership fee too high for students to be able to join, as she knew they were the most internal of keys.

My greatest sorrow and prayers for the families of the dead.

May the blood of the slain remind us to stop looking at our phones, and to turn to nature and Nature’s God for insight and inspiration in this crazy and destructive human-made world.

St Lucie River sunset, Todd Thurlow

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Links:

Palm Beach Post, Who was MSD: http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/broward-school-shooting-who-was-marjory-stoneman-douglas/OOPs63TWxpyyxDOjW9SM6J/

CNN Who was MSD: https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/15/us/marjory-stoneman-douglas-who-was-trnd/index.html

Tampa Bay Times year she died: http://www.tampabay.com/news/nation/Who-was-Marjory-Stoneman-Douglas-_165518820

Washington Post MSD obituary: https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1998/05/15/environmentalist-marjory-stoneman-douglas-dies-at-108/99d2a81d-2141-4dd1-b8fc-69d4cb0da27b/

Everglades Protection Act, Sun Sentinel, MSD, http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1991-04-26/news/9101210185_1_joe-podgor-everglades-marshes

Everglades Protection Act, Sun Sentinel 2, MSD removing her name: http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1991-05-08/news/9102250472_1_everglades-pollution-lawsuit-pollution-filtering-marshes-joe-podgor

Timeline of Everglades Restoration: http://evergladeslaw.org/everglades-timeline/

Everglades Protection Act, originally, the MSD EPA:http://evergladeslaw.org/timeline/florida-legislature-passes-everglades-protection-act/

National Park Service, MSD Bio: https://www.nps.gov/ever/learn/historyculture/msdouglas.htm

Alligators and Litigators: https://www.floridabar.org/news/tfb-journal/?durl=/DIVCOM%2FJN%2FJNJournal01%2Ensf%2FAuthor%2FD0FE7CE69AFA102885256ADB005D635E

SFWMD history including 1991 EPA: https://www.sfwmd.gov/sites/default/files/documents/bmp_nonpoint_source.pdf

Everglades Foundation:https://www.evergladesfoundation.org