"Ever since the White man first came to Florida, most of them have viewed Florida, and particularly the Everglades, as the enemy. Something to be fought and conquered rather than as a rich and beautiful watery wilderness deserving of admiration and protection."
The story of south Florida is a story of the water and the land, how they meet and how they interact to provide a rich subtropical but ever fragile landscape. The sheer productivity and resilience of nature provided thousands of years of resources to fulfill most all human needs. Then, development occurred with little thought as to the consequences and with much emphasis on man’s right to take nature and mold it to fit immediate desires and rewards.
This book was inspired by the last paragraph of Ray Dasmann’s great work published in 1967:
“If you can’t win the fight for Florida’s environment, what can you win, and is it worth winning? Are you really prepared to acquiesce while the dredge-and-fill, the high-rise and the low-rise developments, the highways and the jet- ports, the barge canals and the industrial parks, cut the land to ribbons? Are you willing to wait until the pesticides accumulate and the wildlife has gone? While the waters of every stream and lake and bay become choked and filthy? Will you be willing to steer your little boat down a dirty canal into a fishless ocean? Do you really want to make extra money at the expense of your home country, knowing it can buy you only a little more of what you already have in lake and bay become choked and filthy?
Will you be willing to steer your little boat down a dirty canal into a fishless ocean? Do you really want to make extra money at the expense of your home country, knowing it can buy you only a little more of what you already have in surfeit, knowing it can buy you no refuge? Where do you go when all the fair places have been ruined? Where do you go from Florida?” 1
In the late 1960s, the threat of development to the natural world awakened Floridians to the need for envi- ronmental protection. The groundwork had been laid by Marjory Douglas’ book The Everglades: River of Grass and by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. But a few books, as alarming as they were, did little to spur action. It took a proposal to build the largest airport in the world, capable of handling supersonic passenger jets, right in the middle of south Florida. That began an era of restoring sensitive lands and water to their historic state. That process, seen in part through the eyes of a man who lived through that time and helped shape the changes that took place, is what this book is all about.
Franklin Adams, for some of his career, was a fishing guide and ecotour operator out of Everglades City. A native Floridian born in Miami, his father brought him to the Big
Cypress as a present for his seventh birthday. He never forgot the wild landscape and moved to southwest Florida a young man in the early 1950s, where he quickly grew to love the pristine wilderness. And as he saw it being compromised by roads and development, entered a second phase of his life as an official of the Izaak Walton League and Florida Wildlife Federation, both of which gave him platforms from which he could fight for the preservation and restoration of the world he so deeply cared for.
I was a friend of Marjory Douglas and part of the early Friends of the Everglades effort to have the Big Cypress named a National Preserve. Then, through some of my other activities became deeply involved in the formation of a number of large conservation project in particular the Turner River and the Fakahatchee Strand.
Throughout this book the reader will find quotations in italics and shadow-boxes. Those are either words from interviews, or direct quotes from letters and private notes written by Adams. They are intended to amplify and illuminate the issues and events being written about, but before digging into history it is helpful to briefly summarize the underlying premise that informs this book—all about two topics: the water and the land.