The Everglades is the largest wetland of its kind in North America, but it’s been under assault for generations by residential development, water diversion and pesticide runoff. Now, a massive proposal is one step closer to putting more fresh water back into the ecosystem that covers more than 2,000 square miles of south Florida.
Some of the rare bird species that call the Everglades home are sounding an alarm for the health of America’s unique wetlands, reports CBS News correspondent Manuel Bojorquez.
The strangely beautiful roseate spoonbill has raised its young along the Everglades for hundreds, likely thousands, of years. But the “spoonies” are abandoning the Everglades. One roost is hundreds of miles north of their traditional nesting area. The spoonbills need small freshwater pools to feed and those are disappearing from the Glades.
The trend is “scary,” said Jerry Lorenz of Florida’s Audubon Society.
“We see a lot of saltwater intrusion, which is also something that is damaging to the Everglades. It changes the habitat and makes it less productive,” Lorenz said.
He says it’s more than just birds – the entire ecosystem is out of balance. Lorenz said we’ve drained it “for our purposes.”
“Development, agriculture, this was the big land boom,” Lorenz said. “There were people who look at that swamp and said, ‘What a waste of land, fertile soil, let’s drain it.'”
Fresh water from the Kissimmee River used to flow south into Lake Okeechobee. During the rainy season, the overflow would go through the Everglades all the way to Florida Bay. But development has blocked much of that natural flow. Lorenz said about 50 percent of the Everglades have been lost, and the rest is salvageable.
“The only way to do that is to restore that flow,” he said.