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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Stuart D. Strahl
This interview begins with Dr. Strahl=s account of his educational and professional
background (page 1) and moves into an extended treatment of his affiliation with the
National Audobon Society (page 1-2), particularly its history and current situation on both
the Florida and national levels (page 2-3). On page 4, Dr. Strahl relates how he came to be
involved with the Everglades, and page 5 contains his thoughts on how the environment
sicknesses of the Everglades came about over time.
On page 6, Dr. Strahl comments on the Army Corps of Engineers, both in the past and their
current involvement with Everglades Restoration, with specific reference to the elevation of
Mike Davis to the Everglades Restoration leadership role (page 6-7). He particularly
highlights the shift in mentality that allowed the Corps to facilitate the Restoration effort
(page 7). On page 8, Dr. Strahl shares his reaction to Gale Norton=s appointment as
Secretary of Interior under President George W. Bush. He also stresses the importance of
having independent watchdog groups serving as guardians of the environment (page 9).
For example, Dr Strahl gives great credence to Rachel Carson and other environmental
writers for their pioneering work in the environmental movement (page 10), although he
concedes that there is still a strong negativity that many American exhibit to so-called
Atree-huggers@ (page 10-11)
The majority of the rest of the interview has Dr. Strahl=s perspective on a variety of both
institutions and individuals involved in Everglades Restoration, including the 1972 Water
Resources Act and the economic factors working for and against Restoration (page 12),
and the South Florida Water Management District, particularly their lack of attention to
scientific data (page 12-13), their surplus of political authority (page 13), and their financial
concerns (page 14). Dr. Strahl also comments on Preservation 2000 (page 14), the 1985
Growth Management Act and its effects on the Everglades (page 15), the state wetlands
mitigation system (page 16), and the SWIM Act (Surface Water Improvement Management
Act) (page 17-18). The South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force is discussed on
page 17-18, with particular attention to its constituent members.
Individuals commented on include Nathaniel Reed (page 20), Senator Bob Graham (page
23-24), Bruce Babbitt (Secretary of Interior under President Bill Clinton) (page 24), Colonel
Terry Rice from the Army Corps of Engineers (page 25-6), Dick Ring, superintendent of
Everglades National Park (page 26), President Clinton himself (page 26), and governor of
Florida Jeb Bush (page 27-28).
Dr. Strahl also shares his thoughts on water storage and aquifer storage and retrieval, and
how the former issue is critical to the overall success of the Restoration (19-20). He
comments also on his interaction with other environmental groups (20-21), the recent
Everglades Coalition meeting on Hutchison Island (21-22), public support for the
environmental community in Florida generally (28-29) and the agricultural industries and
their roles in the Restoration effort (30-31), particularly the sugar industry (page 32) and the
Amendment 4 issue ( 33).
Other topics touched on by Dr. Strahl include default water standards (page 31), the
Environmental Protection Agency under Carol Browner and Christie Todd Whitman (page
34), the first priorities that Everglades Restoration should target (page 34-35) and other
options for water storage in the future (page 35). He also comments on the building of
Tamiami Trail (page 36), environmental journalists and their influence on Restoration (page
37), the Seminole and Miccosukee Tribes (page 38-39). He concludes his interview by
justifying Audubon=s interest in wading birds (page 39), his excitement over new
educational awareness/projects that his organization is sponsoring (page 40), the promise
of eco-tourism (page 40-41), land-management planning (page 41), mercury poisoning
(page 42), and the upcoming Audubon board meeting and legislative agenda (page 42-3).
He closes with a comment on the collaborative effort needed for long-term success in the
Everglades (page 44).
Interviewee: Stuart Strahl
Interviewer: Julian Pleasants
Date: February 22, 2001
P: This is February 22, 2001. I am with Dr. Stuart Strahl, and we are in Haines City,
Florida. If you would, discuss briefly your professional career, including your
education and positions you held prior to your current position.
S: Thank you. Sure, my educational background is, I have a B.A. in biology, [a B.A.
rather than a B.S.] because I could not stand physics, and I got that at Bates
College, a small college in the state of Maine. I did my postgraduate work at the
State University of New York at Albany, a Ph.D. in biology. I did my research,
some of it, in Arizona on cooperatively-nesting birds, and some in South America
on some very odd creatures, and then did a post-doctoral fellowship with the
Wildlife Conservation Society in Venezuela, where I had done my Ph.D.
research. I developed a network of young professionals and graduate students
for the Wildlife Conservation Society. I was put on staff as a Research Fellow
and then a research zoologist and then a regional coordinator for North and
South American programs and [finally as] Director of Latin American programs. I
was in Venezuela from 1984 to 1989. I moved back from Caracas to New York.
From 1989 to 1992, I was Director of Latin American programs out of New York. I
moved in 1992, left that job for a variety of family reasons and moved back to my
family's farm on the eastern shore of Maryland, which we were in the process of
donating, my family, bit-by-bit to the Chesapeake Audubon Society. Build that
into one of the first dozen Audubon centers in the country, environmental
education, agricultural education center, linking kids with [natural] resources. It is
now the basis for the National Audubon Society's state office in Maryland. Late in
1995, as National Audubon Society changed its leadership, I was recruited to be
the Director of our Everglades Conservation Office in Miami. I moved there in
early 1996. I was hired, I think, the 3rd or 4th of January that year and moved
down here in early February. I [held] that position through 1999. Well, actually
1998, [when] I was promoted to vice-president and put in charge of the Florida
state office of National Audubon [Society]. We consolidated all of our National
Audubon Society programs in 1998-1999, and we merged in 1999 with the
Florida Audubon Society, which had been a separate organization for ninety-five
years. Now, I am the President of the Florida Audubon Society and the Vice-
President and state director of the National Audubon Society. We have merged
all our operations into what we call Audubon of Florida, which is a strategic
alliance of National and Florida Audubon Society programs and in collaboration
with our forty-three chapters around the state.
P: How closely tied are you with the National Audubon Society?
S: Well, our staff in Audubon of Florida are actually employees of the National
Audubon Society, although my board here in the state of Florida is the board of
the Florida Audubon Society. I am in the position where I am hired by mutual
consent of the National Audubon Society and the Florida Audubon Society, and
either one can fire me after a good-faith consultation. I am both the Vice
President of National Audubon Society and our largest state office, which is
Florida, and President/CEO of Audubon of Florida, or Florida Audubon Society. It
is [an unusual] relationship, because like many of the Audubon affiliates that
started the National Federation of Audubon Societies back in 1900, Florida
Audubon Society had been a separate entity (still is) and started 100 years ago,
like Massachusetts Audubon Society, New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania and
others. In this case, because the National Audubon Society programs had grown
so large [by] 1998 we actually were three times the size and budget of the
Florida Audubon Society it was more convenient to move our administrative
structure into National Audubon Society, but keep the board and the character of
the Florida Audubon Society. So I am both.
P: I was surprised to learn how old the Florida Audubon Society is. It got started
when there were hardly any people in the state. Can you tell me a little bit about
S: Yes, that is really a proud history. The Audubon movement began back in the
1800s. The first Audubon Society was formed in 1886 in Massachusetts, and it
was formed by a group of naturalists and conservationists who were appalled at
the slaughter of wild birds for the millinery trade, for ladies' hats. One of them
counted, walking down Madison Avenue [in New York City], [over] 150 different
species of birds stuck dead on ladies' hats, just to give you an idea. It was really
quite a negative impact on bird populations. We started as those Audubon
Societies, the Federation of Audubon Societies, back then before there were any
real wildlife protection laws and wild bird protection laws in the United States.
Florida, in fact, was one of the first focal states for [the Audubon movement]
because of the tremendous populations of wading birds down here, and egrets
especially and herons have these beautiful plumes in the breeding season, and
they were being wiped out [on their] nesting grounds and rookeries, and the skins
sold for ladies' hats. So [Audubon] really began down [in Florida]. It was the
National Federation of Audubon Societies, Florida Audubon Society, and the
American Ornithologist Union that funded Guy Bradley and Columbus MacLeod
and a number of other wardens. Those two I mentioned were out guarding these
nests, and both of them were killed. It was that lucrative and that dangerous a job
back in 1902 and 1905. They were employees of Florida Audubon Society,
funded by the National Federation with the American Ornithologist Union.
Gradually over the course of the first ten, twenty years of the century, Audubon,
in conjunction with the American Ornithologist Union and others, lobbied
successfully for the first wildlife laws, bird-protection laws, in the country, I think
the Lacey Act and a couple of others. This history goes back to that protectionist
beginning, but throughout the course of the past century, Audubon, whether
Florida or National, was instrumental in, for instance, the first National Wildlife
Refuge in the [country], Pelican Island, was declared by Teddy Roosevelt, an
honorary Vice President of the Florida Audubon Society. That was one of the
seminal points [for] wildlife refuges, obviously, in the country. The Everglades
National Park, of course, Big Cypress National Preserve, the whole jetport
scandal of the 1960s where the National Environmental Policy Act was started
up, all of that was Audubon-led. During this time, you had the Florida Audubon
Society, which was primarily an activist grassroots organization, with its local
Florida Naturalist magazine, organizing people around specific conservation
issues and being the voice of conservation for the state, with a membership that
was shared with National Audubon Society. They were the more aggressive,
activist branch. The National Audubon Society took its strength from its technical
expertise. In the 1930s, Arthur Allen and a number of the Audubon scientists
started the Tavernier Science Center in Tavernier. Some of the earliest baseline
data on wading birds in Florida Bay, and some of the data that led to the
declaration of Everglades National Park, and the surveys that started long before
the park was there, were done by Audubon scientists. Even after the park was
declared, Audubon scientists conducted those bird surveys, right up to the
present-day. And other places, such as Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary [in the]
1950s, a nationwide grassroots movement to save the last virgin cypress swamp
in South Florida, which is now one of our premier Audubon centers in the country
(which you and all the listeners need to go visit). Lake Okeechobee Sanctuary,
30,000 acres of lease-land, started about the same time. The Kissimmee Prairie
State Preserve is immediately adjacent and formed by people who started by
acquiring the Ordway-Whittell Kissimmee Sanctuary of National Audubon
Society. So, whether it is protecting birds around the coasts and our coastal
islands sanctuaries program has continued since the days of the wardens or
some of these specific things, Audubon Florida and National have both been very
active in declaration of parks and preserves and conservation of wildlife, and
primarily through a science-based formula.
P: You indicated you had forty-three affiliate chapters.
P: How many members altogether in the state of Florida, and what kind of budget
do you have?
S: The membership waxes and wanes. We are about to embark on a pretty big
membership campaign, so by the time anybody listens to this, I hope it has at
least tripled what it is right now. We have between 30,000 and 40,000 members
in the state. Right now, I think the number is somewhere around 36,000
members. We have eight offices around the state. They range from Tavernier
Science Center [to] our Miami office (the Everglades Conservation Office, which
is also our headquarters) [to] Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, our Tampa office
which [houses] our Coastal Islands Sanctuary, the Center for Birds of Prey [at
which] we have [rehabilitated] more bald eagles than any other center in the
United States with the exception of one, the Kissimmee Ordway Sanctuary and
up in Tallahassee, as well, we have an office. We have a staff of about eighty
people right now, and an annual operating budget of [roughly] $5,500,000 and
assets that are somewhere in the order of $30,000,000 around the state in
sanctuaries and structures.
P: When did you first get involved in the Everglades?
S: That actually is a very leading question. My grandmother built one of the first
houses on Redington Beach, on one of the barrier islands off of St. Pete, back in
the 1930s, and I used to visit her [from the 1960s on]. She passed away at the
age of 103 in 1995, as I was being hired for this job. My parents always took us
to parks and preserves, and one of the first trips I can remember when I was ten
years old, one of the first major parks, was Everglades National Park. [It was] the
first time I had ever seen a bald eagle chase an osprey for its fish [and] the first
time I had ever seen wading birds in a huge rookery. Of course, that was back in
1965, and the bird populations were much higher then than they are now,
throughout the park. And [I]] traveled through Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. It is
one of those places you never forget, when you have an experience like that.
You know, wildlife spectacles just embed themselves in your mind. As I started
working in South America, I looked at parks in the tropics. I began teaching these
courses to get young professionals in Latin America engaged in protecting and
preserving [natural resources], engaged in careers in conservation and finding
their way, whether they were biologists or lawyers, towards a conservation
career. It was a very successful program. But what I used to do is take parks and
develop case-statements. Then I would surprise the students by never choosing
their country or any other Latin American country. The two parks that I chose for
the case-studies of parks in peril were the Everglades National Park and what at
the time was the largest park in the lower forty-eight states, Adirondack State
Park in upstate New York. Here you had two areas which had incredible external
threats, tremendous pressure from [human intervention]. In the Everglades, [the
park] was downstream of everything. Controversial because of the loss of
wildlife, in the one case, the pollution problems in Everglades and the Adirondack
State Park because of the multiplicity of uses, and both cases, eco-tourism
locations. I would explain all these parks, and every student in Latin America [of
course] knew that both of those parks had to be somewhere in Latin America
with all those problems, you know, with all the governmental structures, the
conflict between the Water Management District, the [Army] Corps of Engineers
[and] the National Park Service, which [all] of course had different names in the
case study. They were all surprised to see that the most endangered park in the
country that we were talking about was in the U.S., and that it was Everglades
Park, because everybody's dream in those days in Latin America was to spend
time in Miami. So, I guess my entrance into Everglades started out that way, from
afar, looking at it from South America and saying, this is a park that needs some
serious remediation. When I was recruited for this job of Everglades
Conservation Office director, it was kind of interesting, because I never thought
that I would have to have a hand in trying to fix this. At the time I was teaching
that park, I figured that it was a lost cause. Let us put it that way.
P: Let us talk a little bit about what caused the Everglades to be in such desperate
condition over the years.
S: A number of issues. One was water mismanagement, or I guess you could say
misallocation and mismanagement, through the Central and South Florida flood
control project. But I would go back to a more root cause, and I think that is a
fundamental public misunderstanding of the value of natural areas in South
Florida. I think that is what we battle around the country right now. As we become
more urbanized, people get dislocated from nature, dislocated from what nature
means to them. In South Florida, the premium, back in the 1940s, was on
opening up land for development and for agriculture. So, the Central and South
Florida project, you have probably seen the video that the Corps did back in the
1940s, we are going to tame this river, the Kissimmee River running wild, you
know? And we are going to channelize it, we are going to make it straight, we are
going to drain those nasty old wetlands, we are going to use Lake Okeechobee
as a surge tank (because what good is it if it is not a surge tank), we are going to
open up agricultural areas, and then we are going to have this huge area where
we can do urban sprawl. At that time, it was known as bringing people and
growing an economy. So, this misallocation and mismanagement of water, when
I say that, it was managed appropriately for flood-control and water supply and
horribly mismanaged for the natural system. That is because people really did
not quite understand. The people who were managing it were managing it for
those former two issues or purposes, and the rest of the people who had asked
for that project to come down here the Corps did not just show up; they were
asked down here to fix this and open up everything for agriculture those people
were not putting a premium on Everglades as a tourist location or as an
economic engine or as really a water supply. That was not foremost in their
minds. It is ironic that Everglades National Park and the Central and Southern
[Florida] flood-control project started at the same time. On the one hand, we have
the nation looking at this incredible resource in South Florida, this marvel of
nature, that is, the Everglades, and saying we need a national park. On the other
hand, you have the state of Florida telling the Corps, please come down here
and develop the heck out of South Florida, or, provide us with that flood-control
and water supply. It was not until much later that I think you had more of a
consensus that both systems were broken and that we needed to fix them both.
Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, [in] her book River Of Grass, outlined what the
problem was going to be and in a remarkably prescient way said, if you continue
down this road, you are going to have an ecological disaster. But people did not
at that time see that as all of a bad thing, if it gave them flood control and water
supply, outside the environmental community and a few others.
P: Colonel Terry Rice said that the problem with the [Army] Corps of Engineers was
due to "innocent ignorance." How would you respond to that?
S: I would say the Corps did a remarkably efficient job at what they were asked to
do. They were brought down and told you will do this, and, by golly, they did it.
They designed a water-supply flood-control project par excellence for 2,000,000
people, or 2,500,000 at the outside, and we have 6,500,000 down here now. We
look at where we are now and where we are going in the future, and if you had
told most of the environmental community twenty years ago that the Army Corps
of Engineers would have a restoration plan for the Everglades, you would have
been laughed out of town. If you had told them that the broad group of engineers
on the Water Management District and the Corps and all the other agencies that
signed on would win the Palladium Medal from the Audubon Society and
American Engineering Society, you would have been laughed out of town. And
here we are. They have been asked to do something different now, and, by golly,
they are going to do it.
P: The question is, can they do it, and who will oversee the project?
S: That is a good question. Do you have any others? [Both laugh.] No, that is a
good question. That depends on two things: it depends on political and public
will. If the political will changes from restoration back to ditch, dike and drain in
this country, we certainly will have a problem. If the public will in this country, and
especially in South Florida, moves from conservation, and I mean that in the
broadest sense from protection to sustainable-use, back towards use and abuse,
we are going to have a problem. The change in the Corps is not so much
fundamentally a change in the way the Corps operates because of people within
the Corps saying, we will change ourselves; it is because there has been political
pressure to say, you know, we got to do something more than build and ditch,
dike and drain; we have got to restore. That sets this project apart from the
majority of other public works projects in the Water Resource Development Act,
because here we have somebody looking into the future and saying, we are
going to improve the natural habitat, a natural system, and we are going to
accomplish these other "traditional" Corps functions of water supply and flood-
control. Can they do it? They can do it, if that public will and that political will
remain in place. Will they do it? Who is going to oversee that? Well, that has a
variety of different answers. If you look at the Water Resources Development
Act, the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of the Army are overseeing it.
If you look at who is giving the money, the state of Florida and the governor,
through the Water Management District, is overseeing it. But if you get right down
to the root of it, it is the political and public pressure that got us to this point.
P: What is your reaction to the appointment of Mike Davis in the Department of
Interior to oversee the whole project?
S: When we look at the Corps and when we see, okay, we have got the political will
to go towards restoration, Mike is an agent of change and has done a terrific job
within the Corps of saying, okay, you want us to be into restoration? We can go
into restoration. I first heard about Mike when I was up in the Chesapeake Bay
area. The Corps was talking about restoration, and my deputy director for the
state office and director of restoration science you probably ought to interview
him Mark Kraus, was up there in Chesapeake as well. Dr. Kraus and I knew
this fellow, this strange ecologist, working in the Corps of Engineers and thought,
boy, that is a pretty interesting place to be; you know, I wonder if he is an
endangered species. But then you see the Corps shifting towards restoration,
which is a very positive thing for them, not just to the environmental community
but to the American public, because restoration is a positive force of change to
get things back, philosophically (versus protectionism, which is to lie down in
front of the bulldozer). Mike is one of those people who thinks positively and
thinks into the future. He has done a very good job balancing the issues and
trying to find the correct solutions. Not all of those who would be his constituents,
whether agriculture or environmental, would say he has done a perfect job; in
fact, I am sure there are detractors on either side for Mike. But I think it is a very
positive move that he, who has balanced those issues, is now in a position where
he can oversee the project.
P: My impression has been, with the Corps of Engineers, it is not so much a change
in philosophy, but it is a pragmatic decision; they want contracts, and they will
take on whatever engineering project is presented to them. Is that fair?
S: I think that is true, in the sense of their business is to do what Congress tells
them, and of course the Secretary of the Army, let us not forget him. At the same
time, when I was saying a change in culture, a change towards restoration from
just ditch, dike and drain is philosophically big. I am sure there is a lot of internal
conflict within the Corps about this. You have got the traditionalists, and you have
got the traditional people on the [Congressional] Appropriations committees who
are saying, I want my flood protection on the Mississippi River, or, on the upper
Mississippi, I want my dredging.
P: Well, they have projects doing that right now.
S: They do, and so this is sort of a cosmic paradox within the Corps, if we could say
the old Corps is doing the old Corps stuff, the new Corps is doing this new stuff.
The new stuff is there because there is a lot of public pressure to do the new
stuff. The old stuff is there because there is still public pressure and economic
pressure to do the old stuff. I do not think that is going to change dramatically.
But finding that balance like we found in South Florida, finding the balance is
going to be the wave of the future for this country. We cannot afford to sit around
and say, environmentalists are Democrats and Republicans are evil developers.
Being a Republican, I can say that. Sorry if that is offensive. We cannot afford to
say conservative is close-minded and liberal is open-minded, and we cannot
afford to say the Corps will ditch, dike and drain and the Department of the
Interior will protect the environment. I think that we are coming into an era where
all of us, not just the Corps [but also] the environmental community, the
Department of Interior, state [and] federal governments are going to have to
adapt and change just as much as the Corps has. To get the environmental
community to the point of trusting the Corps of Engineers to do restoration, like I
said, that is a huge leap of faith, and that means a change in culture for the
P: Your reaction to the appointment of Gale Norton as secretary of the interior?
There was some statement that she was Jim Watt [Reagan's Secretary of
Interior, vilified by environmentalists] in a dress.
S: That is not a happy vision I have in my head when you say that. I have got to
say, we have to work with whomever is there. I think one of the hallmarks of what
Everglades has done within the South Florida community is to take people who
would never even consider this to be a priority, [such as] the Greater Miami
Chamber of Commerce, and say, listen, that is an economic resource out there -
we have just in Miami-Dade County a $10,000,000,000 annual tourism income -
that means something to you. The environmental community, myself included,
have for many years said to the American public, in our direct-mail pieces or [on]
TV, the environment is ours, we are the guardians of the environment, send us
your money and we will make sure this stays ours forever. [This has created a
situation] where the environment, that is, clean air and clean water and open
space, American heritage, is [perceived as] a special interest. On the other side
of the coin, you have agriculture as a special interest in this country. Only
environmentalists and agricultural people could make that happen as efficiently
as we have done. I think when we draw the line in the sand and we say anybody
who is not one of us is bad, anybody who is not an environmentalist cannot do
good things, we are really excluding 99.9 percent of America from our cause. We
need to be including them more. Whether Gale Norton will do the right thing or
not, I would summarize my president, John Flicker, [who] wrote an editorial about
this. I think he hit it right, and it is not just because I work for him I say this. He
said, right now, the Republican party, with the appointment of Gale Norton, is
sending a signal, but we are not going to be able to interpret what that signal
really means until we see what she does. The Republican party has an
opportunity to be the Teddy Roosevelt Republicans that started the Park Service,
that started Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, that set up our programs
around the country for real protection and conservation of natural resources. We
can be that as a Republican party, or we can be the James Watt Republicans
that were [advocating] opening] up that public land for drilling and get in there
and cut down those old growth forests. By and large, the American public has
rejected that. By and large, if you look at the changes in laws that were
attempted to make it more of an extracted use in our public lands, the American
public has rejected that. I know that Newt Gingrich [former Congressman from
Georgia and former Speaker of the House] found that out, and, you know, he
became an Everglades Restoration advocate before he left Congress. And
James Watt found that out, and that whole administration did. Our job as the
environmental community [should] not [be] to [exclude] people, because we do
not like their ideology or their place in the partisan scheme of things, but [it is] to
try and encourage people to do the right thing for the right reasons.
P: There has been a pretty dramatic change in public opinion over the last twenty
years. What is the cause of that, and also, I am interested in how policy has
evolved, so that now we can take a holistic approach.
S: We are not there yet.
P: Well, it seems as if we are evolving in that direction.
S: I hope so.
P: What has caused that change?
S: I think I overstepped a little bit on that last comment. You know, it is always
important to have somebody being the watchdog for the environment. Absolutely.
Audubon, Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense Fund, just to
name a few. There is a balance to be struck within any community, and we need
to have people who are ever vigilant, both legally and in terms of advocacy, for
conservation and preservation of our environment. We have two conservation
movements that started in this country. One started back at the turn of the
century as resources began to be depleted and used up and as people started
thinking about management; the fathers and mothers of the schools of wildlife
management, parks management, forestry, all of that, began really in earnest at
that time. Even then there were the protectionist movements, and the real
environmental movements Audubon was one, for instance protect the
P: People like Gifford Pinchot [U.S. Forester under Teddy Roosevelt] and that sort
S: Correct. Yes, all those folks, Ducher and others, and you had William Hornaday
at the New York Zoological Society and others. So, those two were somewhat
parallel. The wildlife managers and wildlife protection people were somewhat
apart. In the 1960s and 1970s, we had the birth of what we would call the
environmental movement of today, [which has been] much more focused on
aggressive advocacy [and] on legal advocacy as well. I think that has made more
people aware. When I was a kid, we had the pop bottles with a deposit on them,
but recycling, there was no need for that, because we had not run out of landfill
space. I mean, you still dumped it [in the ocean] off New York Harbor. We began
to get aware of that with poisons in the natural system and all of that. I do not
think there has been a complete healing or a complete coming together of
management and protection. If you want a good example of that, look at the
agricultural and environmental communities here in Florida. How do we bridge
that gap? Clean air, clean water and food what is our common ground? Open
space is our common ground, water supply is our common ground. I think we
have a long ways to go. As we become more urbanized in this country, people
are going to be further and further away from both of our causes.
P: How influential do you think Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring was?
S: I think it was very influential because it pointed out something that scientists have
known and have been aware of for some time. The extent of the problem was
completely unknown to the majority of North Americans, especially. At that point,
there had been a number of other calls to action for this, [like] Our Plundered
Planet by Fairfield Osborn, [Aldo Leopold], William Fornaday's [earlier] books as
well. But this one really put numbers and put science behind conservation or
preservation, and the sort of scientific environmental movement began then. It
has been interesting. I grew up [in] that era. I read the books from back at the
turn of the century, and William Beebe, and for some who experienced
degradation of nature first through books, Rachel Carson was a seminal force. A
lot of people who are in the modern conservation movements, whether it is
agricultural or management or environmental, a lot of us started out doing things
like visiting parks and seeing nature and feeling like we were relatively small
compared to the vastness of a place like Everglades National Park and the
Grand Canyon. You sort of combine those two, and you get people who
experience these incredible places and then learn about the degradation that is
going on. I think that was a real turning point, that combined with the 1960s with
activism and people being involved in causes and taking causes up, and sort of
general I do not know if you would say unrest, but general rethinking of
priorities or rethinking individual involvement in government and in causes -
together were seminal.
P: But is there not still a very strong negative attitude toward the environmental
groups. I hear developers refer to environmental groups as tree-huggers.
S: Bunny-huggers, yes. Birds, bugs and bunnies.
P: They see the Environmental Defense [Fund] as being too extreme.
S: Sure. I mean, there are the extremists. I was once asked to get together a group
of reasonable environmental people for somebody who was writing some serious
public-policy articles to be published in papers in South Florida, and I said, what
does that mean? What is reasonable? Are you reasonable if you are willing to
give up more? Or are you reasonable if you are just not as strident about getting
the outcomes you want? I think it is sort of like saying, let us get some
reasonable agricultural people together what does that mean? You know,
sitting around drinking a beer, everybody can be kind of reasonable. I think there
is very much a negative attitude. We sometimes as environmentalists act as is
we are a special-interest, and only we are the chosen few who have the real
interests of environment at heart, and that is not necessarily true. But like I said
before, it is important that we have a diversity of how we act and how we get to
the end results that we all want. Last night I was sitting with somebody who
works for a senator who has [a lot] to do with the proposed drilling in the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge. I said to her, choosing this as a first environmental
initiative, natural resource initiative, in this administration would be as if you
chose gays in the military as your first public-policy thing [as President Clinton
did in 1993], and I wrote a little comparison for her. She did not like it very much,
but, you know, you are talking about using public land for private profit, primarily.
She said, the role of government and the role of my senator is to respond to his
constituency. I said, the role of government is to do the best for the people of this
country. Do we have a fundamental disagreement there? The response that a lot
of people have when I say you should not be drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge is immediately to classify me as a liberal Democrat bunny-hugger, who
has never seen the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and does not realize that it is
not like the Everglades; there are not lots of birds and bugs and bunnies floating
around there; it is pretty depauperate. I say, yeah, there are only a couple
hundred thousand caribou and a whole bunch of polar bears and grizzly bears,
and let us not forget the [millions of] breeding-shore birds and all those things on
a very delicate carpet of tundra over a permafrost going to an Arctic Ocean,
which itself is [in] a rather delicate state. You try to get beyond "you are just a
bunny-hugger." One of the other people sitting there said, ask him [meaning Dr.
Strahl] what kind of car he drives. I said, what does that have to do with it? She
said, you know, I know a lot of environmentalists who drive around in their Ford
Expeditions. I said, we are descending into rhetoric now. We are not talking
rationally about why we should drill or not; we are talking about name-calling. I
filled her in that I was a, I thought, rather conservative Republican, and I did not
think that the party with Teddy Roosevelt as its forefather, who pretty much lost
the presidency by getting big business out of government, should be doing the
opposite. It is funny because there is a very partisan nature to that perception of
[environmentalists] being liberal Democrat bunny-huggers.
P: And what they would argue is the crisis is significant, because California needs
S: Sure, and the prices at the pump are costing votes. What it really got down to,
the bottom line was, this is going to be the largest economic boom for Alaska,
this senator's state, in recorded history. But, I said, when the country is reeling
from energy problems again, why is it that this party [has] no sustainable energy
policy that anybody can discern, why is it that the root cause is not addressed?
You know, do not talk to the public about [how] we are going to protect caribou or
[how] we are going to get oil; talk to them about [how], as an elected official,
looking] into the future, this is going to happen over and over and over. Before
we decide that we are going to put a band-aid on this problem [by] drilling in
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, [shouldn't] we call on producers of cars to
sacrifice a little bit of their profit and make them more fuel-efficient, so we do not
have to pay $1.60 a gallon because, instead of twenty miles per gallon, we are
getting thirty miles per gallon [on average]? It would not cost that much, it really
would not, and I bet you everybody would pay an extra $100 for a car that got
twenty miles or ten miles to the gallon more.
P: But see, the problem is they are politicians, not statesmen, and the senators from
Texas and Michigan are not going to go along with that.
S: That is exactly right. That is the difference between a politician and a statesman.
P: I want to ask you about several events and programs and get you to comment on
how they have impacted the Everglades in a broad sense. I would like to start out
with the 1972 Water Resources Act that created all of these Water Management
Areas. What is your analysis of how effectively that has worked?
S: I think, remarkably, having public policies defined around little functional
ecosystems or watersheds makes a lot of sense, inherently. I was not in Florida
at that time in fact, I was in high school at that time but that is the sort of thing
when you teach environmental policy, you want to be able to have that kind of
control over a watershed, have your public-policy decisions and your
management decisions made on that basis. Take a look at the Mississippi River,
where the policies are made on the state level in how many states, as a good
example on how not to design a decision-making structure. I think that
fundamentally has in the end had a net positive effect, as we have been able to
change public policy towards restoration, towards conservation and away from
supply and flood-control exclusively. If we did not have that structure, if we did
not have a decision-making body that represented that ecosystem, it would be
very difficult to do what we have done with Everglades restoration. Now, I do not
say that there have not been some real downsides to having the economic forces
that are residing within that watershed, putting lots of pressure over the previous
twenty, thirty years in the opposite direction. That has been a serious problem as
well, but I think it has lent itself to restoration, in the end.
P: One of the criticisms of the South Florida Water Management District is that they
have not paid enough attention to scientific evidence.
S: That is [somewhat] correct. There is a fundamental disconnect between science
and public policy. Public policy and policy in general is like law; you gather
evidence to support your position. Science is objective by nature; you gather data
to accept or reject any hypothesis, so there is never an absolute. One of the big
problems we have with science and policy is that the two do not mix. If you go to
any scientist I am a scientist, but if you go to most scientists and you say,
listen, I want to say that ten parts per billion should be the standard for
Everglades restoration, your typical ecologist will say, well, let us not go so fast
with that because, you know, you have seen changes at ten parts per billion and
in this part, you are seeing changes in the ecology there and it is at twelve, and
over here is eight; the natural system actually out over here has eight and down
here has six, but over there it has fourteen, and so we cannot just rush into this.
It is not that the scientist is stalling or trying to evade. The scientist is looking at
all of the data on both sides. Then, public policy people say ten parts per billion,
170,000 [acres] of EAA [Everglades Agricultural Area] land for water storage,
[and] can justify that, I am sure. So, I think the Water Management District has by
and large focused its science on the science of management, hence the name,
by managing water, flood-control, seepage-control, and those are pretty absolute
forms of how you do scientific endeavors, rather than the theoretical science or
more objective forms. [End of Side 1, Tape A.]
P: Some critics argue that they have too much authority, they have too much taxing
authority, they need to be more closely regulated. Your comment?
S: I guess somebody has not been getting their way. [Laughs.] My comment would
be, like any public agency, they are responsible for ultimately all the different
aspects, of management, preservation, conservation, water supply and
everything else in this region. The trend toward centralization of government
decision-making has kind of taken a turn, even in the Democrats, and I think we
are now looking at decentralization of a lot of these things. It strikes me that if this
agency is truly balanced, if the board is truly balanced, if all of the interest groups
in the region are able to speak our piece and that balance is met by, as it has
been recently, an Everglades restoration program that benefits all. They need to
have the authority to move ahead with that. There are checks and balances
everywhere for the Water Management District. There is the legislature, the
governor, Department of Environmental Protection, EPA, Department of Interior,
everybody who is now represented on the governmental side on the South
Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force and on the Working Group.
Everybody will have a different opinion on this, and it will vary with the makeup of
that governing board, which one would hope would be balanced.
P: Who appoints the members of the board?
S: The governor.
P: And is it balanced now?
S: Yes. Right now, it is balanced. We have three appointments coming up, and
three of the people who are leaving are the "bi" of the bipartisan component right
now. You would hope that the new appointments would reflect the balance
needed, not just environmental balance, but agricultural and business. Over
there right now on the board, we have folks who are involved generally in
business, who are involved in water supply (or at least consultants to that), land
use and agriculture. We have achieved balance right now. If it swings one way or
the other, that is going to be very telling. The effect of that on Everglades
restoration right now, it would be hard to see how it would have a huge effect on
restoration with all the other checks and balances there, but one would hope it
would remain balanced.
P: What financial responsibilities should the South Florida Water Management
District have in terms of the overall project?
S: They are the partner, they are the co-sponsor of the program, and because they
are by and large responsible for managing almost half the funds, or close to half
the funds, they need to have some means of insuring that they have those funds,
besides just legislative authority. Right now, I sit on the budget and finance
advisory commission of the Water Management District. We are wrestling there
[and] something has got to give. We have a fiscally-conservative administration,
and rightly so I think, but is this project fully-funded; can we acquire the land
necessary to do what needs to be done; will we have the water storage facilities
necessary to make sure this happens; and can that be done in a timely manner
so it is fair to the taxpayer and to the land-owner right now? The jury is out on
that, but it does not look very promising. There are opportunities for land
acquisition that are gradually slipping by. The Water Management District needs
to have the ability to go out and move to make those purchases and move this
project along as quickly as possible. That includes right now a millage -- I would
not say increase, but it may require some reallocation of some of that millage and
may require additional millage down the line -- because the benefits of doing
Everglades restoration need to be not only in the mind of the public, need to be
ingrained, but the costs of those need to be dispersed in a fair fashion. We
cannot expect all of the money for Everglades restoration to come from the state
of Florida appropriations. Some of it has to come from the citizens of South
Florida, of which I am one.
P: Could you get some of the land from Preservation 2000?
S: Yes. Right now, there is some money from Preservation 2000 or the successor of
Florida Forever, CARL money and Save Our Rivers money. There is some
money that is coming from local sources, like the bond referendum that passed in
Broward County and the one that passed a couple of years ago in Palm Beach
County, and there probably should be one in Collier County and Lee County and
all those counties that can afford it, and Miami-Dade County, of course. Local
government needs to really step to see what the benefits are they are getting and
cost-share on some of this.
P: This may be a little bit off the subject, but I would be interested to know what
impact the 1985 Growth Management Act would have had on the Everglades.
S: You mean if it was actually enforced? My senior vice president, Charles Lee, was
on the commission, the sole dissenting vote on the final report, which has cost
him, I think, quite a bit of sleep. I think it was a decision he had to make, but it
really was an agonizing decision for him. This is not my specialty, I have got to
tell you, but the Growth Management Act in theory was quite good. Let us look at
Broward County and see how we did, and it was not very good at all. But how
you improve on that has to do with somebody saying "no" in an informed way. I
think in the country here we have a fundamental disconnect about the average
political life-span of your South Florida politician, versus the average impact-span
of the decisions that are made on growth management, and the two are not at all
compatible. You have somebody who is in political office for five or ten years,
making decisions that have huge impacts, not only on the tax-base -- the citizen,
the taxpayer, has paid $6.5 billion dollars to cover the cost of sprawl -- not only
that way, but also on quality-of-life. Where we are right now with Everglades
restoration, which is fighting for scraps of land, table scraps, leftovers, along the
east coast levee to make sure that this project can function right for everybody
who lives east of that area, in the southeast, and opposite in the southwest. So,
the Growth Management Act, the laws and theory were quite good; how it was
implemented, I think, leaves something to be desired. That is my fairly ignorant
opinion on this.
P: And apparently the Florida state legislature would like to dismantle that and
return everything to local control.
S: Now, there is a problem. I mean, you have to have oversight thinking about the
public good. If we left Alaska entirely to the state of Alaska government and the
people who are benefitting from oil royalties, I think we would have a different
decision about the fate of a National Wildlife Refuge. Just like where I spent a lot
of my summers experiencing topography in the Rockies, if you left a lot of the
local decisions of managing National Forests Wilderness Areas out there, there
would not be any wilderness areas. But what is the public good, what is the
greater good? How do you define that for the country, which is investing money
in this whole process and has National Parks declared, not just to be a drain on
the local psyche, but to be a crown jewel of what we consider our national
heritage? On the state-wide level, you could say the same thing. There has to be
a check and balance between the state government's role and saying, this is an
area of critical state concern, or whatever the contemporary jargon is for that,
versus the local government saying, yeah, but we could build a bunch of houses
out there. I think we have seen the real downside of that with Everglades
restoration by and large, but take a look at Golden Gate Estates over in Collier
County, the largest Florida land-swindle in the history of Florida, I guess you
would say, or pretty close to it. The public is buying it back for tens of millions of
dollars. Who loses out in that kind of a decision? We all do. Look at the
Everglades National Park expansion area, critical for Florida Bay, critical for
Everglades National Park. Tens of millions of dollars, and what happened there?
How did that decision get made? Well, the local people said, you know, we ought
to be able to develop out there, and now the general public has to buy it back.
The costs of making these decisions, and the balances of having the state and
federal government weigh in on that, is important.
P: How has the state wetlands mitigation system worked?
S: I think we have an active lawsuit against Florida Audubon Society, so I have to
be very careful about what I say. Wetlands mitigation has been heralded by
some environmental groups, including ours to some degree, as promoting a net
loss of wetlands, because basically it is not creating new wetlands when you lose
old wetlands; it is actually just enhancing some, so, net, you are losing wetlands.
So we have an issue. Depending on what the ratio is, a mitigation can be done in
a way that is beneficial towards the net good of conservation and public interest.
But it can be implemented in an awful way. When you are saying that you are
going to buy credits in somebody's big wetland they have bought for that
purpose, it really does not promote conservation at all and it does not necessarily
lend itself to responsible decision-making. Responsible decision-making has to
do with the function of wetlands and has to do with, long-term, are we getting the
right benefits, because wetlands have a terrific economic benefit for water
filtration and various other things, water supply for that matter. So, how do you
make the right decision on wetlands mitigation? Well, you try to create new
wetlands and make sure there is no net loss. To get back for a second, that is
one of the things that is great about restoration. Restoration is bringing things
back; it is a net benefit, it a positive thing. It is not just protection or watching
wetlands get divided up into smaller and smaller chunks and call them mitigation
banks. Restoration has an obvious positive benefits in terms of wetlands, but it
also has a net overall, in terms of the public psyche, a little bit more of a positive
spin. Wetlands mitigation, to me, is not telling the whole truth about the net
impact of what the development is, when it is done with wetlands enhancement
P: Discuss how the SWIM Act, Surface Water Improvement Management Act, has
been over the years. How has that worked?
S: In its current under-funded state? Again, the SWIM acts were all largely written
before I came down here, and this is not one of my more familiar subjects either.
By and large a lot of them had some very good recommendations, and by and
large they have not been funded, so it is another one of those great ideas that
certainly could have been better, but which did not receive the implementation
funding. God help us if the Everglades Restoration Act ends up with the same
fate. I do not think it can, because we have here a state and federal partnership,
and the federal government is certainly ponying up [money] right now, and the
state government is too. In my way of thinking, that was more theoretically a
good idea, [but was not fully] implemented. Now, we have more of a restoration
focus rather than a management focus. I am really not as familiar with what
would have been SWIM's ultimate effect as I probably should be.
P: Discuss a little bit the creation of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task
Force. Who appointed the members, and how were they chosen?
S: That is sort of one of those basic questions that I do not think I ever asked. I
mean, it came about after WRDA [the Water Resources Development Act of]
1992. I think that was about the time when Kissimmee restoration was moving
forward when the whole settlement of the sugar lawsuits were happening.
P: Sustainable South Florida, Lawton Chiles...
S: Yes, that was just beginning. They began in 1994. It was really probably the
beginning of Everglades restoration. But as people began to think about, okay,
how are we going to restore the system? How are we really going to come out
and do something positive? That WRDA 1992 bill was sort of like the key. Really,
I am not as familiar as I should be with the creation of the Task Force, but it
reports to the Secretary of Interior. About that time was when President [William
J.] Clinton and [Secretary of the Interior under Clinton] Bruce Babbitt determined
that the Everglades were going to be their number-one priority for a restoration
project before it became, sort of, a bipartisan issue. You had Lawton Chiles down
here saying, we are going to settle our lawsuits, we are going to move forward,
we are going to bring this system back to life, and we had President Clinton and
his group saying, we are going to restore this natural system. But I think even
before that, President Bush, the senior, had a soft spot in his heart for Florida
Bay, and the collapse of Florida Bay back about that time certainly sent a
message up north that there is a serious problem here. My Everglades
conservation office started in 1992, started around the collapse of Florida Bay
and all the big problems we had down here. That was when the National
Audubon Society, about that time or little bit before, waded in and said, this is
going to be our number-one priority nation-wide as well, and that was before the
election of Clinton. So it was sort of the confluence of forces on the federal, state,
local levels that led to the creation of the Task Force. Actually, that has been for
me one of the most fascinating things that was lacking when I was teaching how
bad Everglades was around South America, that kind of decision-making body
and, more importantly, the Governor's Commission for a Sustainable South
Florida linking interest-groups and saying, you will come to consensus around
these issues. It has been a fascinating process to observe over the last five
years, how that happens, and everybody at the beginning was quite wary of
where this was going.
P: Does it have a balanced membership today?
S: On the public-sector side, yes, it does. It has got state, federal, local, tribal
interests, well-balanced. No one interest-group is dominant. You have the
Department of Interior, which obviously has its protected areas as the highest
ranking body, but on the other hand, you have got voices from all those different
P: Sugar industry?
S: Well, not on the Task Force. The Task Force is governmental-only. But you have
Department of Agriculture, both state and federal, so you have influences from
constituents on them obviously. Department of Interior, with a lot of
environmental interests, DEP [Florida State Department of Environmental
Protection] and EPA [Environmental Protection Agency]. Then you have got all
the others, NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] and all
those others, on the federal side, and on the state side, Fish and Game and all of
that. So from the agency standpoint, it is well-balanced.
P: Is this going to be the critical decision-making body?
S: It is defined in the Water Resource Development act as being that.
S: But, exactly. I think that the Governor's Commission for Sustainable South
Florida, if I could define one thing that has been key to making Everglades
restoration work, it has been that, and watching in 1996, the Water Resource
Development Act define the Governor's Commission as a broad-based group of
largely private folks with all these different interest groups on there that are now
making consensus-decisions and working through problems. Their conceptual
plan [was declared by WRDA 1996 as] the blueprint for Everglades restoration.
Seeing that happen and knowing that was coming for the previous year (I was
not on the commission until 1997), the way that operated, largely because Dick
Pettigrew was the chair, but having a consensus-based decision-making body on
a public project of this magnitude of largely private folks, forty-seven or so
primarily private folks, was remarkable. I know that, as I get older, I will look back
at that as being one of the more dynamic and forward-thinking bodies that I will
ever have the pleasure of serving on.
P: Already, with the Task Force, you have some issues like the aquifer storage.
P: I see some scientists already are saying it is not going to work, it is going to
break down the rock barrier between the sewage and the water, it is going to be
contaminated. How do you deal with this? Is this not a critical part of the
S: This is, has been, going on. Let me say this: water storage is the critical
component [of Everglades restoration]. You can have all the great clean-up and
flowage and everything else that you want, but if you do not store the water to
begin with, we are in deep kimshee, as they say in Korea. Our focus, whether we
are the Audubon Society or any advocate for restoration, has to be concerned
about the quantity of water that can be stored out of that trillion gallons that gets
dumped into the ocean every year. Aquifer storage and recovery is one proposed
mechanism. Everybody has concerns and always has had concerns about
aquifer storage and recovery. You can read the testimony of the Governor's
Commission, the Technical Advisory Committee minutes, and all of us have had
second-thoughts and doubts. That is why there is a pilot project right now. Now, if
the pilot project is done in a political and non-scientific way, you could have some
serious problems, and all those are possible. The fact that you are pumping high,
high volumes of water at high pressure into a saline aquifer; does the saltwater
migrate back upstream into well-fields? Does the confining layer between that
and the surficial aquifers, which are our primary water sources, crack? Do we
have leakage, from even deeper old well-heads and everything else, of
contaminated water? Will this create more of an artesian problem further
downstream? All those things need to be talked about. On the Governor's
Commission, we had a recommendation that an aquifer-management plan be
done for the Florida aquifer, where a large part of this is going to happen. That is
part of a feasibility study that is ongoing now. You would hope that, and I am sure
that, a lot of people will be looking over the shoulders of the Corps and the
District that it is done the proper way, because if it is not, if aquifer storage and
recovery does not work, we are going to be in a real difficult situation. There is
not enough surface-water storage-capacity to get all the benefits of Everglades
restoration if ASR [aquifer storage and recovery] does not work. The question is,
how blindly are the bets being made on ASR, and that is why there are watchdog
agencies out there. That is why it has to be done in the open with a good
P: Like all of these adaptive-assessment teams that come in and check the
S: Well, yes. Even I have problems, all the PMPs and PCTs and all these other
different acronyms. But you have got the team that is coordinating the project,
and you have got a management team that oversees that. Then you have the
RECOVER team, which is sort of the adaptive-assessment management body
that looks at what the outcome should be and then looks at how that project is
integrated into the whole. But I think there are several ways that ASR is going to
be reviewed. One is by what is commonly called the KROGEE or the National
Academy of Sciences-appointed body that works with the Department of Interior
and Department of Army and oversees, just does the review of the overall plan.
They also will get into detail, and they have given a recommendation that they
are dubious about ASR. I think that is good; it is good for people to be dubious,
because the more the dubious folks stand up and say we are dubious, the more
we all get a better product in the end, because it has to be proven. It is proven
technology, just not at that scale. You could list any scientist worth their salt as
somewhat dubious of ASR as the ultimate, the perfect fix for water storage, but it
has lots of benefits if it works, like no evapotranspiration of the water that is
stored down deep, if it works. Certainly, it will probably work at a certain level.
P: Well, there are some individuals dubious about ASR now.
S: Sure, there are some now.
P: The aquifers can hold nowhere near the volume that the project needs.
S: That is correct. In South Florida, there are quite a few not at that volume. The
other question is water-quality issues: what qualities of water are you pumping
down; what effect does that have on the aquifer; should you clean it up before
you put it down, and et cetera? If you had the right storage facilities, if you had
the right water-treatment flowage systems, flowage marshes and that sort of
thing for polishing the water quality a little bit better, it would certainly better than
trying to just get a permit and pump down the raw stormwater or surface water.
Hopefully, all of that will be built appropriately into the plant.
P: Let me ask you about several individuals and their impact on the Everglades, and
I will start with Nathaniel Reed.
S: Nathaniel is the gospel in a lot of ways. This is a man who has lived his whole life
by, not only his sense of honor about what is right to do, but in a deep-seated
belief that the environment is a precious commodity for all of Floridians, not only
Floridians, but all around the country; he is active on a national level. Nathaniel
probably has more history and more knowledge of the Everglades and all of the
processes that got us here stored in his brain than any other single individual in
Florida, if not nation-wide. He is by and large the father for a lot of us of
Everglades restoration in the modern sense. He pushed when he had to push
and he got things on the front-burner when he had to get things on the front-
burner, and he is a very influential man in a bipartisan way. Nathaniel is a gem.
P: Talk about how you interact with the other environmental groups, the Sierra Club,
Friends of the Everglades. Do you exchange information and meet frequently?
S: And give away my trade secrets [laughs]? You know, we have the Everglades
Coalition, and the Everglades Coalition is an interesting group, because it is so
diverse in terms of the level of activity, activism and technical capacity of the
members. I would say that we probably are, of all the groups in the Everglades
Coalition, the most science-based. We take our positions and define strategically
what outcomes we want to achieve with Everglades restoration and what we are
going to push as a public-policy initiative based on objective science. So, we as
an organization probably have more professionals working on Everglades
restoration than the rest of the groups combined, we have a fairly big office, and I
do not say that to brag; I say that because that is an indication of the depth of
commitment of the organization of National Audubon Society especially, all of
Audubon, to having this as its number-one public-policy issue for ten years. We
do interact very well with a lot of the other organizations. As I said before, you
have public policy and science, and those two are very difficult to mold together,
because one is get the information or the data that supports my position, and the
other is, objectively look at what would be the best solution. It is hard for people,
especially for scientists, being a scientist, to communicate well what that means
when you ask them, say, what should be the standard for phosphorus, to a
public-policy person. So, there is inevitably going to be differences of opinion,
and inevitably when some people are very actively involved in the process of
defining a re-study or comprehensive plan or in looking at the outcomes of the
CERP, or the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, and others are
limited to one or two staff and they have to pick a couple of issues and really
lobby them hard. There are fundamental conflicts every once in awhile, but by
and large as a community, the environmental community is very solidly together
on Everglades restoration. My counterpart in the Sierra Club, Frank Jackalone,
has been, over the last couple of years, incredibly supportive. I will not give you
all the trade secrets, but there are things that Frank and the Sierra Club can do
and ways that they can call attention to things that Audubon, because we are
involved in the process, really cannot do. We get engaged in every possible way.
On the Governor's Commission for a Sustainable South Florida, I believe we
came up with a very solid plan; as a commissioner, I can say that. I also believe
that Audubon, as an organization, when we sign onto a given position, our
integrity is at stake if we say we are coming to consensus on this and then, later
on, back off of it. That is a commitment we made that a lot of organizations in the
Everglades Coalition really did not make, because they were not on the
Governor's Commission. So, there are things that Environmental Defense Fund
or National Parks Conservation Association or NRDC or the Everglades
Foundation or World Wildlife Fund or Friends of the Everglades would like to see,
that they are going to lobby for as a position. We respect that. We respect it more
when there is sound science behind it, of course, because that is the way we
make our decisions. And they respect us more when we get strident and
advocate a position that is pretty aggressive.
P: the Everglades Coalition had a recent meeting on Hutchinson Island, I believe.
S: Yes, it did.
P: How you assess that meeting? I understand that Nathaniel Reed was very
encouraged by the exchange of ideas.
S: Oh, sure. It is sort of a strange process over the last four or five years. I am an
outsider and a relative newcomer, and by all means, I am probably the last
person you should be interviewing because I just got here five years ago. But
when I did arrive here, what struck me [was] and the very first interaction I had
with people was the 1996 Everglades Coalition meeting the tones that were
there; there was divisiveness, the Coalition members having separate press
conferences. We held the meeting jointly with the Task Force Working Group and
Governor's Commission. Terry Rice had just started recently as the district
engineer for the Corps. Open hostility with a lot of the Coalition members, a lot of
mistrust, and that mistrust was based on, what, forty, almost fifty years, of
degradation of the Everglades at the hand of agencies that were now in charge
of restoring it, according to the Water Resource Development Acts. That was in
1996. This year, five years later, we are looking a Restoration Act that the
environmental community by and large signed-off on and endorsed if not
endorsed, supported with some reservations, but supported. At this meeting, we
were celebrating the fact that whether you are a conservative Republican, such
as Bob Smith, or a liberal Democrat, such as I am not sure how many there are
anymore, but some liberal Democrats, in the bipartisan scheme of things, and
then the breadth of agriculture] and water utilities and the Florida Chamber of
Commerce to the Everglades Coalition, lobbying together. That is a huge step
from 1996 to 2001. If Nat was encouraged, I was encouraged, because having
lived through that transition, not just personally but professionally, and seeing
people come together around a plan, was a remarkable thing.
P: I wanted, for the record, to identify Bob Smith, who is a Republican senator from
New Hampshire, who had a lot to do with getting the bill passed.
S: Absolutely. This is a person who took over the committee from John Chafee from
Rhode Island who passed away. Bob Smith, when he took that committee over,
was considered by most environmentalists pretty much the arch-enemy, although
he has a very strong position on animal rights, among other things. Anyway, he
came down to the Everglades Coalition a year ago and, in front of the
microphone, the first committee hearing with him as chair, said, if anybody is
looking for daylight between my position on the Everglades and John Chafee['s
position], there is not any. Of course, everybody was skeptical, looking at Bob
Smith, [but] this year he won the Everglades Coalition Public Service Award.
Now, going from somebody who is mistrusted by all to winning that award for the
Coalition is a huge step in one year. When he gave his acceptance speech, it
was in the form of a video, and he sat in front of the video and he was talking
casually. He was tickled to death and pleased to win this award. I do not think
everybody who sat in that room and listened to that speech really gathered how
much he was pleased to win the award, because here is a guy who has decided
that Everglades restoration is the right thing to do, but not only is it the right thing
to do, he said, if anybody is wondering why the Senate has taken the steps it has
to insure the Everglades gets restored, it is to restore the natural system; let me
say that again. I mean, he repeated himself. When we have a person like that
who has gone from being a pariah on the environmental community to being a
hero, to hear him say those things, and whether it was a real philosophical shift,
or whether because he really understood what was at stake in South Florida, that
he actually learned and believed as he went, or whether it was something he had
inside of him but was not showing to everybody before, really is immaterial. But
this man made a lot of liberal Democrats drop their teeth on the floor at that
meeting. So, this was a terrific Everglades Coalition meeting because, A, we are
all celebrating, B, we are celebrating in a bipartisan way, and C, a lot of the
mistrust that was there five years ago is gone, because we have an Everglades
Restoration Act. But it is the beginning; you know, it is hard to celebrate when
you know that the real work is just beginning.
P: Talk about the extraordinary impact that Senator Bob Graham has had on the
whole Everglades issue.
S: Bob Graham has been a leader for decades [as], governor, senator. He has been
a person who is not always as balanced as the environmental community would
like him, you know, balanced in their direction, but on the other hand has
managed to support and initiate a wide range of Everglades restoration activities.
He has without a doubt been a leader, and another person alongside of him has
been Connie Mack. Here is another fellow who gets a zero from the League of
Conservation Voters, but when you talk about Everglades restoration, a fellow
who has been hard-core Everglades restoration all the way and natural system
all the way. When you look at where Bob Smith got some of his ideas, clearly
Connie Mack and Bob Graham, not necessarily in that order, had a huge
influence on him. So, Bob Graham is a man who has got decades of Everglades
support. Like I said, there are a lot of environmental community members who
feel that he is not as hard on the environment as he needs to be, not as solidly
supportive, but he is a fellow who is balancing.
P: As a case in point, Graham did not come out against the Homestead
S: You are going to get me in trouble with that one, nor did he come out for the
Opa-Locka Airport as a reliever airport, did he, interestingly enough.
P: No. Initially, he said he was neutral.
S: There is a famous quote by Carlos Andres Perez, a former president of
Venezuela who wanted to be president for life, that I think summarizes the
ultimate in political position; he said, I am neither for nor against, quite to the
contrary. It is always good to have that wiggle room.
P: It is safe to confuse everybody as much as possible.
S: [Perez] got a standing ovation from thousands of people. I think that Governor
Graham, if you talked to him, he would probably tell you that, I made a promise to
the people of Homestead there would be economic revitalization, I signed onto
this airport as a way to do that, and I am not going to break my word. Now, that is
integrity, but as people learn new things about what a heavy commercial airport
would do to the parks and preserves of South Florida, it is okay to change your
mind. It is not a loss of integrity; it is okay to change your mind. And I think he
has done that; I think he has backed off of that.
P: He has.
S: That takes a lot, to say, I stood up and I said I am going to do this, and now I am
going to back off. You have to respect him for that. Regardless of environmental
position, I think that is one thing the environmental community has learned
through this process, and that is even if you do not agree with a guy, you got to
respect him if he is doing it for the right reasons. If you give intelligent people with
the right kind of background the knowledge and understanding of what the
alternatives really mean, in full-cost accounting, going beyond the quick
economic benefits and looking at the long-term ecological costs, if you give them
that information, by and large they make the right decisions; there are very few of
them who will not, and those are the ones who rely on rhetoric, and then we are
talking about a whole different issue.
P: When we talked to Graham a couple of weeks ago, he was very self-effacing
about all of this, but it seems to me if you go back to 1983 and the Save Our
Everglades program, he has been the one constant who has been consistently
S: That is absolutely true. I mean, there have been fights between the
environmental community and him and all those cartoons about Big Sugar and
him and their relationship. He is a guy who has been around, like I said, for two
decades working on Everglades restoration and, I believe, is really sincere about
it. He also is a politician and has pressures on him as well. When he has made a
decision, he has tried to stick by it.
P: What impact did Bruce Babbitt have on the whole process?
S: You know, my wife is from Arizona, and my sister-in-law was the chairwoman of
the Arizona Cattlewomen's Association, which, if you do not know about
cattlewomen's associations, they are little bit extreme. When we came down
here, [my sister-in-law] had two home faxes that she would send everything she
could to. One was, as she put it, "the Governor's," that is, Bruce Babbitt, and the
other one was mine. Every U.N. [United Nations] plot that came to Southeast
Arizona, to give the Gadsden Purchase to the U.N. and all of that sort of stuff,
ended up on both of our faxes. I pointed that out to Bruce Babbitt and told him
that we had something in common, my sister-in-law's irate position on Southeast
Arizona conservation. He is a man who is, I think with the Clinton administration,
defining Everglades restoration as their number-one issue. As a friend of mine
put it [when] they announced that at the 1993 Everglades Coalition, he said he
realized that we were really going to get somewhere when Bruce Babbitt made
that announcement. He said, all of a sudden it became serious. It was not an
advocacy position, it was not just a lobbying position, it was not a pie-in-the-sky;
it was a president who says he is going to make this happen. Now, in between
there you had the Everglades Forever Act, and [Babbitt] took a lot of heat on the
Everglades Forever Act and negotiating a settlement about water-quality and the
Everglades Agricultural Area and the sugar interests. I think he thought that he
was, with that Everglades Forever Act, doing the right thing. I think he felt that he
had a consensus, because a lot of environmental groups had been involved in
the process, and I genuinely think he was surprised and embittered by the
environmental community's response to the Everglades Forever Act or the
settlement agreement and case. But he has been consistently environmentally
friendly through the process and, again, with the need to balance on many
issues. When we get to Homestead Air Reserve Base and his position on that,
coming out and basically taking the position that he was against that being
redeveloped as a commercial airport, you got to give the guy a lot of credit. He
was saying it like it was from his perspective. He has been a fierce advocate for
the parks and protected areas. At some point, I am sure that has gotten him in
[trouble], not only with some of the user groups but also with some of the
agricultural groups, but at the same time, that is the guy's job, and he has been a
terrifically positive advocate for that. You asked earlier about how we get along
with other environmental groups, the National Parks Conservation Association...
[End of Side 2, Tape A.] ...etc., when we have differences of opinion, it is
because they are advocates for that particular component of Everglades
restoration and we are more focused on the big picture, the entire ecosystem. I
think that is true of the agencies as well.
P: Talk about the impact that Terry Rice has had on the project.
S: Terry. What a guy. You know, it is hard to say exactly. Terry was one of those
people who was going to do the right thing, what he perceived to be the right
thing, and did a terrific job at it. He was a Corps employee who used to the
system to its maximum capacity. That is the Corps system. He was a leader. He
was visionary about how he got things moving. He was the father of the
comprehensive plan, to a large degree, because he was the engineer who was in
charge while that happened. The way he set up his team and the way he went
about doing it was fantastic. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Terry
because of just those things where he would go the extra mile. I think in Corps
commander terms, there are those who manage and those who lead and those
who not only lead but get way out in front, and he is one of the latter and did a
terrific job as a Corps person.
P: Dick Ring.
S: Dick Ring, another aggressive advocate for the park. I guess you would say, you
know, Dick is one of those people who drove folks nuts who were not advocates
for the Park, because he was a staunch supporter. I guess you would also say
that Dick to a large degree was uncompromising in a time when he had to be
uncompromising and guarded the park's interests fiercely. I can remember as I
first came down here, there was an issue about the Cape Sable seaside sparrow,
and we had signed onto a sixty-day letter at that time to the Corps about an
endangered species lawsuit. All of Dick's scientists were down at one end of the
table with NRDC and us and a bunch of other people who had signed onto this
letter, and Dick was up at the other end of the table with all the agency folks,
trying to convince us that they could do just as well by the seaside sparrow
without a lawsuit. In that case, they prevailed. Dick prevailed over his employees,
I guess you would say. But the fact of the matter is that Dick and his employees
have always been open supporters of conservation and preservation of the park
and have been very helpful to environmental groups and to anybody else who
has those same interests.
P: I wish you would comment a little bit on why you think Bill Clinton ended up
supporting Everglades restoration. When the bill was signed, you said, "the
Everglades' long journey in search of waters end well; Clinton ended the era of
destruction and has begun a new era to allow the river to flow." How did he come
to that position?
S: Did I say that?
P: Apparently so. Sounds good.
S: By golly, I am pretty deep. How did he come to that? He had a vice-president
named Al Gore who had a former chief of staff named Carol Browner [later head
of Environmental Protection Agency] is how he came to that, I believe. That is my
own personal opinion. I believe that Al Gore had a terrific impact on the Clinton
administration, not just through himself but with Carol Browner and others, really
some firmly-held deep-seated beliefs in environmental issues. I can remember in
1988 when Gore was nicknamed Captain Ozone for his stump speech out in
Iowa, and pointing out the dangers of global warming that now we are seeing in
U.N. reports coming true, fifteen years later almost. I think Bill Clinton listened,
and he absorbed, and he did the right thing as a result. He and Al Gore together
it is hard to separate the two in my mind determined that this was going to be
their environmental legacy. It is hard to separate them, and Clinton signed the
bill, and Clinton made those decrees, and Al Gore came down here and made
those announcements as well.
P: What impact has Governor Jeb Bush had on the whole process?
S: That is difficult for me to answer, because when I was a spectator in 1996 at the
Governor's Commission for Sustainable South Florida and fiercely trying to
change the direction of discussion, before they decided that they better get me
inside the tent and put me on the thing, Jeb Bush was sitting there in one of the
public sessions, just taking notes. I got to know him by introducing myself before
he was running for governor and recruiting him onto a little group we had in the
business community called the Environmental Economics Council. He clearly has
Everglades restoration on his mind as a legacy issue as well and clearly stepped
out in front of a rather hostile legislative session a couple of years ago and said,
that is what we are going to do, and put forward this Everglades bill last year. I
suppose there are some who would say that was a political move, but I would
say that he definitely believes in the full-cost accounting principles embodied in
Everglades restoration, in addition to having a pretty strong personal feeling for
conservation that I have known since I got to know him a little bit better.
P: So you think he is a true environmentalist?
S: I do not know if you would say a true environmentalist because, to me, that
connotes an environmentalist; I would say he believes strongly in conservation
and he understands the balance between environmental degradation and
economic issues. I think that in a more pragmatic sense, yes, he is a true
environmentalist, but you have to put in terms of pragmatic sense. At this time of
his life, he believes in restoration of the Everglades as an economic issue in
addition to an environmental issue.
P: Clearly, it was very significant that he was able to raise the money first...
P: ...and then they could go to the Congress and say, we have paid our share.
S: Yes, we are coming up with our share. That was a remarkable thing. Who would
have believed that would happen? Surprises from Bob Smith and Jeb Bush, you
know, I just think we are just looking at a bipartisan issue; when you convince
people of the right thing, it does not matter whether they are conservatives or
liberals or Democrats or Republicans.
P: But in some other issues, for example, Governor Bush supported the building of
the cement plant.
S: Oh, yes, that famous Ichnetucknee [Springs State Park] thing.
P: Yes, and the widening of the canal on the St. Johns, and there are some other
S: Yes, there are some other issues where he has not been exactly the greenest
person on the face of the Earth.
P: But he does love the manatees.
S: He certainly loves the manatees now, doesn't he. He also, at the Everglades
Coalition, announced a couple of things. He announced that he is going to take
Everglades restoration one step further and has a program to restore the natural
springs of North Florida. That is a pretty remarkable thing. I think the
Ichnetucknee thing, it was a spring; you know, let us look at this and see if we
have a learning experience going on here I think maybe so. We have a very
green voting public here [in Florida]. If you do the right thing, and you get praise
for it, you get to feeling like this environmental stuff might be good, and I think he
is getting that. I would hope that when he does bad things, people tell him he is
doing something bad, [and] when he is does good things, people tell him he is
doing something good, like any politician.
P: How about his proposal to restore the Oklawaha and destroy the Rodman Dam?
S: That is a proposal, and obviously that is going to be one of our number-one
issues up in North Florida. That is a forward-thinking position to have. We have
got a lot of issues there, and some of those issues have to do with nutrient
buildup behind the dam and upstream and all of that.
P: Would that have been possible four years ago?
S: Oh, I think so. I think it is important to put in perspective the changes in the
Florida legislature over the last six years and where we are now. When I go up
there and I say I am an environmentalist, you know, you pointed out earlier
people say you are bunny-hugger, tree-hugger, he likes birds, bugs and bunnies
better than he likes people and probably driving a Ford Excursion it is a Ford
anyway, but it is an old Taurus and generally it is a hostile habitat for
environmentalists in Tallahassee. I think that the governor has made some
strong steps forward. Now, is he an environmentalist? Was Lawton Chiles an
environmentalist? Bob Martinez, who kicked the ball off on a lot of things? It is
hard to say. I think politicians will be environmentalists, some of them when it is
expedient and some of them because they truly believe. There is no question Al
Gore, for instance, truly believes. To me, there is no question that Jeb Bush in
his way, in a more pragmatic way, truly believes. Will they always do the right
thing? Never. No, there is no politician who has always done the right thing.
P: Is it because the attitude in the state of Florida has changed, and now we could
argue that Florida is a green state like Oregon and that therefore Bush is
adjusting to a change in the political climate?
S: Oh, I think so. I think his first bid for governor, everybody has told me, he was
defeated on the green vote, and everybody told me the reason he was sitting in
on the Governor's Commission for a Sustainable South Florida of 1996 was
because he learned his lesson and he is not going to do that again. We definitely
have a green voting state, the conservation amendment to the Constitution three
years ago, two and a half years ago, passing by 72 percent. You know, if you
look at the breakdown, Miami-Dade County, hardly, right now, a reflection of the
environmental community in terms of ethnic makeup, voted 84 percent for that
amendment. That is Miami-Dade County where I live and, as an Anglo, I am
quite a minority. I think we do have a perception in this state, and I think it is a
growing perception, of people's connection with the environment, and it can
never be too strong, looking at the Governor's Commission, looking beyond that
at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, changes there, the general public
thinking about this as outdoor recreation in addition to just wild areas. I think we
are going to see more of that too, if I have anything to say about it anyway.
P: Some of it is really very simple. It is clean water. I looked at a study the other
day, and that is the one major issue around the country that people are
S: Right. You bet.
P: Let me ask how the process will accommodate...
S: You are probably going to ask me about somebody I really do not like much.
P: Who is?
S: I am not going to tell you that.
P: Well, I wanted to get into an understanding of the influence of the sugar industry
and the citrus industry...
S: Oh, we are getting there.
P: ...and the farming industry. Nathaniel Reed talked about the incredible lobbying
impact that the sugar industry has.
S: Oh, yes.
P: How do you counteract that?
S: I would say agriculture] is probably ten-to-one in lobbyists, not to mention power.
I mean, we could have tanks, but we have those World War II tanks and they
have got M-1 Abrams [more modern tanks]. They have a huge amount of power.
This is an interest group with a terrific amount of power, and not just in terms of
political contributions, but in terms of people on the ground lobbying issues. How
do you counteract that? Let me say that I think there has been several
techniques of counteracting a fierce lobby on the other side. You know, when we
are arrayed with Sherman tanks versus M-1 Abrams, it would be a mistake to go
out, especially when they have ten Abrams to one Sherman, to try and outshoot
them. It has to do with public sentiment for conservation. On the Governor's
Commission for a Sustainable South Florida, next to me alphabetically, or if he
was not, I would always move the name-tag over, was Bubba Wade, Malcolm
Wade from U.S. Sugar. We were very actively involved in the penny-a-pound
sugar assessment (not tax) campaign, and I was put on that commission just
after that was over. There were several divisive issues, but if you are talking with
somebody, you are really convincing them or trying to convince them or talking
through what the issues are. You say up front, look, we are not going to agree on
this issue, but this is my position and this is your position. You know, I think you
should be over here, you think we should be over there, we are not going over
there, and you may not be coming over here, but we need to agree on what the
end result is going to be. I think that was one of things that the Governor's
Commission did beautifully from the beginning; what is sustainability, define it
and then move towards it. It is hard to resist for Bubba or for anybody, myself
included, that kind of force. You know, it is obvious what the direction was. We
always had consensus-votes in our reports, but any votes we had that were
divisive were around issues where he could not bend or I could not bend or
somebody could not bend. Now, the sugar industry in general, it is hard to say
what the long-term influence will be, because they do have (did have) terrific
profit-margin, and because they are terrifically powerful as a result, and because
they are right in the middle of the system, and because [in] farming muck-soil, the
air, in oxidizing that muck and letting off nutrients, is inherently contradictory to
an oligotrophic low-nutrient system downstream. If you could define a problem,
the only way you could define it worse is to have a much higher-impact form of
agriculture there. Thankfully, if there is anything I could say that would be positive
about farming in the EAA, it is that sugar is probably the lower impact of the
majority of the different farming methods that could be out there. They have a
huge amount of influence, and the way that this bill got passed 312-to-2 or 85- to-
1, depending on House or Senate this was the REAL Act or CERP up in
Washington was because they ended up coming to the table around governor's
Commission principles. They were lobbying with Bob Dawson as the head, and
the sugar industry, the farm bureau, water utilities and Florida Chamber of
Commerce were lobbying in a bloc against the bill, saying it was a bad bill
because of this, this, this and this. Dick Pettigrew wrote a letter saying, this is
what the Governor's Commission decided and this is what you guys agreed on.
That was time for them to come to the table and say, okay, where can we find
common ground? And we found it. I think we all bent a little bit on that, but we
found it and we lobbied together at the end. Proof that it can be done by a
consensus process. I think we are going to have serious problems in the future if
the sugar industry stays or goes, and it is going to be around how you measure
impact of pollutants downstream. Right now, the technology does not exist,
outside of a chemical treatment plant, to get phosphorus levels, much less the
other pollutants, down to the necessary level.
P: What is your position on the necessary level, forty parts per billion?
S: Ten, or less.
P: Well, they are not about to agree to that?
S: Well, they did.
P: Oh, did they?
S: Oh, yes. The Everglades Forever Act sets the default standard as ten parts per
billion of water entering the Everglades protection area, entering into the water
conservation areas. Now, the question is, how do you measure that ten parts per
billion? Just a couple of months ago, in fact during the Everglades Coalition
meeting, I took a break and went down and gave a presentation to the National
Farm Foundation in Jupiter. Rick Roth, from a sugar co-op, who is vice president
of the State Farm Bureau, was there giving his presentation, and his position is
that everything from EAA down to Everglades National Park is a mixing zone.
That is a filtration marsh to guarantee that the water going into Everglades
National Park is ten parts per billion. That is his position, as he stated there. Now,
that is fundamentally incompatible with the environmental position, which is,
almost to a person, ten parts per billion at the end of the pipe going into the
Everglades Protection Area, the Water Conservation Areas 3 or 2 or 1. There
has got to be a way to resolve that difference. I think it is going to end up
beginning again, probably, in the courts, because, as some people say, you can
measure it in a harmonic mean of measuring points out there in the marsh, what
is the water quality, and then some people say, as you get more and more storm
water treatment areas, you can move those measuring points closer and closer
until eventually you end up with ten parts per billion at the edge of the Everglades
Agricultural Area, assuming, of course, you have more filtration marshes, more
land comes out of production, that sort of thing. I think that is what, right now, if I
read between the lines, what DEP, Department of Environmental Protection, the
sugar industry and wide variety of other people are saying. The environmental
community is staunchly supporting [the] end of the pipe [perspective]. This is
what we agreed on the water coming into the water conservation areas will be
at ten parts per billion or lower of phosphorus and have other pollutants taken out
as well. We are going to continue to have that conflict unless somebody figures
out some way to get people to the table and figures out a way, realistically, to get
the water quality down to that level at end of the pipe.
P: Up to this point, sugar has had a pretty good deal. They have sugar price-
supports, they have all the water they want to use, and the citizens of the state
help to pay to clean up their waste.
S: Yes, quite a bit of their clean-up costs.
P: Should the responsibility for clean-up be shifted more toward the sugar industry?
S: Our position is, listen, if I go out behind my house and I pour a can of oil onto my
driveway and it runs on the street, the city of Miami is not going to say, let us help
you clean that up. They are going to give me a citation, and I better clean it up.
So, the question is, how much of that pollution is from sugar? How much are they
receiving from Lake Okeechobee? You can do the math, but it depends on who
you are, when you are doing the math, as to what the calculation is. Certainly, I
feel and my organization feels, the environmental community feels, that the sugar
industry is not paying yet their fair share for Everglades cleanup. What that fair
share would be, the courts have said that it is primarily responsible for clean-up
of their pollution, which is our constitutional amendment. The courts have said
that means cleaning up 100 percent of their pollution.
P: But the problem is...
S: It is not getting enacted.
P: There is no real-enabling legislation, and the sugar industry defeated
Amendment Four, which was the penny tax.
S: Yes. Now, why would there not be enabling-legislation if it is taxpayer-relief, you
would ask, except you live in Florida, so you do not have to ask that, do you?
You know, where $50,000 buys a campaign.
P: My information is they spent something like $22,000,000 to defeat Amendment
S: That is a gross underestimate, but, yes, in relative dollars...
P: That they would admit to have spent.
S: It is probable that, combined, both sides spent $50,000,000 or more. It is
probably the most expensive state campaign in history. On our side, it was
maybe 25 percent of that total, I think, on the environmental side.
P: Why did Amendment 4 lose?
S: Because of several things: because the environmental community did not make
the deadline to get the decision made by the Supreme Court to put it on the ballot
before September; because we allowed the sugar industry to identify it as a tax
that was going to be passed onto to the taxpayer, which is false in fact, the way
the amendment was written, there was no way it could be, but they spun that;
very early on, they spun that and because we were outspent four-to-one, three-
or four-to-one anyway. That was lost in the month of August, when the decision
had not yet come down and sugar spent a lot of money on campaigns [saying] it
is a tax.
P: And they talked about loss of jobs.
S: Oh, they did. They talked about loss of jobs, they talked about the effete you
know, the people drinking wine out of fluted glasses in the Water Management
District. They insulted the Water Management District terribly, and you wonder
how they can get any kind of traction there still, you would wonder if you did not
live in Florida, how they get any kind of traction anymore in the Water
Management District, which they described as a bunch of un-elected
incompetent people who drive around drinking wine in limos. It was actually a
very effective campaign that they ran, because they just bombarded the media at
a time when the environmental community did not have the capacity to do that.
That is how we lost that campaign. You could say that those were distortions of
the truth, to call it a tax to be passed on to the taxpayer, but they were not; they
were lies. That is a lie.
P: Is there an opportunity to revisit that issue in the future?
S: Yes. In fact, the Supreme Court is going to hear our arguments in August about
the polluter-pay amendment. They have set a date in August, which if I were a
person in the sugar industry, I would take note that the date is set in August,
which means it is significant because of the decision dates for taxation by Water
Management Districts. Right now, I think the industry has got some real serious
issues, and not just public perception. If you know how the federal sugar program
works, really, it jacks up local prices, nationwide prices we are paying double
the world price of sugar to benefit a very few people. I am not a person who is
against subsidies for farmers; in fact, quite to the contrary. I believe strongly that
we need to retain our agricultural base in this country, and we are losing it all
over the country. We are losing it, not just by loss of acreage, but by loss of
family farms to corporate agriculture, which does nothing to benefit public good,
in terms of how do you maintain and take care of your local property when we
are talking about meeting permit requirements versus being good stewards of the
land, and we are looking at the bottom lines of profit-margins versus how do we
be good neighbors to the guys who are downstream. We always will have a
conflict between ag and the environment, but the corporate system that is set up
for agriculture or for sugar, the federal sugar program, has been called by others
and some conservative Republicans the "last vestiges of a Marxist economy
outside of Cuba" I think that Judd Gregg [Senator] from New Hampshire. It has
been "flagrant corporate-welfare" by others, and it is not too hard to find where
the flagrant part and then where the corporate-welfare part is.
P: Talk about the impact that the EPA has had in the past with Carol Browner and
how it might change with Christie Todd Whitman.
S: I wish I had done this interview back in September. Let us see, the short answer
would be look at Florida and look at New Jersey. The long answer, the
philosophies seem to be different. One philosophy is, we are the Environmental
Protection Agency, and we are going to protect the environment; that is a
philosophy, I think, deep-seated in Carol Browner's bones, you know,
aggressive, tireless environmental advocate who, by some accounts, wrote most
of Earth in the Balance [book by Al Gore]. But I do not necessarily believe that. I
think the philosophy will change because we are going to an administration that
believes more in compromising and balancing and making things work with a
minimal impact on the economic situation of the perpetrator, as some might call
them, more of a balanced approach. That does not mean that approach cannot
work. It just means it is a difference in philosophy. It is more, let us let people
work out their own solutions. One would hope that we would not go toward, sort
of, an auto-regulation system where industry is charged with cleaning up its own
pollution and meeting its own standards, because that clearly has not worked
anywhere it has been implemented. If the focus, as I said before, is on being a
good steward and a good citizen, that is different than the focus being on
P: What should be the first priority in restoring the Everglades? Should they start
with Lake Okeechobee?
S: Water storage has to be the key, even before you clean up Lake Okeechobee,
because right now the conflicts around what we use Lake Okeechobee for have
to do with using Lake Okeechobee as a surge tank. If you do not find water
storage areas beyond Lake Okeechobee, whether that is ASR or reservoirs in
the Everglades Agricultural Area north, southeast and west of the lake, we
cannot restore Lake Okeechobee. This year is a great case in point: where we
have a drought, the lake is at its lowest level. For obvious reasons, I mean, we
cannot just ignore the lake and use it as water storage when it is about to die.
Nat Reed probably told you there are places in Lake Okeechobee where hydrilla
will not grow. It grows everywhere else in the state. That is how bad Lake
Okeechobee was. 95 to 99 percent reduction in duck populations, muttled duck
and others, wading birds down dramatically before this draw-down in lake levels.
[Audubon has] a 30,000 acre sanctuary out there on the lake that has not seen
the air for probably thirty years. So, Lake Okeechobee is a critical piece because
it is the liquid heart of the Everglades, as some people call it. It is where the
water flows into and flows out of; it is sort of the lung of the Everglades. Actually,
I would say the Kissimmee Prairie is the lung of the Everglades, fills up in the wet
season, gradually dries down in the dry season, thereby allowing that natural
water flow to continue, even when it is at its driest. One of the problems that
came from channelization of the river was that there was not that natural draw-
down, and that continuous flow was just channelized. Kissimmee restoration,
Lake Okeechobee restoration, and water storage in the north end of the system
has got to be highest priority, because that is where you get the most bang for
your buck early on. That is not to say that other priorities are not high on the list. I
would say equal to that, at least, are the Water Preserve Areas, buying those
buffer lands along the east coast to minimize seepage, polish and clean water,
even store water, and through transmissivity to allow percolation, aquifer
recharge, into the drinking water aquifers is critical. That is land that is going
really fast right now. If we do not buy that land and lock it up right now, we are in
dire straights, because it is a critical component of restoration to have those
lands in that function.
P: While we are on that subject, obviously with a burgeoning population water itself
is the critical issue. What other options are there for water? Reverse osmosis,
S: I think there are two that are very cheap and vastly under-utilized in South
Florida. One is conservation. I mean, I remember coming down here in 1996. I
had just arrived, and at that time I was living in beautiful downtown Miami in a
little apartment and driving up to north Miami where we had an office in a rather
sleazy section of town. While I was going up there, I heard a commentary on the
radio complaining about how I want a good hot jet-blast of shower water in the
morning, not one of these trickles that comes from a water restriction or water
conservation tap that are now mandatory in a lot of hotels. I want to be hit with a
blast of water. Well, we waste an incredible amount of water. We are on critical
restrictions now in South Florida, and this morning when I left my house, which
was about six in the morning, today is Thursday in my zip code area, you water
on Wednesday and Saturday and I counted seven different sprinkler systems
up and down my block that were on. That is a crime. How do you enforce that? If
you put money into enforcing that, you would save more water than you needed
to by any other means. In addition to that, water conservation requires education.
We are slipping on the education front. I do not think it is getting any better when
we cut our budgets so much that we do not have any public outreach. Water
conservation has to do with not just the homeowner but also municipal-industrial,
hotels. It has to do with broad consciousness, and we can do that. We can
educate tourists, we can educate people to do that, and we can educate utilities
to do that.
P: Even something so simple as not giving everybody a glass of water at a
S: Right, or half a glass instead. Right. Ask for water if you want it. That stuff is very
simple to do. Then after that, it goes to re-use. Re-use is technology that is
proven, [and] it is functioning all around the country. In South Florida, in Palm
Beach County, they are beginning to do a lot more re-use. Every water utility that
I have talked to, my buddies from the Governor's Commission, Fred Rapach on
the [budget and] finance advisory [committee] of the Water Management District
[for example], say, we know we are not going to get all the water needs we have
into the future from the pre-study, we know that water need is going to keep
going up as people go up; we want a certain amount, as much as we can get,
and after that we know we are going to have to make up the rest, and it is going
to have to be through conservation, it is going to have to be through re-use, and
if it comes down to it, it has to be through reverse-osmosis from Floridian aquifer
or whatever saline, somewhat brackish, source they can get, first. Lastly is what
they do in Antofagasta, Chile, and use seawater, which is the last resort because
it is so heavily saline.
P: Let us talk about some other issues. For example, what impact did the building of
Alligator Alley have on all of this, and what can be done about controlling that
kind of growth?
S: You could actually start with Tamiami Trail, actually a worse case for
construction, because they basically put a dike all the way across the
Everglades. That is a feature that has to be eliminated as a hydrologic barrier in
the pre-study. It is a critical feature because to get the water into the park, to get
the right amount of water through modified water-delivery systems down in the
southern end of the park in Florida, you have to eliminate that barrier. Alligator
Alley is another one of those projects. It is a little bit less of a barrier, because
there are a lot of underpasses, there are lot more culverts, but again it is a barrier
to some degree. Growth is going to happen; it is how you define it, and how you
define it has to be both on the state, regional and local levels. People do not like
to talk about enforcement, regulatory authorities. They do not like to talk about
regulation of a private property owner's right to do whatever. But, you know, even
Teddy Roosevelt, my buddy the Republican, recognized that when the individual
rights of a homeowner or private property owner infringe upon the collective
good, the collective rights of everybody who is either downstream or whose
quality of life depends on the system, when that happens, you have to say to that
private-property owner, you cannot do that. That is common sense. It is not the
rule of the appetite; it is the rule of the majority. So, unless we start looking at
people who are cutting drainage canals without permits in the Kissimmee Prairie,
or people who are illegally developing, or who are not getting all the permits done
right and do not have the right retention areas, or those who own canals for flood
protection, who do not clean out the canals, or do not clean out the residues of
their own waste products that are in those canals, we run the risk of having not
only bad growth but we run the risk of having extremely damaging local actions
that affect the whole system.
P: There have to be some strong disincentives or penalties.
P: It is sort of like the guy who is burning trash and burned half the state of Florida
because he violated that permit.
S: That is right.
P: What impact, do you think, have the environmental writers like Carl Hiaasen and
Bob King and Martha Musgrove...
S: Bob Semple, New York Times.
P: Yes. What impact have they had on the movement?
S: I think they have had a terrific impact. Environmental organizations are not often
as good at publicity or getting the word out. Carl Hiaasen is tremendously
respected. There is a saying in Miami-Dade County that anybody who is known
by Carl Hiaasen through his editorials cannot stand the guy because he has got
such a terrific wit. All of his books, as he tends to say, are all real-life stories. All
of those you named, Neil Santaniello in addition to that [and], I would say, Craig
Pittman, Cy Zaneski, all those folks have been really solid on Everglades
restoration. That I can tell, there has not been any real editorial pressure against
Everglades restoration. Most of those folks, you call them environmental writers,
most of the time, every one of those guys has his facts straight. They may
advocate a little bit beyond just solid reporting of news, but Cy has been really
very much balanced in his reporting by and large, and I think a lot of the other
ones have too.
P: I do not mean this, it sounds wrong, but in some sense they tend to humanize the
concept, because they talk about how it affects individuals.
P: And that tends to be more personally-oriented than perhaps some of the
S: Yes, or some of the environmental facts. If we are out there charging after Cape
Sable seaside sparrows, that certainly is not going to win hearts and minds in
most of South Florida, but they have done a great job of that, yes.
P: Let me give you another element here, the Seminoles and the Miccosukees.
S: Two other elements.
P: This is a quotation from Victor Billy: "It is not good to try to be like the whites, to
destroy your land, to destroy the air you breathe, to destroy the water you drink.
If you go to school and learn this technology, it teaches you to hurt and destroy.
We have survived on this land for a million years. The Europeans have been
here only 500 to 600 years, and look how much they destroy each day." Is that
S: No, I do not think so. I think it is overstated to say that the Miccosukees and
Seminoles, who are Creek derivatives from the Carolinas and Georgia, have
been down here a million years. I have worked with indigenous tribes in South
America, and as those tribes get into contact with our "civilized" society, as they
learn the value of money versus subsistence, as they learn not to use traditional
medicines, they certainly have a higher effect on the land, because there are
more of them and they are using higher technology. I can tell you documentation
of what we did in southern Venezuela in the Caura River watershed where the
Makiritare and Sanema Indians live. We were working with them, we set up a
1,500,000 acre natural monument. We documented in one generation a 95
percent loss of cultural knowledge of the surrounding ecosystem. The elders in
that tribe used seventy-seven different species of tree and vine and shrub for
wood. The entire forestry industry of Venezuela only used eighteen species.
They used over 100 different herbal natural medicines. Their children maybe
could name a tenth of those. Most of them did not know how to use it, because
medicine came in pill bottles and needles. Clearly, as we become more
technologically advanced, it is incumbent upon the civilized society, or the whites
or the Anglos as he would put it, to use that technology for good. I think that we
have tried to turn a corner on that as a society, live a little bit lighter on the land
and do remediation, whereas a few years back, a few decades back when the
Cuyahoga River [in Cleveland, Ohio] was bursting into flames [because of
excessive pollution], you know, we certainly did not care so much about that. You
need to look at this in terms of cultural-history perspective. There is no corner on
the market between indigenous people and "civilized" or industrialized societies,
in terms of extinctions and in terms of the history of loss of species. When
humans became tool-users and when humans began to conquer the landscape
and became sedentary and used agriculture versus hunting and gathering, we
immediately started to have a big effect on wildlife. I believe there are thirty-two
genera of ground sloths which are no longer in North America because
Pleistocene hunters eradicated them; genera, that is, not just species, but whole
genera. There are an estimated 1,200 species of birds in the Polynesian Islands
that were made extinct by the Polynesians before white men or Anglos or
industrial society ever showed up there. It is just that the scale, when we become
industrialized, is so much greater.
P: One of the things the Audubon Society is interested in, particularly in this project,
is preserving the wading birds.
S: Certainly, yes.
P: And I guess other issues include Key deer.
S: Oh, yes, but let me just put that in perspective. For Audubon in South Florida,
wading birds are our heritage and legacy and all of that, but they are also a great
macro-indicator of ecosystem health and function. You can measure wading-bird
colonies and success and the wading-bird populations and get a better idea
because we have documented why their populations have declined, from water
mismanagement and pollution. We can look at them as an indicator as they
come back. They are an indication of how the ecosystem is coming back, but
they are one of thousands of different indications, as the RECOVER team would
put it, and outcomes that we want to achieve. [End of Side 1, Tape, B.] I would
say in the past we were sort of the bird group, you know, we are the bird guys.
That has changed dramatically for Audubon. Our new mission is not just
conservation of birds, wildlife and the habitat for the benefit of the Earth's
biological diversity, but also for the benefit for humanity. I think it is important to
note that the direction we are headed in, both in the state and nationwide, is to
connect people with nature, because we have found that if you do not make that
connection, whether it is a businessman or a farmer or an inner-city resident, you
never have the kind of appreciation or awareness that is going to lead to an
informed decision on environmental issues, and a lot of those environmental
issues become quality-of-life issues very directly, especially for people like inner-
city residents where the majority of our toxic sites are. Looking at it from our
perspective, we are focused on the whole ecosystem, the ecological system, plus
we are focused on the human system too, because that connection, the future of
our country's natural heritage depends on making that connection. As I said
before, we are increasingly urbanized and increasingly isolated from nature and
from natural resources. Just ask any kid where their water comes from if you
want proof of that it comes from the tap. What happens if we run out of water?
Well, it stops coming out of the tap. No, it does not; you just pay a heck of a lot
more for that. The poverty line goes up, and all social costs go up as well. So, we
are focused on making that connection, in addition to the traditional conservation
and preservation activities that we have.
P: I noticed that you have really been committed to new science and nature centers
and the educational process.
S: Absolutely. That is our new direction. It is increasing awareness and
understanding of wildlife, wild lands, natural resources, but it also connecting
people with the natural resources so they can make those informed decisions.
P: So part of it is experiential, you get them there, but perhaps more significantly for
younger people are instructional materials.
S: Educational, yes.
P: School curriculum.
P: How do you go about changing that attitude?
S: There is a good question because more and more, as we become urbanized,
teachers are taught that you will teach everything you need to in this classroom
and you will, if you need to teach them about nature, show a video. We are
talking about a fundamental change, not just in how we teach kids but also in
how we teach teachers. Even if you go to an IMAX theater, there is nothing
comparable to standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon and looking down. You
can fly through it in an IMAX theater, and it is not the same. You can look at the
screen and watch the Crocodile Hunter chase down a crocodile, but when you
are sitting in a dugout canoe with an Indian in southern Venezuela and a twelve-
foot crocodile comes up right next to you, that is a whole different experience
than watching the Crocodile Hunter.
P: Most of us would not like to have that experience, though.
S: Well, we do not want to take kids out and do that. Let me just caveat that pretty
quickly. But, you know, it is the question of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. I went
through that when I was ten, Everglades National Park same way. Going and
having those experiences, especially for kids in inner-city Miami who have not
seen the ocean, much less the Everglades, showing them what that is and
saying this is yours. It is not the environmental community's national park, it is
not the National Park Services' national park, it is your national park, it belongs to
you, and showing them all of what that means, or taking them to Corkscrew
Swamp Sanctuary and saying, this is what our South Florida ecosystem used to
look like. It creates values.
P: How do you get them away from Disney and into eco-tourism?
S: I do not think we have to get everybody away from Disney. I think we have to get
Disney into ecotourism, and they are. They are getting there bit by bit. And do not
tell Carl Hiaasen I said that. (I am sure he is not going to listen to these tapes to
get his material.) But as we look into the future, it is also some of that, getting the
corporate culture of America into the full-cost accounting values of our natural
system. If the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce can see that, I guarantee
you any Chamber of Commerce in the country can see that. If the Cleveland
Chamber of Commerce can see that, which they did, and the Cuyahoga River
that used to burst into flames is an American Heritage River now, if the
Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce can finance revitalization of what was the
dirtiest city of America largely with private dollars and form the Chattanooga
Institute as a result, with Davy Crockett at the helm, honest to God, if they can do
that, then anybody can do that. If the business community gets behind the
environment as an economic resource and as a heritage resource, we will be a
lot better off.
P: I notice in that context you are pursuing land-management plans as well, another
element that a lot of people may not be aware of.
S: Sure. Well, for us, it is part of our long-term history, managing our large
sanctuaries, but I think it is also important that we look at not just preserving land
but managing it. Nature Conservancy is much more focused on that, land
preservation and management, than we are, but on the other hand, we bring a lot
of expertise to that. As we look at, for instance, an issue like the spotted owl, or
in our neck of the woods the Cape Sable seaside sparrow, or better yet the
Florida scrub jay, the Florida scrub jay is a terrific indicator species and by the
way, a very friendly species and sort of naive and approachable and also has an
extended-family social-system not unlike our own. We look at that species and
we say, if I told you that we should protect the Florida scrub jay because it was
endangered, would that sway your mind, because it is part of an endangered
ecosystem? No, probably not. But if I said, here is a bird that is social that has
helpers at the nest that do not breed but help others raise their young, well, that
is kind of cool. That is kind of like you at home, right, with your kids sticking
around or grandma helping at the nest, so to speak. You start getting kids
interested in that or interested in their habitat. You know, here is this fascinating
scrub habitat in South Florida, or all through Florida actually. We do not know
very much about that, but it is threatened. Well, what does it mean to you if that
is threatened? Well, that beautiful, pretty little bird, which probably should be the
state bird, but who knows, with this incredible little social system, is threatened.
How would you feel if it were the Miccosukee Indians and their lifestyle and their
culture that were threatened, as another cooperative social system? Unless
people get that awareness and understanding that this is a really cool little bird
that also has as one of its characteristics an indicator function for an endangered
ecosystem, most likely we will lose a lot of those species. We have to have that
awareness. We have to approach it from that perspective. What will turn people
towards laying claim to that as their natural heritage?
P: One issue I forgot: what can be done about mercury poisoning?
S: Do not chew on thermometers. That is a good question. If we get the answers to
that one... That is one of those and-then-you-get-to-keep-the-planet questions.
There are a lot of issues with mercury poisoning, or mercury contamination. If
you look at the plumes of mercury, they are largely south of Lake Okeechobee
and south of EAA. We can talk about atmospheric deposition all we want, but
mercury has an affinity for phosphorus, and the fact is that we have lost half of
the soil in the EAA, which was put there over the last 5,000 to 7,000 years by
peat accumulation at the bottom of the marsh before it was drained for that
purpose. 4,000 years worth of that soil has gone away in about forty years. That
is 100 times the level of oxidation and release into the system, largely a
phosphorus-containing sheet-flow mechanism, phosphorus contamination from
oxidation of those soils, and with it went 4,000 years of mercury in forty. So, there
is no wonder to me that there is a plume of mercury south of the area of highest
oxidation and phosphorus soil loss. That has got to be a source, and sulfation of
the soils, putting sulphur on it, releasing those phosphorus nutrients, which is
common practice there, is adding to that. It is a bio-accumulator. We have to
reduce sulphur use to stop the process at its source and hopefully keep water
tables as high as possible to reduce oxidation there. In addition to that, it is
awfully hard because it is such in minuscule amounts but has terrible effects at
those low levels. By reducing sulphur use, you are going to reduce methylation of
mercury and bioaccumulation as a result, but it is going to take years. If go south
of the EAA out in the marsh there and you start stirring up the soil, boy, you smell
that sulphur right away out in the marsh there. What can be done about it?
Today, tomorrow, this next year, this next decade? Very little but slow down
deposition, and some of it is atmospheric, no doubt.
P: One question you may not want to comment on, but you are currently having a
board meeting for the Audubon Society. What are going to be the major issues
for this board?
S: Our legislative agenda, the progress we have made as an institution over the last
year. I think this is very much a celebratory board meeting in getting these two
formerly disparate groups, Florida Audubon and National Audubon Society,
together, and also celebrating a change in the way we do business. Audubon has
its various state and national-level organizations and then all these chapters out
in the field, and over the last year we have incorporated chapters into our
conservation planning process and conservation implementation process, and
you are going to see more of that as we grow our membership around the state,
so that, on a local level, we are collection of state, national and local chapter
involvement and citizen involvement. We are going to be talking about how we
move forward with a non-threatening conservation education program. Frankly,
the sugar industry aside, there is such great opportunities for common ground
between the environment movement and agriculture. I remember reading in Top
Producer- which I do not know if you know that one, it is a U.S. Corn Growers
Association trade magazine, I believe and seeing on the cover in 1993 on the
eastern shore of Maryland, the president of, I think it was, U.S. Corn Growers
Association on the cover saying, the environment and agriculture have more in
common than they do apart, or something like that. You know, it is a wasted
message, because we have spent an awful lot of time and energy forging our
differences. One of the people I got to know late in his life, who was head of the
Carnegie Teachers' Foundation, said, if he had to design our education system
all over again, instead of teaching people what made them special and what set
them apart, he would teach people what brought them all together. He started
with language and the environment, agriculture, culture in general. He had this
list of things. You started thinking to yourself, by gosh. That quote you had on the
Indians, you know, humanity to begin with, but what we have in common across
industrialized developing nations is far more obvious than what we have as
cultural differences, if you take the time to think about it. With agriculture and the
environment, when I say instead of environmental education, conservation
education, I firmly believe, not just because I have done it, but I firmly believe that
agriculture is a terrific learning opportunity for kids. It is not just where your water
comes from; it is where your food comes from and how it gets there. The start of
civilization came with agriculture. We have learned a lot of lessons. Agriculture]
folks would say the first conservationist was a farmer. Of course, the response
has to be, that is because the first farmers were not conservationists. But you
learn about resource management and you learn about where your food comes
from. I was on the board of this group called Project Food, Land and People, a
nationwide group that is sort of like a much-expanded "Ag in the Classroom," for
that very reason, because I think there is a lot of common ground. So, when we
talk about conservation education, it is not just indoctrinating kids, it is not an
industry move to indoctrinate kids about our trade. It is a reach out to get kids to
understand and adults to understand what they have in common with each other
and with the natural system.
P: What is going to be the top priority for your legislative agenda?
S: The usual cast of characters. Everglades funding is one of those things. Rural-
lands protection and some of the things that came out of the growth management
commission where we are actively seeking common ground with agriculture. We
need to protect rural lands. We need to give people fair value for easements and
try and protect as much open space as possible. That is part of growth-
management. Everglades is obviously going to be up there [and] Oklawaha
obviously is going to be up there because those are hot-button issues, but there
are a wide range of other things. We set seventeen conservation priorities within
our Audubon Assembly this year, and they range from the Everglades to
Southwest Florida to growth-management to other things.
P: I have those right here, yes. Is there anything that we did not touch on that you
would like to comment on?
S: I do not know. You know, this restoration project, when you and I are long gone,
it is still going to be going on. The cast of characters you mentioned and asked
me questions about, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, go back to her, go back
beyond that, go back to Guy Bradley and Columbus MacLeod giving their lives to
protect birds and things. This project is far bigger than any people who
participated in it, no matter how big they are in stature or whatever. One of the
things we have learned the most out of the whole process has been how to figure
out common ground and collaborate, the Governor's Commission, within the
Everglades Coalition, between very disparate groups. If somebody wanted to use
this as a model, you know, there are a lot of things we did wrong, but that is the
one thing that we did right. Sustaining that collaboration, sustaining that
consensus, is the only thing that is going to see this thing through in the end.
P: On that note, we will end the interview, and I want to thank you very much.
S: Thank you.
Stuart D. Strahl
This interview begins with Dr. Strahl= s account of his educational and professional background (page 1) and moves
into an extended treatment of his affiliation with the National Audobon Society (page 1-2), particularly its history
and current situation on both the Florida and national levels (page 2-3). On page 4, Dr. Strahl relates how he came
to be involved with the Everglades, and page 5 contains his thoughts on how the environment sicknesses of the
Everglades came about over time.
On page 6, Dr. Strahl comments on the Army Corps of Engineers, both in the past and their current involvement
with Everglades Restoration, with specific reference to the elevation of Mike Davis to the Everglades Restoration
leadership role (page 6-7). He particularly highlights the shift in mentality that allowed the Corps to facilitate the
Restoration effort (page 7). On page 8, Dr. Strahl shares his reaction to Gale Norton=s appointment as Secretary of
Interior under President George W. Bush. He also stresses the importance of having independent watchdog groups
serving as guardians of the environment (page 9). For example, Dr Strahl gives great credence to Rachel Carson and
other environmental writers for their pioneering work in the environmental movement (page 10), although he
concedes that there is still a strong negativity that many American exhibit to so-called Atree-huggers@ (page 10-11)
The majority of the rest of the interview has Dr. Strahl=s perspective on a variety of both institutions and
individuals involved in Everglades Restoration, including the 1972 Water Resources Act and the economic factors
working for and against Restoration (page 12), and the South Florida Water Management District, particularly their
lack of attention to scientific data (page 12-13), their surplus of political authority (page 13), and their financial
concerns (page 14). Dr. Strahl also comments on Preservation 2000 (page 14), the 1985 Growth Management Act
and its effects on the Everglades (page 15), the state wetlands mitigation system (page 16), and the SWIM Act
(Surface Water Improvement Management Act) (page 17-18). The South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task
Force is discussed on page 17-18, with particular attention to its constituent members.
Individuals commented on include Nathaniel Reed (page 20), Senator Bob Graham (page 23-24), Bruce Babbitt
(Secretary of Interior under President Bill Clinton) (page 24), Colonel Terry Rice from the Army Corps of
Engineers (page 25-6), Dick Ring, superintendent of Everglades National Park (page 26), President Clinton himself
(page 26), and governor of Florida Jeb Bush (page 27-28).
Dr. Strahl also shares his thoughts on water storage and aquifer storage and retrieval, and how the former issue is
critical to the overall success of the Restoration (19-20). He comments also on his interaction with other
environmental groups (20-21), the recent Everglades Coalition meeting on Hutchison Island (21-22), public support
for the environmental community in Florida generally (28-29) and the agricultural industries and their roles in the
Restoration effort (30-31), particularly the sugar industry (page 32) and the Amendment 4 issue ( 33).
Other topics touched on by Dr. Strahl include default water standards (page 31), the Environmental Protection
Agency under Carol Browner and Christie Todd Whitman (page 34), the first priorities that Everglades Restoration
should target (page 34-35) and other options for water storage in the future (page 35). He also comments on the
building of Tamiami Trail (page 36), environmental journalists and their influence on Restoration (page 37), the
Seminole and Miccosukee Tribes (page 38-39). He concludes his interview by justifying Audubon=s interest in
wading birds (page 39), his excitement over new educational awareness/projects that his organization is sponsoring
(page 40), the promise of eco-tourism (page 40-41), land-management planning (page 41), mercury poisoning (page
42), and the upcoming Audubon board meeting and legislative agenda (page 42-3). He closes with a comment on
the collaborative effort needed for long-term success in the Everglades (page 44).