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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewee: Johnny Jones
Interviewer: Brian Gridley
Date: May 23, 2001
G: This is Brian Gridley interviewing Johnny Jones at his home in West Palm Beach.
The date is May 23, 2001. Mr. Jones, what are the two or three most important
contributing factors that have led to the present problems in the Everglades?
J: Agriculture, and I do not mean family farms. Mainly agriculture and real estate,
reclamation. First of all, you have to realize the Central and Southern Florida
Flood Control Plan was not designed for flood protection; it was designed for land
reclamation. That is the first thing you [have] to understand [is that's] what it is all
about. Of course, they used the idea of flood control, [but] the eastern part of
Florida never flooded, other than some minor floods, you get your feet wet, but
you do not drown. You do not see great floods like you do out west. We [are]
having the same problems as they have had all over the United States, where
they built these flood control projects that turn out to do more damage than they
do good. That is what has happened here. Originally, people around the
Kissimmee area had what you would call high water, not really flooding. The
whole area in South Florida is naturally wet part of the year. I do not mean
flooded, but it has got water on it. You might walk around, and there are puddles
everywhere. The [land] is flat, so the water hits the ground and collects and does
not run off like the people wanted it [to]. It started out with real estate. There was
a fellow named Riley Miles. I do not know if he is still alive or not, but he was one
of the leaders to build the project. They had to get together, and they sponsored
this thing and got a bill through the Florida legislature. [Then it went to the
Congress [where the project was authorized]. What you [have] to understand is
[that] the Corps of Engineers did not plan this thing. They did design it for the
people who benefitted from it, which are the agribusiness [people]. When I say
agribusiness, I am talking about corporate farmers. They are not really [mom-
and-pop] farmers at all; they are just warehousing the land in agriculture until
they can get some other land-use to be more profitable. It is all money; that is
what it was for. You take the Kissimmee River, for instance. You got 4,300
square miles of land that was wet, and when they built [the canal], the law of
accrual says if the upland landowner, who is adjacent to this wetland, which is
alongside of the river, which meant the sovereign [land which] belonged to the
state and the federal government, then [the land] became the property of the
upland landowner. So, all these giant landowners and farmers, cattlemen mostly,
accrued this land, or got it given to them on the basis of the project. The
Kissimmee was 300 feet wide and 30 feet deep, and it shortened the distance, of
course, of the water from Lake Kissimmee to Lake Okeechobee. Therefore, all
those people who owned land on either side of the river all of a sudden gained all
this land for free. Now, the truth is they did pay taxes on the land [after it was
drained]. Then, when you came down to the southern part, south of Lake
Okeechobee and actually to the east, all these canals were dug for the purpose
of draining all [the] muck land, which was a natural wetland, and that was to grow
crops. Many farmers had farmed the Everglades long before the project, but they
used to go out there, and off the road they would take a section and dike it [off]
and impound it. Then they would put a pump on it, and pump the water out to the
other side, and they would farm it. Now, out of four years, if they hit two years,
they still made a profit because that muck land had tremendous growing power.
You can grow crops out there better than you can anywhere else. Of course,
when we got separated from Cuba, as a result of Castro, many of those
sugarcane growers from over there came over here. The Fanjuls are a good
example. They are the biggest [sugar farmers], I believe. I am not sure, but I
think they are. U. S. Sugar, of course, is the family corporation that started up
north somewhere. Anyway, [the Fanjuls] created this corporation in South
Florida. I really believe that U. S. Sugar was the first one in the sugar business.
Of course, then along [came] Congress and gave the sugar people a subsidy. At
the time I first heard about it, which was a very long time ago, sugar was very
cheap. You could buy refined sugar at that time on the open market at $0.06 a
pound. Well, with the subsidies they received for every [pound of sugar], it
guaranteed them at that time up to $0.18 a pound. I think it is up to $0.23 a
pound now. But those farmers aren't in the sugar business. They are in the
subsidy business. There is far more money in subsidies than there is in farming.
They are not the only growers; there are other [sugar] growers in other parts of
the country [that are] subsidized.
G: Let me jump in and ask. Do you see the sugar as driving the efforts to build water
J: Yes, and to take wetlands and make them into private farms. You['ve] got to
realize these lands were totally useless to a farmer, I mean in any great amount,
because it would flood naturally. It was not just a matter of diking it and
impounding it. They [also built] canals that went to tide, and as a result, you have
got the St. Lucie [Canal, on the East Coast, that empties into] that estuary. The
water [from the St. Lucie that empties] into the estuary just tears the hell out of it.
You can take class-one water, and it is a pollutant to a saltwater estuary. You
might as well dump oil into it. It destroys the estuary; it kills the chain of life. So,
every time they get a flood and they dump water out of Lake Okeechobee Lake
Okeechobee has been impounded now so that they can drain all the land around
it they open up the lock to the St. Lucie and they flood Stuart and the estuary,
the fish become sick and get what they call popeye or something it is a form of
cancer that fish get and it is from the freshwater polluting the estuaries. Then
on the west coast, you have the Caloosahatchee, which was tied in years ago
into Lake Okeechobee. A lot of people thought the Caloosahatchee was a part of
[the] Lake Okeechobee [system], but it was not. They had to dig Lake Hicpochee,
which is just a few miles south of Clewiston.
G: Let me jump in and ask another related question. John DeGrove once
characterized the ecological problems of South Florida as "innocent ignorance."
Would you then disagree with that characterization?
J: John DeGrove is a nice fellow, but his interest lies in protecting those people who
are the beneficiaries of this flood-control project. His heart is in the right place, I
believe, but I believe John DeGrove has done a great deal of damage by
encouraging growth in South Florida. I do not think it was something he did
intentionally. There have been many people who worked either in the legislature
or outside of the legislature, [as] consultants, and the driving force was to create
more real estate for more development. That is one of the terrible things that has
happened to South Florida. We now have more people than we have water. That
is why we have these terrible droughts. The Water Management District (or it
may have even been the Flood Control District before they converted it from
Flood Control to Water Management) Bill Storch was a chief engineer; they
[conducted] research on [carrying capacity] and they were pretty smart. They
determined what the rainfall was and how much water we had. They knew that
90 percent of the water had to go to tide [to prevent] saltwater intrusion.
Therefore, we had to figure out how much water we had for the people, for public
use. [In] Palm Beach County, for instance, he said you can only have a
maximum of 600,000 people in Palm Beach County, [and] then you get a water
deficit, and we have got 1,200,000, I think, now. Broward County is way, way
over. Dade County is built far beyond anything that they possibly have water for.
We are going to be in the business of converting ocean water for freshwater
eventually, and water is going to be so expensive, the ordinary person is not
going to be able to afford it. We have that [situation] down in Key West now, and
[they] have [it in] the Virgin Islands. The people on the Virgin Islands have to buy
water by truck. Now we are going to have to be doing the same thing in Florida
one of these days [if we don't stop] creating all this growth. One of the things this
project was [meant to do] is to dry up many acres of land for agriculture, and then
these people hold this land [as] agricultural, like warehousing it, until it becomes
developable. In other words, the growth moves further west; it becomes a
necessity [to obtain] more land to build homes and condominiums and shopping
centers and so forth, and that is what has happened.
G: So, you would not characterize the development of the Central and Southern
Florida project as innocent; it was more directed toward a specific purpose.
J: Yes. The people in South Florida were sold a bill-of-goods that this was going to
be a great thing to benefit fishing and they were going to stop all this flooding.
Well, we never had any flooding on the east coast where the people originally
lived. It was out in the area of the wetlands, and they are supposed to flood. They
were a backwater system for Lake Okeechobee, which is one of the largest lakes
in the United States, and the Everglades was a river of grass that flowed from the
lake down into Florida Bay and into the Gulf of Mexico, and it supplied the water
for Everglades National Park. Everglades National Park has lost 95 percent of its
bird life as a result of this project.
G: Do you think that those are things that people were aware of before the Central
and Southern Florida project?
J: No! Even the people who did it had no idea that they were doing so much harm,
because many of them realize it now and have changed their position. That is
why we were able to pass laws like the Kissimmee River restoration, which thirty
years ago you could not possibly have done. Right after it was built, you could
not have gotten a bill passed like that. We had to educate the public, and they
had to see the damage of all the nutrients [of cow manure] running straight in
without any filtration from the marshes. You know, the marshes are wonderful
things. Like I told you once, the marsh around a lake or around a river is a
kidney; it cleans up the water as the water runs through them, the nutrients from
that water, which [are] the big damaging [factors]. It winds up [in] Lake
Okeechobee and, bingo, we got a dead lake on our hands, which we just about
had before this drought. There are people screaming in Palm Beach County right
now about the drought, about Lake Okeechobee and how bad it looks. The fish
camps are dried up, they cannot fish, and the sugarcane [is using what water we
have; they do not cut back.] But, in fact, the draining of this lake [is a helpful
thing] the only way you can cure a dead lake or over-enriched lake is to drain it
and let the sun hit the bottom. The sun will actually kill the bad vegetation, and
the nutrients will dry up and blow away. It will just disappear. When it re-floods,
the lake will become pure again. The water will be clean, and you will be able to
drink it, or use it for drinking water. Right now, it is not fit to turn into drinking
water, it is so bad.
G: We are going to come to Lake Okeechobee in a while, so I want to save your
thoughts a little bit. Let me ask you to tell me a little bit about your professional
background, including education and career positions up to the time when you
joined the Florida Wildlife Federation.
J: I finished the tenth grade, and I quit school. Very shortly after that, I got married.
My father was a plumbing contractor, and there is a school you have to go to
become a plumber. You know, it takes two years to become an engineer, and it
takes five years to become a plumber. All the Central and Southern Florida Flood
Control Project is, is a great big plumbing system, and a very elementary one to
start with. It is a simple form of plumbing, but it is in giant form. That is why I
understand it so well after five years of school. They taught us about over-
enrichment and things like that. I was taught about the purification of sand. Water
going through the sand goes into the aquifer. The nutrients and the impurities,
before it gets to the aquifer, most of it is filtered out. You can take a polluted river,
let us say down in Africa where people were getting sick from drinking the water
[from their] rivers. Now we have gone over there and built wells just a short
distance from the river, and the water comes clear in the wells, but the water
actually comes from the river. I do not know if I have made myself clear or not,
but after I finished five years of my education, I graduated from the plumbing
school, which is actually a state-run school. It was part of the school system. I
graduated top of my class, as a matter of fact. All of us, at the end of our five-
year term, we were supposed to take a journeyman's test. Well, I knew that I
planned to go into the plumbing business with my father, so I skipped the
journeyman's [test] and took the master's exam, and I made a 97 on it. So, I
knew what I was talking about, and I do now. I understand the system. The kind
of engineering that it took to build this system out here was elementary plumbing.
I do not want to be cynical, but it is like taking a second-grade school student and
telling him to go out and build a system. It is like second-grade plumbing, I should
say. It is not that complicated. It is very, very simple. If you want to restore land,
you dig a big deep channel, and you run it down to the lake, which is impounded,
and then from there you operate it with canals and pumps. That is the way this
system is run. The fallacy of it is that, by channelizing, they have collected all the
cow waste, which most of it was pastureland. There was cow shit right in the river
G: How did you eventually become involved with the Florida Wildlife Federation after
J: I was in the plumbing business twenty-three years, but I was a hunter and
fisherman and all that. I liked the outdoors, and I particularly liked the
Everglades. I fished and hunted everywhere, and I fell in love with the Florida
outdoors it was paradise when I was young fella. In my late teens, I used to
go in the Everglades with a canoe-type boat, but it had a little transom on it for a
weedless kicker. I went all over the Everglades duck hunting. The Everglades
were so beautiful when I was a kid. It is nothing like it is today. All you see down
there today is sawgrass. People think the Everglades was always sawgrass, and
it was not. When I was a kid, it was part sawgrass, but [there] was a diversity of
all kinds of vegetation. You had flags, which are nothing but a form of a lily-type
plant. You had giant willow heads, so big you cannot imagine how large they
were. They would be maybe two or three miles long and maybe a half-mile to a
mile wide. These were low depression areas of muck where, when the
Everglades dried up, the water would go in there and it would collect fish and
things. But I just fell in love with this thing, and I saw it just going to hell-in-a-
[hand]-basket. Then I became a member of what we called the Wildlife
Conservation League. I was in that club for many years and got interested in it.
Then I was sent as a delegate from our club to the Florida Wildlife Federation.
The Wildlife Conservation League was one of the members of the Florida Wildlife
[Federation], which was [an] affiliate with the National Wildlife Federation. The
National Wildlife Federation was the largest conservation organization in the
world. I got [active in the Florida Wildlife Federation], and I saw some potential
but I was disappointed because, [at] the time I got into it, it had become a social
club, as so many of these type clubs are today. Environmental groups are more
social than they are truly in the environmental business because they talk about
the environment but they preach to each other, like talking to the choir. They do
not really get to the public, and that is who you have got to get to, the people who
do not understand what is happening to their system. When I got in the Florida
Wildlife Federation, I met Tom Kimball, who was executive director of the
National Wildlife Federation. He [came] down to several meetings that I went to
in the beginning. He would come down from Washington and sit in on our
meetings, and he could see that things were not going well, that the Federation
was not doing what it should be doing. Anyway, I went there expecting to find
something that could help solve some of these problems that I [saw] happening
[where] I lived it was being destroyed by development and by drainage. After
the Florida Wildlife Federation meeting, I was asked to go to a meeting of high-
ranking people in the National Wildlife Federation. When I was there, Tom
Kimball sat down beside me and slapped me on the leg, and he said, I hear you
are a fire-eater. That is what he called me. From time to time, I did raise hell with
the government when I saw things going wrong which were destroying our
environment. I was not exactly sure what he was up to, but as it turned out, [there
was] an election on the following day, and he wanted me to run for president of
the Florida Wildlife Federation. Well, the guy who was in line to become president
was a friend of mine. I said, Mr. Kimball, I cannot take that position because of
Bill [Theobold]. I said, I cannot take it. That man has counted on this. He has
been wanting to be president, and he served all these different positions, and he
is vice president now. He should be president tomorrow. He was prepared to
walk into this position. I said, I am not going to get up in the morning and go run
against him. I said, I do not think it would be right to him; even if I won, it would
not be fair. He said, well, would you take the position of vice president with the
understanding that you would become president the following year? So, I finally
gave in and said all right, I would do it. And I did, and I did set Florida Wildlife
Federation on fire. I mean, I kicked them in the butt and got going. We began to
make things happen. That was what I was always in favor of. I wanted to get
involved with government and try to straighten up some of the things that they
were doing wrong, and there were a lot of things. Drainage was the biggest
problem. I saw our land disappearing, the land that I valued. I saw it being
usurped, taken and swallowed up with development, and this disturbed me
greatly. So, one of things that I wanted to do was to buy land. Well, getting back
to Mr. Kimball, after a couple of years as president of the [Florida] Wildlife
Federation, I think it was two years, he came down [to spend] time with me at my
home. He said, I want to see the Florida Wildlife Federation get an executive
director, a full-time man to work and get it on the map, get it active [in] doing
things. He said, I wish that you could do it, but I know you have a plumbing
business. I said, Mr. Kimball, if the board would accept me, I would be glad. I
[had] done pretty well, I had other sources of income. I turned my plumbing
business over to my son, and Mr. Kimball went to the board of the Florida Wildlife
Federation and said, I want the Florida Wildlife Federation to get an executive
director. It was not said out loud, but it was said in private that if the Florida
Wildlife Federation did not begin to do something, they were going to lose their
charter with the National Wildlife Federation, and they would form a new Florida
Wildlife Federation because they wanted an organization which would do things
like they did on the national scene. [The National Wildlife Federation] had
5,000,000 members. That was more than all the others put together. Anyway, I
took the position with one understanding, that when I needed help from the
National Wildlife Federation, they would help me in whatever I needed. First of
all, they paid my salary and my wife's salary, who worked as a secretary and
actually ran the office. Many times, she ran me. But they did, they paid us
$40,000 a year for two years, and they sent people down here from National
[Wildlife Federation] to train us on how to raise money, because in order to have
any organization, you have to raise money. We became very good at it. We took
their plan, and then we got some of our own. Actually, Mariana deserves most of
the credit for that because she and my daughter finally came in there and started
helping us out. The next thing you know, we hired [our daughter] full-time. They
were the ones who actually ran the programs through what you call mass-
mailings. Then we got some other programs, and I started working on asking
people who had gifts that they wanted to give away, like if they had no children
and they wanted to give away some land or something, they would give it to us,
and in turn we would take the land and sell it and use the money to run our
G: Could you describe your relationship with Arthur Marshall?
J: Art Marshall was a well-known conservationist, but he really was not a lobbyist or
an activist or anything like that. He was generally a scientist, and he was to the
environment what Einstein was to mathematics. No question, there was nobody
anywhere in the state of Florida who could compare with his brain. He was very
brilliant. He understood the system far better than I could. I met this man, and he
talked to us one day it was 1969 for two hours, and he held us spellbound
with the things that he said to us. He explained to us how you cannot manage a
system by managing it piece by piece. It is like comparing a man to an
environmental system if you cut the head off of a man, he will die; well, if you
cut the system in half or cut the head off of it, the system will die. For instance, if
you do something to the Kissimmee River or the upper chain of lakes which
supply the Kissimmee, it will affect Lake Okeechobee, which is at the bottom of
the Kissimmee. You will affect Florida Bay; even the Keys [was] affected by the
channelization of the Kissimmee, and we saw that happen. They had just started
digging the Kissimmee in the 1960s. We already knew it was a mistake, but [Art]
knew it much better than we did, and he explained to us what was going to
happen. He said, we are going to get an over-enriched lake. He compared Lake
Okeechobee to Lake Apopka, which is a dead lake. Lake Apopka died exactly
like Lake Okeechobee is dying. Muck farming was on the upper side of Lake
Apopka, and they had channelized a channel, and they drained all the drainage
into Lake Apopka [to benefit] farming. They did it for the farming [interests] out
there. Lake Apopka is a much smaller lake, of course, and the farming operation
is a lot smaller, too, but when they drained all the fertilizers and [pesticides] into
Lake Apopka, it died; it became over-enriched. Along came a hurricane, and the
hurricane stirred the water up, just like you take a mixer and mix up a bowl of
something. When that happens, you stir up the bottom sediments which collect
these nutrients. Lake Okeechobee now has probably a trillion pounds of
phosphorus [tied up in the bottom muds]. [Phosphorus] is the main source of
pollution going into Lake Okeechobee. Well, the same thing happened to Lake
Apopka, but when this hurricane came along and stirred up this lake, it died in
three days, that quick. [It was like] stick[ing] a knife in a knife in a person. He may
live for a couple of days, but then he is going to die. That is what happened to
Apopka, and [these scientists] have never been able to restore Apopka because
it is just something too big to drain. Lake Tohopekaliga had the same problem,
Lake Kissimmee had the same problem, and [the Game and Fish Commission]
drained those lakes. [They] drained them down so the sun could get at the
bottom, and when it did, it purified it and cleaned it up. Then [they] let it re-flood,
and [they] had a good lake. The fish ran again. Sport fish cannot live in polluted
water, over-enriched water. Actually, it cannot live in sterile water, either. It has to
have a certain amount of enrichment.
G: Was it Marshall that saw the problems with the early lakes?
J: Yes. Marshall was the guy who saw this first. There was another guy who
actually had worked for Art, Larry Shanks, who was with the U. S. Fish and
Wildlife Service. I think he is retired now, but he worked for Art when Art was
heading up U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Vero Beach. Then he moved out to
Louisiana. [Larry Shanks] saw the first algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee [in the
1960s, while he was working with the Game and Fish Commission] and saw that
even alligators began to die. [The algae] created a poison. [The algae] take air
out of the water. [Some algae] form a toxic poison in the water, it gets in the fish
and the alligator eats the fish and dies. Art knew all about this sort of thing, and
he taught me these things. He worked with me many years. When I first met him,
he was working for the University of Miami on a grant from the Ford Foundation.
Finally, his money ran out, and he had to close down his school in the University
of Miami. It was the Center for Urban Studies, I think he called it. Anyway,
everybody who had worked with Art or had [taken] his class was amazed with his
brilliance. He was just so smart. He was trying to develop a system whereby
cities could survive and not become environmentally bankrupt as we [are] in this
part of the state. We are now environmentally bankrupt.
G: Are you talking about an early version of sustainable development?
J: Yes. Let me explain to you about environmental bankruptcy. When a city grows
to the point that it no longer can supply its people with water from within that
area, it becomes bankrupt. If it has more sewerage than it can dispose of, it is
environmentally bankrupt. New York has no place to put its sewerage. They are
taking it way out to sea and dumping it in the ocean, raw, in great quantities. This
stuff is going on. The sigmoid curve. He was explaining the S curve, or sigmoid
curve, you know, it starts out up here and it comes down, and they do a little
more and a little more and a little more and a little more, until they destroy or
overuse everything that they have. Then that city becomes, well, it starts at the
bottom of the curve, and you will see crime pick up; you will see people stealing
and committing crimes. One of the things he said in here, in this S curve, was
that as you use more things like water plants and sewer plants all these things
cost money you create more and more taxes. Soon, the public that lives there
can no longer pay the taxes. For instance, this house, when we first moved here,
I do not think it was over $200 for the taxes out here, but now it is $2,200 a year,
the taxes alone. You can see how it grows. Now, growth creates these taxes
because you [have] to build more and more schools [and] you have to have more
infrastructure. Everything grows beyond what the tax base will support. Do you
understand what I mean? Well, that is the sigmoid curve. That was the thing that
Art discovered and created a name for, and tried to explain to the state and
people who run the state. But, of course, people who are in office and run the
state always want to increase their tax base, which means they want growth. It is
very hard. The problem is that people get in [office] and they change; constantly
a new group is re-elected, and you have to re-educate them every time. When
you get a new commission, then you [have] to come back in and re-educate that
group. It may take ten years to educate the groups there, but then it changes,
and another group comes in, and they are ignorant to the facts. They really do
not know what has been going on, and they get into the same cycle. It is just a
cycle of people becoming ignorant to what is going on within their own system.
They do not understand what is killing the city, the garbage; they do not
understand why the tax base will not support it. Then they have to try to create
growth and bring people into Florida. Dade and Broward counties are completely
overgrown. We are at our max right now.
G: If I could bring this back to Arthur Marshall, are you saying that one of the things
he emphasized was the problem of growth in South Florida?
J: Yes. He was the guy who told us we had grown beyond our capacity to support it,
support the system it requires to maintain that many people on a given amount of ground.
Are you following me? It is pretty complicated. Now, one of the things with all these
pumps, they are all diesel operated, usually diesel electric. Anyway, they have to run
these pumps, and if you know anything about moving water... We have become an oil-
based society. We have to have air conditioning, hot water, kitchen stoves. All of these
things require oil to run the generating plants that create the electricity. More and more,
we have grown to the point where we want all these comforts. Our cars are using more
gas, which is oil. You get to the point where people cannot afford to live that way, at
least some of the people on the bottom of the people-chain. We talk all the time about the
wildlife chain of life, but there is a chain of life within the human equation, as well. Let
me tell you about Art, how this guy lived his life. Art, when he left the University of
Miami, he moved up to Interlachen, Florida, which is a rural area, to say the least; it is
the backwoods. He had, I think, five or ten acres up there. He built a house, which he
built himself. He had never built a house in his life, but he built that one. He laid the
blocks, and he built it, but he built it with cross-ventilation where he used a natural
system to cool his body and to cool his house. His stove, in the wintertime to keep
himself warm, he put duct-work in there, just regular old duct-work by Sears Roebuck or
any store selling building material. He had a big pot-bellied stove right in his living
room, well that stove, you build a little fire in that and you get coals in it, and it will keep
the house warm all night long, even when it gets cold in North Florida. It does get cold.
He used that stove for many things. I think he cooked on it sometimes, but they did have
a regular cook stove in the house. His car, of course, he would not drive a Cadillac or a
Buick or something like that. He had a little Nissan I mean, the bug we called B210,
which was a very small car. Got about forty or fifty miles to the gallon. That is the way
Art thought. He tried to live within his means, which is something that the public in
general does not do, and sooner or later, the city becomes bankrupt.
G: Could you talk about the develop of the Marshall Plan and your involvement with that?
J: Art and I used to sit in that living room and talk for hours. Art said to me, Johnny, you
know and I know that the Everglades is dying; we have to do something. He said, what
can we do to help the thing? I do not know who brought it up but probably Art, he says,
why don't we develop a plan and get the other leaders of the conservation groups
together and see if we can all support one plan whereby we can restore the Everglades
south of the lake, which also included Lake Okeechobee. So, Mariana did most of the
work. We invited everybody we could think of who was in the environmental
[movement]. There were no crazies. [There are] some crazies in the environmental
[movement] you know that, and you have met some of them, I am sure. But we got this
group [together]. Marjory [Stoneman] Douglas, Art and I really headed this thing up.
Susan Wilson played a big part in it. She is a very, very smart lady. She should never be
left out of any equation dealing with the environment because she was very close to Art,
just like I [was]. Marjory Douglas, of course, [played a major role]. She probably
understood the system the same way Art did because she and Art were very close, and,
eventually, I got close to her, which is another story that I will tell you when you want to
hear. But we were kind of like a triad, or triangle. We worked together closely. Art had
no particular opinions against hunting and fishing. Really, they were the people who
would come and tell us what was going on in the Everglades. The deer [population] had
shrunk down to it is almost nothing now. There were 8,000 deer [in] Area 3 at one time,
and bad water management has killed them. But they were only an indicator, and this is
something Art was telling me about. He was talking about the canary in the mine. He
said, you take a system, and you watch little things that depend on the environment.
Birds. You know, the birds disappear I got a little nest right outside my window here -
but [there] used to be lots of nests around here, all over the place, but they are gone.
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, do you remember that book? Silent Spring was a book
about the indicators, you know, the dying of the birds, and that is what we are talking
about here. All this stuff is tied together. There are indicators which Art knew about. He
could look at a lake and around the edge of the lake. He could look at the trees growing
around the edge of a wetland or lake, and he could tell you what condition that lake was
in simply by looking at the trees, looking at the leaves. We were out in the [West Palm
Beach] water catchment area together, and I wanted to show him what a beautiful marsh
we had there. It is part of the supply of water for West Palm Beach. They had been
holding the water extra high in there, trying to get more supply. Art said, this system is in
trouble. I said, how do you know? He said, look at the palm fronds up there; do you see
the yellow in them? The beginnings turned yellow in the palm fronds; right where they
come out of the frond, at the base of it you can see where it goes out, the base is turning
yellow in there; that means there is too much water in the system. It has not killed the
tree, but it will kill the tree over a period of time if the water level is left too high. And he
was absolutely correct. We have lowered it now, and it is in pretty good shape. Let us go
back to where we met to discuss all these things. I have to explain what we are talking
about, and that is what I have been trying to do. Well, we got this thing developed, and
Marjory was absolutely ecstatic. She was so happy with what we had done, and
everybody there was in agreement with what was in the Marshall Plan. Marjory said, Art,
I will have it printed up in book form, and I will pay for it. So then, Susan Wilson, who
was working with all of us she really is part of our family of environmental leaders; she
does not lead anything anymore, but she did she was a Ph.D., and she [still] works at
[one of] the universities [in Miami]. She agreed to take the rough draft and put it in
formal draft. Then Marjory took that and had it printed out in book form, a little green
book. Well, it was a wonderful book, but if nobody reads it, it does not do a damn bit of
good, and the truth is nobody would read it. We could not get anybody to look at what
was going on.
G: Why do you think that was?
J: No interest. People get lackadaisical. They really do not notice what is happening around
them. The earth underneath their feet is dying, and they do not know it. That is what is
happening here where I live. It is dying. We are sitting in the middle of Hungerland
Slough. This is a slough where you are sitting. You cannot tell it. It has been destroyed
G: So, did you say the people at that time this is the early 1980s simply were not aware
of what was going on in South Florida?
J: No, they were not. One of the things that I did was I started calling newspapers and
getting hold of the outdoor writers. They would always talk to us. They were looking for
something to write, and we sent them all this stuff. The media, they were always
interested in a story, and they picked up a lot of things we were doing. Mariana kept track
of what I was doing all the time, and she was very good with a pen. She would make a
newsletter every week, and we had a copy machine and everything. We mailed news
releases to every newspaper in Florida, and we talked about the whole state. We did not
talk about just South Florida. We have been involved in the [conservation] wars all over
the state with developers and government and anything else. I will tell you the truth: it
got to the point that every time we got in a battle, we won. I do not know what it was, but
[it] got to the point [where] some of the bad guys in other words, people who were
taking advantage of [Florida's environment] were literally afraid of me. When they saw
me coming, they said, oh no.
G: So, you took the Marshall Plan to the media?
J: Yes. But what really got it started was [an article in Sports Illustrated in February 1981].
I was upset about with Bob Graham [U.S. Senator, 1987-present; Florida governor, 1979-
1987; Florida state senator, 1970-1978; Florida state representative, 1966], who was our
governor. When I say I was upset with Bob Graham, let me explain. He was one of my
dearest friends. I loved him, and he was a great man. But I knew from experience that if
you want somebody to move in government, most of the time you just be sweet and nice
to them, and they like you and they will do what you want, but other times when you
have just given up on everything else, you have to pick up a two-by-four and hit them
upside the head. That is what I did. I forget now how many readers Sports Illustrated
had, but Art and I did a story in Sports Illustrated. Actually, we did [two in Sports
Illustrated and one in National Wildlife magazine]. We talked about these sorts of things,
and I said that Graham had been a great senator, probably the best environmental senator
[Florida] ever had, but the first term of his governorship, something happened to him. I
do not know what it was. He just did not do anything, at least not anything for the
environment. He did not do anything bad, but he did not do anything. So, I kind of
challenged him in the remarks I made in the article. Estus Whitfield told me that [the
governor] was upset and that he was waiting for this article and when the article came in,
Bob actually got up out of his chair in his office and [went himself] to the bookstore
without any guards or anything. He was upset about this because he knew me and he
knew that I was very effective. And he knew that I loved him as a friend. He just did not
understand what I was getting at. I knew he would call. Sure enough, Estus called. Estus
Whitfield was his right-hand man and a very dear friend of mine, also. Estus said,
Johnny, the governor wants to talk to you. I said, what about? He said, you know what it
is about; he wants to talk to you about this article. I said, well, I have to bring Art; I am
going to tell him about it, and I want Art to say something. I talked to Bob Graham as if I
was talking to one of my friends around here. I did not talk to him as if he were governor
and I was a peon; I talked to him as if I was on the same level with him and that we were
good enough friends [that] we could argue. [When we got to Graham's office] he said,
what is the matter with you, Johnny? What are you mad about? I said, I will tell you,
Governor; I worked with you [all through] the 1970s, and you got elected in 1979. I said,
you were the best damn [state] senator we ever had; I lobbied your bills; even your
educational bills, I lobbied for you; and, tell me what you have done in the last four years
for the environment. I said, I cannot think of a single thing. And he stopped, and he said,
Johnny, you are absolutely right; what do you want me to do? That is what he said. I said,
you know the Kissimmee River Act that has passed, 1976-113. I said, what have you
done about it? It is a law. You are required to do something. It is the law. He said, you
are absolutely right. And he did move on it. I said, Art has some things here. I said, do
you know that 95 percent of all the birds in the Everglades are gone? Disappeared. It is
from all this damn development down there and this damn Central and Southern Florida
Flood Control Plan. I said, this thing was the most horrible thing ever devised to kill
wildlife. I said, I want you to listen to Art. I said, he has come up with a plan we call the
Marshall Plan; we all worked on it, but Art was the main designer of it, and I want you to
listen to him. Art went through it just like I asked him, in twenty minutes. Buzz, buzz,
buzz, buzz he went right through it. We threw the book on Governor Graham's desk.
[Art] got through with it, and he said, okay, I will do it. After Art and I left, [Art] said,
Johnny, did you hear what that man said? He says he will do it. I said, yes, and [I don't
believe it]. But I was dead wrong. [Graham] did everything he said he would do. [He
took the lead from that moment on as the champion of the Everglades.]
G: Is that what then became the Save Our Everglades program?
J: Right. That is where it started. That was the beginning of it. No one knew the Everglades
was dead. It is not dying; it is dead, and the thing we have got to do is restore it, bring it
back, take it out of the grave and give it life, because it is dead. Even the alligators are
dying. Cottonmouth moccasins are dying. You cannot find a cottonmouth down there.
The birds are gone. Every place it is just a dead system. The first thing we had to do was
lower the water in the upper chain of lakes and re-create a fluctuation. Then de-
channelize the Kissimmee River, [for] which I wrote the bill. Art wrote two [very
important] words [the "seek to"s]. I took the bill to Art before I would go to anybody. I
was in Tallahassee, and I went over to Interlachen. I said, I finished that bill [but] it has
got a flaw in it, and the flaw is this. I have a section in there where [I listed] all the things
I wanted to do to restore the river. I said, if you write a law and you put something in that
says the state and federal government has to do such and such, and it is impossible, you
cannot do it, you make the whole law moot. I said, I have got this thing here and I want to
do all of these things, but some of these things they may not be able to do, but I want to
include all of these things. Art looked up and laughed a little bit. He said, I love the bill.
G: You are talking about the mid-1970s bill now?
J: Yes. The beginning of the restoration of the Kissimmee. I said, Art, what am I going to
do about these two words. I said, they just will not work. He said, that is easy. He said,
we shall "seek to" do this and that. I thought it was brilliant. It was. Man, he came up
with it just like that, and I had been working on the damn thing for weeks trying to figure
out what to do about these things. I wanted to get them in there because I wanted these
things done, but realizing that Florida requires [that] when you write a law you cannot
put something in there that cannot be done. And there were some things in there that
probably could not be done. I do not know what they are now.
G: Is that why you think there was so little action actually taken on Kissimmee restoration
after that bill was passed?
J: No, that was not it. It was just [that Graham] got to be governor and he got so tied up
with everything else [that] he got lackadaisical, and there was no powerful entity trying
to move him on it. Bob was a little angry with me because prior to the election, when he
was senator, at the last moment he said, I am going to run for governor. I had already
endorsed [Robert L.] "Bob" Shevin, who was another great one. I said, oh my god, why
in the hell didn't you tell somebody? You know, you got me between a rock and a hard
place. I said to him, I tell you what, I just will not do anything until after the primary.
When the primary is over, [and] there is no doubt in my mind, you will win it, you
always do, [then I will endorse you]. Graham is probably one of the smartest guys you
will ever meet. Anyway, that torqued him off, made him mad. He is a very sensitive fella,
G: Let me come back to the Marshall Plan. How [many] of the recommendations in that plan
were actually incorporated into Governor Graham's Save Our Everglades program?
J: Well, the Kissimmee was not part of it, but he was all with that, and he made it happen in
Congress. He got the [Canal] [de-]authorized, the [Restoration] plan approved, and he got
the funding for it. There would be no Kissimmee if it was not for Bob Graham. I wrote
the law, but I cannot just wave my wand and make it happen. [There] has to be a mover
and a shaker in there who can make it happen. Graham was the guy. In the final
[Everglades] plan, see, Graham does not [design] this final plan. He was all for what we
wanted, but the Corps came into it and people in Congress and the sugarcane people got
involved in it, and they have diverted about half this thing to sugarcane. It does not say
that, but [that] is what it does. And this business about deep well injection is the most
horrible thing I have ever thought of. I know a lot about water, about as much as you can
know about it, and I know what is going to happen because they have done it before.
Right out here we have a deep well injection for our sewer plant. They shock it with
chlorine and then dump it down in the boulder zone. Well, they came around checking
everybody's water [wells]. I will tell you, within a year's time, the water in my well, 100
feet deep, my water was rotten. It just turned rotten. It looked clear, clear as the water
here [picks up and sets down water glass], but it is the taste of it, and it would stain the
house and get this goo on it, this brown goo. I had a water softener and filter, and it
would clog it up terriblyy.
G: I do not want to jump too far ahead because I want to come back to that later.
J: Yes. You will just have to help me do it because I cannot help myself.
G: Let me move ahead and ask you to characterize the contribution of Marjory Stoneman
Douglas to the Everglades.
J: She was a driving force. She had so much clout, mainly because of her book, and she
named the Everglades river of grass because that is what it is, a river, and the Ten
Thousand Islands down there are the delta for that river. You've got to realize the
Everglades is only 5,000 years old. Lake Okeechobee used to be part of the ocean, used
to be a bay. Right out of Clewiston, there is a big reef. It is dead now, but you hit it with
boat props sometimes. That used to be shallow rock, the limestone and all, all that is from
sea creatures. There are all kinds of shell in it and stuff like that, which [have been] dug
up and used for roads and highways and things like that. Anyway, out here in the Corbett
area [a wildlife management area], which is right on the edge of the eastern portion of the
Everglades just east of Lake Okeechobee, [are] old Indian mounds where the Indians
used to live, and that sawgrass is just out in front of where they lived. They lived on the
upland portion [those Indians from 5,000 or more years ago.] The Indians did not kill
buffalo like they did out West. The Indians lived off of shellfish. That is what they lived
off of. They could go out there and pick up all they wanted. They could eat all day if they
wanted to. There were literally hundreds of miles of shellfish, and the Indians lived off of
that, and, of course, they could get small fish. The first time I met Marjory Douglas, [I
saw that she was] a very outspoken person. I had listened to her make presentations, and I
was just really enamored by her presence. Anyway, I went up and introduced myself. I
said, my name is Johnny Jones. She said, I know who you are. She says, you are a damn
hunter, and I do not like hunters; I do not like hunting, and I want no part of it. I shook
my head a little bit and said, Marjory or Ms. Douglas at that time Ms. Douglas, you
and I agree on 99 percent of the issues; we disagree on one, hunting. I said, if we can set
aside that one issue and do not talk about it, I said, look at all the things we can get done;
we can move mountains if you would just get off this thing about hunting. I will not
mention it; I cannot convince you that hunting is good, and you cannot convince me it is
bad; that is just an immovable position we have, but we agree on everything else; just
think of what we can do together. She looked at me, [and said] my good man, that is the
smartest thing I have ever heard, and that is when Marjory and I became friends. She said
to me, well, I want you to do something for me. She said, I want you to get the purple
gallinule off the game-bird list. Literally, that bird was on the list. I did not believe it, but
it was. I had never heard of anybody shooting one. I never had. It was a pretty bird to
look at. It was purple, and it was the one with yellow legs that used to walk around atop
of lily pads all over the ditches and lakes and marshes around West Palm Beach. I knew
what they were, and I checked all over Florida. I called people all over, and I asked them,
have you ever killed a purple gallinule. Nobody even knew what I was talking about. So,
then, I decided she was right. Why have something on the game bird list that is not
hunted and it is disappearing, and the reason it was disappearing, it was an indicator
animal, or bird, just like the deer in the Glades or the canary in the mine. The purple
gallinule was nothing but an indicator, and it was disappearing because we were
destroying the earth we lived on. They were one of the ones that were dying out. I
thought to myself, my God, if this thing is disappearing and we are not killing them,
nobody is shooting them, they are dying for some reason. That had to be what it was. So,
I went to the Game Commission, and I talked to the director about taking it off the game
bird list. Dr. Earle Fry was his name. A good friend of mine. He says, oh, you have been
listening to those anti-hunters. I said, yeah, but this [time], they are right; they really are.
I said, Earle, they are right. I said, I do not say this lightly because I have checked it out,
[and] they are right; nobody hunts the purple gallinulle. Do you want to see the hunters
blamed for them being killed, like the passenger pigeon was? Hunters did not kill the
passenger pigeon; disease killed them. He disagreed with me. I said, well, I want to put it
on the commission [agenda]. The next commission, I want it brought up. Of course, I
lobbied every one of the commissioners before it came up, and Earle did his best to
convince them that I was wrong. Anyway, I won. I believe I got all the votes.
G: And this was the start of your relationship with Ms. Douglas.
J: Yes. I wanted to do something to make her like me. And I want to tell you something. It
did. It worked. She fell in love with me right then. I said, okay, Ms. Douglas, the purple
gallinule is off the game list; it is now a protected bird. Marjory liked people who could
make things happen, and for some reason God gave me the ability to make things happen.
Then later on, she came on and she said, Johnny, I hate to bring this up, but I am so
unhappy about this leg-hold trap; animals suffer so much from that; trappers use them to
catch otters and [rac]coons and things like that, and it is used for one purpose: it catches
the animal and holds it there until the trapper can come back around to collect it, and then
he walks up to it and bashes it in the head and kills it and puts it in his bag, takes it and
sells the hide. The hide was worth about $30 for an otter. That is what trappers were
doing. I even found traps during my investigation of the leg-hold trap with staples welded
to the teeth of the leg-hold trap so they could not pull out. You know, animals will
literally chew their leg off. She brought that up, and we all knew. It is common
knowledge to people in wildlife. I was able to get that thing made illegal the first time
anyone has ever done it in the United States. In the state of Florida, the leg-hold trap is
G: Let me ask you to focus a little bit more broadly on her impact. How important was she
for driving the restoration effort?
J: You [have] to realize she made speeches all over the place. She was literally an educator,
and not just on wildlife, on lots of things. She could tell you about anything in the world
because she had been a reporter for the Miami Herald for many years. Her father once
owned it. I think she went to work for them in, I believe it was, . But I would listen
to her, and she would just amaze me by how she could mesmerize people with her
knowledge. Every time something came up, there was this little old lady with a big old
hat, talking about it intelligently and making an impact, making people do things. A lot of
these [people] that get up and speak at these meetings of government get up and talk
about things that do not mean a thing, but Marjory Douglas had her facts straight. When
she went in front of a committee or something, she spoke intelligently, and she made a
hell of an impact that way. I used to ask her to come to Tallahassee and help me lobby
my bills. All I wanted her to do was get in front of the committee and speak. Many times
I would have something before the governor and Cabinet that she and I both were
interested in, and I was doing my job, and she felt like it was her job. I would ask her,
please come help me with what I am doing, and she would come to speak. I remember
several times. They always try to limit your time. They would say, Ms. Douglas, you
have five minutes, and she would spend ten minutes telling them, by God, she was going
to talk as long as she wanted to. She would say, I am an old woman, and you cannot bully
me; you are going to do what I tell you. She would let them have it. For the next half-
hour, she would tell them why they were wrong and why they ought to do this or that. I
want to tell you she was very influential. People listened to her. All the press knew her. I
am telling you, if you are a leader in the environmental movement and you do not have
the press, [if] you do not have the television stations supporting you, you are not going to
get anything done. The way you get all the people out here in [the] hinterland or
whatever you call it, to support your cause, is through the press, because you cannot
possibly talk to all these people. But everybody reads the paper, and we would usually
get front page or a big spot in there about what we were doing. But Ms. Douglas would
help me. She would come to Tallahassee and spend the night up there with us, and she
would talk before the committee, and she would always make a big impression. Marjory,
in her way, she was a lobbyist, much more than I was. Art did not like to do it. Art would
speak in front of committees on issues that the Wildlife Federation would bring up,
strictly as a scientist. He was effective because people knew that he was an important
man. But as far as going out and lobbying like I did, [he did not like to do that]. I always
knew what the vote was going to be before they voted.
G: Let me ask you a question about that. A former director of the state Department of
Natural Resources described your effectiveness as a lobbyist as "legendary," stating that
"one-on-one in a lobbying situation with a cabinet member or legislator, they do not
come any better than Johnny." Why were you so effective as an advocate?
J: Because I made friends with all of them. There is nothing more effective than friendship.
I went up and made friends with them. I would take them to lunch. I would bring them
down to West Palm Beach or to St. Lucie County to my hunting lease. I would take them
hunting. I would do all kinds of things for them. I never, ever tried to be vindictive, as
some lobbyists are. If I wanted to get rid of a guy, I would work with my outdoor writers
in his hometown, and I would tell them about what he was doing. That makes them
move. I always lobbied the Cabinet or the legislature. When a bill was going to come up,
I spoke to them everyday. I worked on them. I would go in there and tell them, this is
what I want to do. Now, here is the downside. Only tell the people you want to vote the
truth; do not lie to anybody. Do not let them get caught by their own people, their own
folks at home and get in trouble over it. Tell them the good side and the downside. Who
is your opposition? Explain that to them, and I will tell you, they appreciate the truth.
You do not ever lie. When you are in Tallahassee or Washington or anywhere else, you
never tell a lie. If you go and lobby something and lie about it, they will never forget you
[for] the rest of your life. I never could do that. I have had several cases where I lobbied
the Cabinet, on several occasions, and beat the governor. That is right. The key is that
you get the men [whose] vote [you want to get], [and] you make friends with them. There
are so many ways you can do it. You take them [to] lunch. I mean, you do it more than
once. You do it often, and you get real close to them, as close as they will let you get.
National Wildlife Federation used to sell [wildlife art]. They would send down a stack of
them, all different kinds, and we would take one to each legislator. We had our own
prints made up, of, for instance, the panther, we had that made up, and we had them
signed and numbered, which made it more valuable. The big guys, like a senate
president, we would have parties [for him]. We would spend $100 on getting that thing
ready for him. You know, you treat those people right, and like I told you before, you do
not ever lie. You tell the truth every damn time. I do not care if it is something you do not
even want them to know, you tell them the truth. You do not hide [anything] because that
will get you in trouble, and it will get you in trouble forever. If you ever lie to one, it goes
around and they will talk about it [and] say, Jones is a liar, or something like that. That
obliterates a lobbyist. You just do not do that. Another thing is, if you lose, you smile.
When you walk out of that committee, you walk out happy; you do not walk out like you
got your tail between your legs, like you are whipped. You go home, [and] I have often
said, you go in the bathroom, and then you cry. I was quoted one time [by] the National
Wildlife Federation. They did a story about my life, and I said jokingly, I would work
with the devil if he did what I wanted. I do not know how true that is, I do not think I
would, but I would work with just about anybody whether he was liked or disliked. There
is nothing wrong with trying to deal and work with people you do not like. You just do
not ever let them know [that] you do not like them. Sometimes when you get close [to
someone], like I was close to Gus Craig, he was one of the nicest men that ever came
down the pike, but [some] environmentalists did not like him because he was a sponsor
of the barge canal. That was his district. The people in his district wanted the barge canal.
He did not give a damn about the barge canal. He did it because the people in his district
wanted it. You have to understand that, when you ask the man to vote for your bill. You
cannot be mad at him because he supported the [barge canal]. As long as he supports
your bill, to hell with everything else. Be fair with him, and do the right thing, and try to
get trust with him. Trust is so important. I have seen some environmental lobbyists sent
home from the legislature, told, you have to go home. They would kick them out of a
legislature for a year. For instance, if they go out and say something ugly in the
newspaper about [how] so-and-so sold out to somebody...
G: Describe your involvement with the effort to protect the Big Cypress swamp.
J: I have a lot of friends who were involved in that, and some of them wanted it to happen.
First of all, Art Marshall was sent down there by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service to
cover it. He wrote the jetportt] report up. Leopold signed it, of course you know, they
never write their own reports. But Art did that and got me interested in it. Of course, it is
a part of the Everglades. It is a backwater of the Everglades. They had a bill, and I was
asked to help. I had a friend in Washington named Joe Browder who actually wrote the
bill, and Lawton Chiles [Florida governor 1991-1998 (died in office); U.S. Senator,
1971-1989; Florida state senator 1967-1971; Florida state representative 1959-1967]
sponsored it. The bill sat up there and sat up there; it just would not move. There were a
lot of people against it who lived and owned land out there because they were absolutely
convinced that there was oil there. The oil company said there was not any oil there, but
they lied, as usual. Anyway, Nat Reed [took a busload] down [to the Big Cypress with
Julie Nixon and I was invited.] I got interested in [Big Cypress], and I saw there were
problems with the bill]. I went to Washington to lobby, for one day. The first thing I did
was go to the National Wildlife office and got [Tom] Kimball, because he knew all the
legislators in Congress. We went over [to the Senate hearings]. Alan Bible [U.S. Senator
from Nevada, 1954-1974] was chairman of a senate [sub-committee of the] Interior
Committee. But it was in [Bible's sub-]committee and it was stuck, and we wanted to
find out how to unstick it. I went up there and I spoke a little bit, but Cal Stone, who
owned twenty acres, a dear friend of mine, I guaranteed that if he would go along with it,
we would see that he got to stay there the rest of his life to use it, and he would be able to
hunt on it, because it was in the bill that it was open to hunting. Lawton Chiles was a
hunter, you know. Anyway, I saw that Alan Bible did not like the bill. [I] just watched
his actions. You have to learn to study people. I watched him, and he was obviously
bitter towards that bill. So, after [the] committee meeting, I said, Tom [Kimball], can we
get in to see that guy? He said, yes, I know him well. So, we went over to Bible's office. I
said, Senator Bible, what have you got against the Big Cypress bill? He turned angry -
that is a simple way to put it. He said, Jones, you come up here from Florida and you
want us to spend another $156,000,000 to buy Big Cypress; we have already bought the
Everglades National Park; when is Florida going to put the money into this damn thing?
He said, you guys have not spent one nickel on it, and you want us to spend
$156,000,000. He said, I am not going to do it; it is not going to happen. I said, what
would it take to make you happy; how much? He just said, out of the clear, just came out
[with] $40,000,000. So, I came back to Tallahassee, [and] the legislature was [in session].
It had already started. I went in to see Reubin Askew [Florida governor 1971-1979;
Florida state senator, 1962-1970, president pro tempore of Florida senate 1969-1970;
Florida state representative, 1958-1962]. He was governor [during that time]. Of course,
Graham and he were very close. We had some money from the Endangered Lands Act
that was available, so the governor said, well, we will just take money out of the
Endangered Lands Act; we will just have to [write] a little bill to get it in. We got it in
just under the wire. We got it in there, and [it moved] like gas through a funnel. [Al
Galbraith] actually wrote it. He was the staff director for Bob Graham's office. Anyway,
we went in there together and sat down and I said, I want this bill to say that Florida is
going to buy $40,000,000 worth of land, regardless of what the federal government
[does], I was always trying to get land. So, it passed, and immediately the director of
Parks and Recreation who got the funds started buying land in the Big Cypress. Then
there was a big argument. They wanted to put 1-75 down Alligator Alley. Of course, the
national park, their appraiser said that if they put the road through there, it would raise
the cost of Big Cypress to $500,000,000, maybe even $1,000,000,000. That would have
thrown us out, and that made me have to do something else. So, then I had to sort of [put
in a] road-block in front of 1-75. The governor was also for 1-75, but he was for the
acquisition of Big Cypress. He called me in and he said, Johnny, do not fight the road. He
said, I will protect the Big Cypress; I will do this or that. I said, Governor, that will not
work. Nat Reed helped me out on this thing. Nat Reed came around and he said, Johnny
is right; it would kill us. So, I said, Governor, as soon as we get the rest of this bill
passed, bingo, I am for the road; I am not against it; I think it is a good idea because we
can make overpasses for deer to go under and for the panther to go under the road, what
we call animal trails. So, we got [the $40,000,000] passed, and then [Alan] Bible turned
around and said, no, I am still not going to let it out. Well, he just double-crossed us, is
what he did. Tom Kimball actually made the damn thing happen. Tom Kimball went to
[Henry M.] "Scoop" Jackson [U.S. Representative, 1941-1953; U.S. Senator from
Washington, 1953-1983], who was chairman of the full [Interior] Committee, and told
him what a dirty deal Bible had pulled on him. With that, Jackson signed onto the bill
himself, and he pulled the bill out of Bible's committee and put it in the full committee
and passed it. That is exactly what happened. But in passing this [bill], we had to do a lot
of things. I was worried about these people. They were really burnt-up about it. We had
to guarantee them life estate on their hunting camps. We gave them life estate. When they
died [their camps were] burned down. But they were paid. They won life estate, and they
had to accept a lesser fee for their property. So, I helped the government do that. I got Cal
Stone a life estate for himself, his daughter and her husband and his grandchild. Nat
Reed, who was assistant Secretary of the Interior, who is a dear friend of mine, said,
Johnny Jones, do not make any more promises. Well, I got that done before the [federal
government took over and] actually put their money in the pot. But anyway, they passed
it, and Tom Kimball deserves the credit. There were a lot of people who were objecting
to the bill, calling the federal government land- grabbers and that sort of thing. I told
them I would try to get them the rights to use the land, but also that we would preserve
the oil and mineral rights for the land-owners. If they sold their land, they kept all the
mineral rights. Well, Exxon went crazy, but they did not get their way; we won. Those
people are now getting paid by Exxon when they drill a well near their property. If they
live within a certain distance, they have to pay royalties. That is one of the things we did.
It is not a simple thing. A bill of this magnitude requires many people to work on it. I just
guided some things. That is all.
G: Was there any discussion at the time of making Big Cypress into another national park
rather than a national freshwater preserve, which offers more limited protections?
J: There were people who wanted to do that, but the law says that hunting will always be
there. That is part of the law. Of course, the national park system has made it miserable
for the hunters down there. They manage it together with the [Fish and Wildlife
Commission]. Plus, the national park has the last word on the management of it. The
buggies have special tires, in other words, pounds per square inch of pressure. We had to
have certain size tires on certain size buggies that did not weigh over 2,400 pounds. I am
not sure, but I believe that was the weight. But we fought with Exxon on the roads down
there. Oh, that was a big battle on Big Cypress. [Tape interrupted.]
G: How significant was Reubin Askew's 1971 conference on water management?
J: The governor's conference on water management in 1971 was probably the most
significant [conference] ever held, in fact, in all of Florida because we put water
management districts in every drainage basin in the state. There are five drainage basins,
and they changed the Central and South Florida Flood Control District into a Water
Management District. After that meeting, Jack Shreve, who was a state representative,
actually put together a law. Graham was involved in that, too, in the senate, and he
passed the thing. I lobbied it. So, it passed pretty easily.
G: Did the idea to transform the Flood Control District to the Water Management District
come out of that governor's conference?
J: Yes. These were all things that had been done by Art and myself. We went to the
governor and got him to do this.
G: What was the idea behind doing that? Why did they want to create this new entity?
J: Well, because the Flood Control District was doing a hell of a bad job. They wanted to
keep digging canals, and I wanted them to stop. Southwest Florida was doing the same
thing. So, they were all changed] to water management districts. They no longer dealt
with drainage; they dealt with managing water so that we would have water forever, and
now we are screwing that up.
G: When the conference declared that "there is a water crisis in South Florida today," did the
general public respond to that?
J: Not really. Yes, they did to a certain extent, but most of the people out here, a lot of them
are retired, a lot of them do not even care. I am telling you the truth. Trying to get the
public involved in these things is really hard. That is why you have got to have the press
and the TV stations pounding everyday to get it in their heads [that] they are in trouble.
You are right, we were in trouble right then. That is when we should have started
thinking about stopping [the] issuing [of] permits. Did you know that the state had a
giant land-use plan for every county, which had to comply with it and draw up a state
plan and develop accordingly? Palm Beach County had one, and they have completely
ignored it. They were not supposed to build in the wetlands, and certain areas were
described as agricultural areas, and they have changed that and are building all over. I
could take you right down here on Okeechobee Road and show you condominiums as far
as you can see, and it was all wetlands. There was not any guessing about it; you walk in
there, and you would be up to your knees in it.
G: Are those the growth management plans that you are talking about?
J: Yes. They just ignored them. I do not know how they do that. How do they get away with
it? Why is the state allowing them to break the law? They required them to have those
plans, and they have the plans, and even approved [the plans] themselves, and now they
have totally ignored [them].
G: 1972 was somewhat of a banner year for the passage of environmentally related
legislation by the state of Florida, including the Florida Water Resources Act, the Land
Conservation Act, and the State Comprehensive Planning Act. How important was the
legislation that came out of that year?
J: I think it was the best year we ever had. I got ten bills passed [that year], which was a
banner year for me. I had never passed that many bills. That was the biggest year I ever
had. I was a lobbyist on all of those. A little girl from I am trying to think of the name
of it Conservation 70, young secretarial-type, she was secretary of Conservation 70.
[We shared the office space with Conservation 70 and paid half the rent.] She was one of
the real, real liberal types. I cannot remember her name right now. We worked together,
and she was helpful. She really watched out for things. Anyway, we passed a lot of bills
that year. After it was over, Graham had a private party at his house, and she and I were
invited to come. A champagne party. He was the sponsor of most of that stuff. Jack
Shreve was the sponsor of the Water Resources Act. I do not remember the other
sponsor. God, that was a long time ago. Shreve was definitely the House sponsor, and I
think Bob Graham was the Senate sponsor.
G: What did those laws do to address the problems with the Everglades?
J: Not much. It got attention. I think [the laws] just [put] pressure [on the water
management districts]. I want to tell you we just put pressure on the water management
districts over and over and over. Every time they had a meeting, we were there, and we
kept pressure on them. The press kept pressure on them. We had a good writer from the
Palm Beach Post [Pat Cullen]. He almost got a Pulitzer. He wrote a piece called Paradise
Lost, and that is certainly what it is, paradise lost.
G: Could you describe your involvement with the development of the Conservation And
Recreation Lands or CARL program?
J: Let me tell you about CARL. I was up at National Wildlife Federation. I do not
remember what state it was, but one of the directors from the other states had passed a
bill and [instituted] a penny sales tax, a much smaller bill than CARL. He got
$20,000,000 a year. I was so impressed by that I came back here and started thinking, and
I started writing. So, ours was for around $40,000,000. The truth is I never expected to be
able to get that much, but you always ask for more than you want. It was going through
the legislature like gas through a funnel. It was flowing. The senate president called me
in. He said, Johnny, you know that bill you got, that CARL bill, Conservation And
Recreational Lands Act, he said, I really like it; it is a good bill. But, he said, I have to
tell you something, Johnny; we have never [earmarked sales tax.] I wanted it to [be a]
buy-as-we-go [program]. I did not want to bond it because I did not want to put our kids
in debt. But I wrote the whole thing, and he called me and he said, I really like your bill,
Johnny, but, please, for me, I do not want to kill your bill; this sales tax thing, I tell you
what, if you will just let that bill die quietly, I will see that next year we will get another
source of funding to fund the bill, and we will pass it for you. When he told you
something, you could go to the bank with it, so I said, all right. He could kill it in a
second, just blink his eyes, and it was dead. But he did not do that; he just let it lay, did
not touch it. The next year, the assistant secretary of DNR [Department of Natural
Resources], his name was Don Duden, he said, we [have] this severance [tax] program; I
think we have a little tax on it right now, but there is a lot of room in there for taxation; it
is all going into general revenue anyway. He said, why don't we take 50 percent of the
severance tax, cap it at whatever you want. [The severance tax] was from oil, lime rock,
shell rock [and phosphates]. Anytime they took anything out of the ground, they taxed
them for it; it was called severance tax. He said, we can go 50 percent of that and [pass]
the bill through the Senate. Took off like a rocket. Went through there. Even Dempsey
Barron [president of the Florida senate, 1975-1976] and W. D. Childress [voted for the
bill]. These were real conservative guys. Of course, we were all good friends. Phil Lewis,
a [Florida] Senate president [1979-1980], was a dear friend of mine. I went to them and I
said, Phil Lewis is signing on this bill, he is helping me get it through, [and] will you
guys sign onto it? And they did. I got so many signatures on that bill. There was not any
way they could kill it. I went to the Speaker of the House, Hyatt Brown [Speaker, Florida
House of Representatives, 1979-1980]. He let me get the thing through. He gave me a
guy in the House,[Steve Pajcic], a legislator from Jacksonville. Anyway, with Phil
Lewis' help and the [Natural Resources Chairman] John Lewis sponsored in the House,
Hyatt Brown, the [Speaker of the House], helped me with it and was really behind it.
Finally on the last day, a House member, Herb Morgan, who was chairman of
appropriations, said no way, I am not going to let that bill go through with more than
$3,000,000 on it; we will give you $3,000,000 for [a year, not $40,000,000]. He said, I
want to hold the bill until after lunch; in the meantime, I am going to talk to Johnny Jones
about it. We had [Senate Sponsor] John [Vogf]. I said, Herb Morgan is trying to kill this
bill. He really was not trying to kill it. We went over in the rotunda between the two
houses, and I told [John], let us play hard to get. [Herb] said, can't you cut this thing
down to $3,000,000? I told you I would give you $3,000,000. I said forget it[!] Forget
it[!] Kill the bill[!] You kill it[!] I said, I want you to kill it because everybody else in
Florida is for it but you. Now, you kill it, and you are going to get credit for it; I
guarantee you I will see that you get credit for it. Herb says, hell, I am not against the
damn bill. He says, can't [you] compromise some way? I was walking away and I said,
all right, I will tell you what I will do: we will lower it to $20,000,000 a year with a
guarantee from you that if we run the project properly for two years you will support it
for $40,000,000. And he did. He stuck to it. Herb Morgan made a promise and kept it,
and we did that and then added on two years later another $20,000,000, so we got
$40,000,000. Actually, I think we could have gotten more, but we got what we could.
When they did that Preservation 2000, they added $15,000,000 more, but then they
turned around and took Florida for $40,000,000. I do not know how much it was, but
they have so damaged the bill now. Actually, the agency that took DNR's place, [DEP],
they have amended the damn bill until it is nothing like what it was. [It] still [has] the
money in it, but they are buying all sorts of crap with it now, and Governor [Bush] wants
to use it for putting in sewers and everything like that. I do not know where it is going
now. They are still buying quite a bit of land with it.
G: Is there a relationship between the [CARL] program and the P[reservation] 2000 and the
Florida Ever programs?
J: Yes. They use it for everything. I do not have any problem with that. Estus [Whitfield]
got involved and got some of that done, and I have no problem with it. The only thing I
have a problem with is taking it and using it to make [water] for the sugarcane industry. I
am against that. And I do not like those deep well injections. I think that is the most
dangerous thing we could possibly do. We ought to try one for four or five years, and
then if it works, if we can get it back but you [have] to pump it back out, and then you
[have] to clean it, purify it. It is saltwater down there.
G: But that is not related to the land acquisition program.
J: No, but they are using it.
G: So, they are using that...
J: Yeah, we have to put up some of the money, so we are using some of the [money from]
Save Our Rivers and some of CARL, using both funds. The governor [Jeb Bush, Florida
governor, 1999-present] is doing this, and that is what is pissing me off. That is why I am
very disappointed in this governor. He is robbing our land funds that were for recreation
and for saving our rivers buying flood plains and using it for every sort of thing. It is just
not right. You know, you work like hell to get something done, and the governor comes
along with some pet project to help some developer out, and that is wrong. I cannot do
anything about it anymore, but I tell you if I was still up there I would do something
about it. I would make him wish he was not born.
G: So, you are saying they are not purchasing the lands that they should be purchasing with
J: No. They are buying lands out there that nobody can ever possibly use. Why should you
buy a little island of mangroves out off the Keys out there [that] they cannot possibly get
to and use. It is against the law to dredge and fill anymore. They cannot do it, they cannot
use it, so why should we buy it?
G: Are they doing that for political purposes?
J: Hell yes. It is lining somebody's pocket. Somebody is getting some money out of it. I do
not know who, but somebody is.
G: Has the Save Our Rivers program functioned better than the CARL program?
J: Well, the CARL program worked. As long as I was involved up there, it worked
perfectly, because they were scared of me. They would not mess with it as long as I was
there. But the Save Our Rivers program, I would say it has been excellent. I would give it
a nine on a scale often. It has been good. They have bought flood plains for the
Kissimmee and such, and I am all for that. They did buy... a dairyman had a cattle ranch
over here, it was pretty wet, but they bought that and they turned it over to the Game
Commission as a wildlife area. I am happy for that. It was not what it was for, but it
turned out to be okay. But what I do not like is when a legislator or some stooge that
works for the state gets this brilliant idea with some friend of his that they are going to
buy a piece of land that is worthless. Say I am a salesman for a real estate company, I will
say, you get that land for me over there, and I will give you half [of] the commission.
That is exactly what they are doing. It has happened time and time again. That is what
they put Harmon in jail for. He did not really do it, but they trapped him for that and they
got him for helping out a drug dealer.
G: Let me raise another issue. Could you talk about the controversy that surrounded the
issue of back-pumping into Lake Okeechobee, including your own efforts to end that
J: Originally, back when I was working, when Bob Graham was governor, I got it stopped
[with Bob Graham's help]. For conservation purposes, it was stopped for years, and it is
just now starting back again. In other words, they could use it in flood times to get rid of
[excess water]. I tried to stop that, too, but I could not get it done, but I did get it stopped
for storing water for the sugarcane people. I do not like them using Lake Okeechobee as a
septic tank, and that is exactly what they are doing. That water is just as dirty as if it
came right out of a drain [field] on a septic tank. The water is filthy. I mean, you drink
that stuff, and it will kill you. It has pesticides in it, it has stuff that gets in there and they
cannot get it out. Not only that, any time you take over-enriched water and you shock it
with chlorine, the result is trihalomethane. Even after you shock it and you clean it all up
and everything, there is a chemical in there called trihalomethane that comes from
chlorine and water. When you clean up over enriched water, you get trihalomethane.
Pahokee has 1,000 times more [trihalomethane] than the government permits for drinking
water. Belle Glade has about that. All those guys were taking water out of the lake. That
water is not fit to drink because they have polluted it. They have polluted it with back-
pumping. They say Taylor Creek is so bad. Taylor Creek is bad, but I will tell you
something: they can control back-pumping; they cannot control Taylor Creek, because
that flows in there by rainfall. What we ought to do, is go up there and buy all those
dairies out, buy all that land out, just buy it out and make it a huge state park [or a
wildlife area]. That is what they ought to do. They are doing it up in Kissimmee. When I
passed the Kissimmee River Restoration Act, it was more than the Kissimmee River
Restoration Act; it was the Kissimmee River/Taylor Creek/Nubbins Slough Act. I do not
know if you knew that or not. But it is in law, they are supposed to restore that also, but
they have not done it. I tell you, one thing that has gotten me so tired, the reason I quit [is
that] I got tired of trying to do everything for everybody and trying to make things
happen and having people in state government fighting the hell out of me constantly. I
am telling you the government is so damn crooked; it is terrible. That is my honest
opinion, and you can take that to the bank and print it on the front page of the Orlando
Sentinel. I do not care because I think what they are doing is unethical, and I think there
are people making money on the side up there. I do not know who they are, but that is my
opinion. I do know some of them who have.
G: So, the back-pumping, then, was done primarily to benefit [the] sugar [industry]?
J: It was totally [done to benefit the sugar industry].
G: You filed a lawsuit in 1979 to stop that, did you not?
J: I filed an action with the state. It was called [an administrative hearing]. The state has a
program where they have hearing officers, and a hearing officer rules, and that is the way
it is. They had all these pumps out there, and not one of them had a permit. They are
required to get a permit before they use those pumps.
G: A Department of Environmental Regulation permit, is that right?
J: Right, and they had not done it. They have not even tried to get them to do it. An agency
that [is in charge of] pollution control over there, they are not doing their job. They have
allowed them to exceed the smoke [levels] from burning the fields. They are choking
people to death with emphysema. It is choking us to death. I got lung problems myself, so
I know. They are giving them waivers, and they are doing the same thing about this
water. You cannot put dirty water into clean water. You cannot take it and put it in the
peoples' water and dirty it. The sugar company justifies this, they say, the water we are
pumping out of our fields is cleaner than the receiving body. Well, they are talking about
drainage ditches that have been out there since the beginning of time; they have been
polluting them for years. They are so damn rotten polluted they can kill.
G: What happened when you filed your grievance? How did that resolve?
J: They stopped it.
G: The Water Management District...?
J: Yeah. Well, Governor Graham got into it because he told them [in] no uncertain terms to
stop it, and the hearing officer ruled in [our] favor. That is what it was. It was not a court
case; it was [an administrative hearing]. They have their own hearing officers.
G: Do you think we have made any progress in addressing the problems with Lake
J: No. None.
G: Why haven't we been able to make progress?
J: Because of the sugarcane people. They run, they control, and always have, the South
Florida Water Management District. They control it. They run it. Now, they do not run
staff. Staff is a bunch of good people. But the damn board members are all a bunch of
guys who ought to be tarred and feathered and run out of town. I already said that in the
papers, the newspapersr. Oh, they went ape-shit when I told the reporter that. He wrote it
but he left out [a lot of stuff], some of the good stuff. As you can see, I do not mind
calling a spade a spade.
G: Let me address a different issue now. Both the early 1970s and early 1980s, you were
very critical of the Flood Control District and then the Water Management District for the
drowning of deer in the water conservation areas. At one point, you accused the District
of Bambicide. What specifically were the Water Management District and its
predecessors doing that led to this problem?
J: Well, [with] the project, they impounded the Everglades. The water could not get out. It
was like a [bathtub]. They closed all the structures, and they stored water in there to give
water to the farmers so they could pump it back into the [farms]. That whole system out
there is rotten. It is the most corrupt, rotten thing I ever saw. I do not think any state in
the Union would put up with it. That is why we call them the agricultural mafia. That is
their nickname. They are just the worst thing that ever came down the pike. We ought to
take them and totally remove them from farming in muck because muck itself is a
pollutant. Muck, it is a pollutant, it is mostly nitrogen, but that muck out there has so
much phosphorus and nitrogen and pesticides. The only way you can lock it up is to let it
go back into marsh. The marsh will lock it up. The nitrogen cannot get loose, and the
sawgrass and the vegetation will eat up the nutrients. They need to do that, and I have
been asking them. I have asked them to take [the area] from the Miami Canal to Area 1
out of production and buy it [with the] $8.7 million. Cheapest thing we can do is buy that
sugar land and fill in the ditches and let it go from Lake Okeechobee all the way to
Florida Bay. The S2 and S3 structures should be opened up, and they can set the levels at
what the high level ought to be, which is 14.5 feet so it can overflow. Then you will have
a natural feed to the Everglades. You will not have to worry about pumping.
G: Are you [basically] talking [about] the flow-way idea that some environmental groups
J: I am the one who started the damn thing. Art and I did. Art was involved in it. Yeah, but
what we are talking about is much bigger than flow-ways. We expanded it, or I should
say, [John Marshall and] I have expanded it. No one else has done it. But there are people
who are damned interested in it, who work for the Water Management District, but you
cannot do anything because you [have] that board up there, [and] they want to protect the
sugarcane people above everybody. I do not care if the Pope wanted it done. You cannot
do anything that the sugarcane industry does not want done. You cannot do it. They are
just more powerful than we are, they [have] more money and they share it with the
companions who help them. There is no damn way in the world these people would do
these terrible things unless they were getting paid some way because what they are doing
is absolutely terrible. That is the simplest thing I can say. I do not think the staff agrees
with them. I think the staff is very upset with what they are having to do. I did find out
one thing. I thought that the Water Management... I know at one time years ago, the old
staff did not like me very much because I beat them up pretty bad, and I did not hold any
punches either. The new staff, I have been working with them here recently, and they
have been very nice to me. I said, does the staff of the Water Management District still
hate me as bad[ly] as it used to? One of them, I will not mention her name, she said,
Johnny, they think you are an angel; they love you; believe me, they love you, they love
what you have done with the Kissimmee, they love what you are doing to the lake, and
they are totally behind you, personally, everything you have tried to do. She said, you are
a real hero to them. They told me over on the Kissimmee when they were helping me out
of the boat. I was thanking them for taking me and showing me [the section of restored
river]. They invited me to come over there and took me up the river as a guest, and I
thanked them for it. They said, do not thank us; we should be thanking you. That is what
happened, honest to God.
G: Earlier we had talked about Governor Graham's Save Our Everglades program. What do
you see as being the most important accomplishments that came out of that?
J: [Graham is the best.] I think [Graham] got the money from Congress. He got the
Kissimmee funded, and he got the C38 de-authorized. He was behind the funding of Save
Our Everglades, but we have not had a chance yet to see any benefit. The stuff they are
doing, the impoundments and those deep well injections those things are all negative
things. Everybody I know of who knows anything about this, unless he worked with the
District, is opposed to what they are doing. Actually, there is one storage area that I
support. That is the one that protects the estuary there in Stuart, the St. Lucie Estuary. If
they would put a storage area there and let it go into storage, put a large one in there,
before it goes to tide so that when we get a lot of water [that] we [have] to get out of the
way, we put it in storage up there and then let it out slowly. Then it will not kill the
estuary. You can dump freshwater into an estuary, and it is fine. It is when you go
beyond what nature will do [that problems develop]. A river puts fresh water into an
estuary, and it is wonderful what they create. It is when you put too much, then it
becomes a pollutant. You take Class I water and put it in a saltwater estuary, and you
have polluted it if you put too much [at] one time. But if you let it go in as a trickle in
there the way it is supposed to, you are benefitting it. Trying to explain this to engineers
and tell them, every time we get one educated a little bit, he is gone. That is right. Every
time we get one who is doing the right thing, they let him go.
G: Let me ask a followup [question]. You suggested that we have made very little progress
to achieving the broader goals that Governor Graham envisioned. Why do you think that
is the case, or why wasn't the Save Our Everglades program more successful than you
seem to think it is?
J: I do not think it is not successful. I just do not think it is moving fast enough. I am saying
we have not gotten there yet, and we have to get going. We need to start on the south end
and move north, but they started on the north end because it is beneficial to agriculture.
Agriculture is trying to save all that water and the deep well injections because they want
the state to pump it out and clean it up before they get it for irrigation. Clearly, Congress
said that the Everglades came first, before agriculture. Agriculture is secondary to the
purpose of this plan.
G: Now, you are talking about the most recent comprehensive plan now.
J: Right, and that is what they said. I do not have it in words, but I was told that. I think the
Water Management District ought to listen to what was said and quit listening to the
sugarcane people and get out of there and fill in the Miami Canal and L67 and L28. Quit
sending that dirty water down into Florida Bay and destroying the fishing in the park and
in Florida Bay. They just wiped the fish out. I have been down there fishing, and I know.
My younger son, who is dead now, dove overboard in all that eel grass down there,
which is good, [but] it is covered with blue-green algae. Same crap [that is] in the lake. I
think it will grow in anything. I would have thought saltwater would kill it, but I see the
blue-green algae growing down there. It is getting all over the reef down there. Out of
Palm Beach here, they are getting blue-green algae all over the reefs out here. I am telling
you, agriculture is killing the state. What they should do right now, and they can do this
immediately, [is] isolate the sugarcane fields from Lake Okeechobee. Make them take
part of their land and put it into onsite retention. They can do that. But that means there
will be times when it will be too much rainfall on their fields, and the fields will flood
out. But what is wrong with them suffering some of the problems like everybody else.
They need to share this problem of flooding with the rest of South Florida. They should
not have their fields protected all the time and dumping their filthy water on us.
G: Would your preference be the complete elimination of sugar in the agriculture area?
J: Complete? If I had my way, there would be no sugar in any muck land. I do not have any
problem with growing sugar in sand land. It will grow in sand just as good as it will grow
in muck. They are doing it, they got it all over out there, but they are producing more
sugar now than the government wants. They produced too much last year, but they got
paid. Then they turned around and borrowed millions from the government and put up
raw sugar as a collateral. Then the government] says, hell, we do not want this damn
sugar and the government just lost all that money. I am telling you, this Congress ought
to just quit supporting these damn sugarcane growers. They do not support other farmers
[like they do sugar].
G: Do you have any concerns that if sugar was pushed out of these lands that development
would come in, in its place?
J: No, not if we bought it and put it back in the Everglades. There is nothing saying they
could not do that, but I think we ought to pay the sugarcane people. I do not think we
should steal it from them. We ought to pay them a fair market price on it.
G: How significant was the establishment of the Everglades Coalition by Governor Graham
J: I think it was a good thing because we got a chance to talk to each other about a few
things, really, and kind of get our ideas put together. They really have not done anything
as far as actually getting something physically done, but there are benefits from their
meeting, communicating with each other. We had [Bruce] Babbitt [Secretary of the
Interior, 1993-2001] at the last meeting. As a matter of fact, I was supposed to sit at the
table with him. When he got through speaking there, he got down off his rostrum, and all
the reporters ran around him. He pushed them out of the way and ran over to me in my
wheelchair. I did not even know him, I had never met him, but he knew who I was, and
he put his arm around me and hugged me. He said, you were supposed to sit with me
tonight. I said, well, this is where they put me. I never knew he was such a nice fella, but
he really was nice. He was very nice to me. I do not know really what is happening since
I left. I have been sick with cancer and heart attacks and everything else, and when that
truck run over me, [my] spine busted up and [I have] diabetes. I have been out of the loop
for a long time, but I have been going back to some of these meetings, and these people
have been so nice to me. I thought I was all forgotten about, but I guess not. This guy
who is doing this thing on the TV for me he is not doing it for me, he is doing it
actually for himself. He handles Everglades something, I forget, but it has all kinds of
stuff about [Mariona] and I in it.
G: Let me ask you another question about something that came out of the Graham
administration. The Growth Management Act, 1985, how much of an impact did that
J: Originally, it was pretty good. The problem is [that] it has not worked. I am sorry. It was
a good act, it was a good idea, but there has been no enforcement. The state simply has
not enforced the law. That is the problem. We can pass laws that look good all we want.
It does not make any difference. If the state does not enforce the law, it is no good.
G: Why has the state not enforced the law?
J: I do not know.
G: Fair enough. Let me turn to the Kissimmee River now. Could you describe in detail your
involvement in the effort to promote the restoration of the Kissimmee River?
J: I have been promoting that since 1969. The first Kissimmee bill, when the Water
Management District came out and said that they had finally changed their mind and they
agreed with me on the Kissimmee, they wrote a bill called the Kissimmee River
Restoration Act. I lobbied for that damn bill and supported it, and it damn near passed,
except I stopped it. I killed it. I got to studying that thing really] [well], and I realized
they could do anything they wanted to do except put it back like it was. Now, the bill that
I wrote was to de-channelize it, and they are doing it right. But the bill they had, oh crap,
they had all kinds of things in there. I will tell you what I did. Just before died -
that was the last day of the session I went to Mallory Home [Speaker of the Florida
House of Representatives, 1962-1963], he was a good friend and he had supported me on
the Kissimmee. We flew down there in his plane, and he saw [the canal, C-38]. He said,
Johnny, we are going to pass that Kissimmee bill. I said, Mallory, I got to tell you
something I want you to do. I said, I want you to kill that bill [because] it is no good; it is
not what I thought it was; I thought it was an honest effort to restore it, but it is not; it is
just kind of trickery. It is a slippery, slimy piece of legislation, and I was not smart
enough to see it in the beginning. But I kept studying the thing and realized that they
could do anything they wanted. They do not have to de-channelize it. They even had
plans to put a river on either side of the channel, just to say they put a river back. That is
G: What do you think the Water Management District was trying to do with that bill?
J: Now, hang on just a minute. You have not heard the good part. He said to me, Johnny ,
why don't we take this bill and kill everything after the enacting clause and insert a bill
that says we are going to do a clear study on the prevention, [a bill] to prevent the
eutrophication of Lake Okeechobee. Now, do you see that bill around anywhere? All
right. There was a bill passed in lieu of the Kissimmee River Restoration Act that year. I
told him honestly, I do not know how to do that bill and do it right. So, he said, let us do
a bill to prevent the eutrophication of Lake Okeechobee. And we did. We passed the
damn thing. It never saw a committee. It just went straight to the floor and passed.
G: Is that what led to the two-year study of Lake Okeechobee and the special report?
J: That was it. Came out with a book on it. In fact, it said everything you wanted to say. I
got a lot of good out of it. Art and I talked about it a lot, and I told him I was going to
write a bill. Art really never was in the bill-writing business. He did not do that kind of
stuff, but he approved everything I did before I did it because I knew if he did not like it,
it was not right. So, I wrote the bill. I had that one little sticker on it. I took it over to him
and he told me, just take that 'shall do' out of there and put 'we will seek to'; that gives
you some wiggle room. That made the bill a much better bill.
G: Why did it take so long for actual restoration efforts to go forward after that bill was
J: Well, you [have] to go to Congress with it, and Graham sat on his butt for four years. I
really do not want that in there, but it is the truth. He sat on [it] for four years. After we
had our little discussion about it, he got with it, and [he] got it through Congress. Had to
send it back to Congress and de-authorize C38 and approve the restoration. Understand?
G: I am not quite clear which bill in Congress you are referring to.
J: I am talking about the bill I just wrote.
G: So, you are talking about the bill in the state legislature?
J: Yes. All we were, were sponsors. That bill made the state of Florida a sponsor of
restoration, but this was a congressional act.
G: Why was it so difficult, then, to get Congress to move forward on this?
J: It was not. Congress moved ahead at its original snail pace. You know, Congress is very
slow doing anything. I think if there was a war tomorrow and Congress had to vote on it,
we would be defeated before they could get the bill passed to fight back. I am telling you
it is getting worse and worse. I do not know what has happened to Congress up there, but
it has gotten very slow about doing the right things. They passed on a lot of the wrong
things. This Republican legislature has been the worst I have ever seen, both in the state
legislature and Congress. I used to be a Republican many years ago, and working as a
lobbyist up there, I saw that the Republicans simply were not interested in anything I had
to say. I had one guy who was a nice fella. I cannot think of his name. They were not
against what I was trying to get passed, but they just were not interested in it.
G: What did they tell you? What was their rationale for not supporting the restoration of the
J: They voted for it, but when I went to them and asked them for help on it, they just simply
were not there. I do not know. They just would not help me.
G: What do you think changed from the time that you got that bill passed in the state
legislature to the time in 1992 when Congress finally authorized the Kissimmee
J: You have to ask Bob Graham about that because he was the guy who got it all done. I
will tell you who he got help from, the guy who just retired as the Republican senator. He
worked with Graham on that. He supported Graham.
G: Connie Mack [U.S. Representative, 1983-1989; U.S. Senator, 1989-2001]?
J: Yes. Connie Mack supported it. I do not know why, but he did. I never spoke to him, but
Bob Graham talked to him. Bob Graham is good at getting things passed. He is good at it.
He is very smart man, and he is a very good man. You know, sometimes you have to
rattle his cage a little to wake him up. Let me tell you something. There is so much
coming before those guys, they do not know which way is up. I am telling you, you
cannot believe it. A governor averages 6,000 letters a day. I do not know what comes in
to a congressman, but I bet it is probably about the same, or close to it. How is he going
to have [time]? Why do you think they have so many aides? I get letters from Graham all
the time. He does not look like he even got it. Stuff that some idiot put together and
printed up, just mass mailings. I have not talked to Bob Graham in so long I do not know
if he still remembers me. I know Adele does, his wife. She is a sweet lady. I used to talk
to her sometimes when Bob was not around. I would call her and talk to her. She was
nice. She knew what was going on.
G: How much of a contribution do you think Governor [Bob] Martinez [Florida governor,
1987-1991] made during his time?
J: I will say this: he was not a bad governor. He was not a good one, but he was supportive
of the Kissimmee. I do not think he knew where the bathroom was. I am being sarcastic,
but that is about the way it was.
G: How about Governor Chiles?
J: Long-time friend. He died before he ever got effective [as] governor up here.
G: So, you do not see him as very important?
J: Very ineffective.
G: Why do you think he was ineffective?
J: Let me tell you something. That guy was in depression so bad. When I was on Prozac, he
was on Prozac, because I talked to him and he asked me, how are you doing with your
Prozac? Is it helping? I said, yeah, it is helping me some. Depression happens to a lot of
us. It is not something that you inherit; it is something that [you get when] you work so
hard for so long that you just get burned out. I think that is what it is. I know I had it. I
take Wellbutrin right now. I do not take Prozac anymore. It works. I mean, I am much
better now. I am not suicidal anymore. I was for a while. I just got to the point I stayed in
my bedroom for a solid year without coming out. I took my meals in there. I took my
bath in there. I have a bathroom in my bedroom.
G: Why was the Corps of Engineers so reluctant to get involved with the Kissimmee
J: They were not. They had to wait on Congress. What people do not understand you
probably do not understand it, either the Corps of Engineers are not bad guys. They
work strictly for Congress. They do not work for you; they do not work for the Water
Management District; they do not work for anybody but the Congress of the United
States. You get a bill through Congress, and you will not have any trouble getting done
what you want done. They are very proficient at what they do, but it takes an act of
Congress to make them move. That is way it is designed. They do a better job of
protecting wetlands than anybody. It took me a long time [to realize that]. I became pretty
good friends with several Corps colonels and got to know them. I have asked them to do
several things for me, like look into different things. They make the reports to Congress.
Don [Wisdom], he was certainly for the Kissimmee River restoration. He fought for it.
Good man. [Col. Terry] Rice, Rock Salt [Executive Director, South Florida Ecosystem
Restoration Task Force], good guys. They were fine. Hell, one colonel up there [who] I
had never met before, walked up to me and hugged me.
G: How would you characterize the role of the Water Management District in promoting the
Kissimmee River restoration?
J: They have not promoted it at all that I know of. Maybe they have, but I do not know
anything about it. I know their staff is certainly good on it. They are doing a good job.
Patricia [Strayer] is her name, and the other one over there [is Susan Olson], they are
very good, and they have some guys working for them. Lou Toth works for them, and he
is a good man. If you interviewed Patricia, you would get a pretty good interview.
G: How important is the Kissimmee restoration to the overall Everglades restoration effort?
J: Absolutely. It cannot be done without the Kissimmee because the Kissimmee is the
headwaters. That is like cutting off a head of a man. How is he going to do without that?
He cannot do it. Well, the Kissimmee is the first part of the rebirth of the Everglades. The
Everglades is a dead system right now. It is totally dead. There is very little wildlife in it
anymore. There is more life in Conservation Area 3 than there is in Everglades National
Park. More variety and all. The park has really suffered so much. They have not had the
water they need at the right time, and then they get too much water at other times. The
District has just completely ignored the park, and it has been an awful thing. It is like
Area 1 Wildlife Refuge and also Art Marshall Refuge. It has been ignored to the point
that the alligators have just overwhelmed it. There is nothing left in there because the
alligators eat everything that moves.
G: Is that because of mismanagement from the Fish and Wildlife Service?
J: Yes. That and the District just will not help them. [In] the natural Everglades the water
has to fluctuate, and part of the year the Everglades is dry. Not as dry as it is now, but
ordinarily it is dry. Impounding, that is what it is. Art called it the bulkinization of the
Everglades. You have got the dike that was on the Kissimmee, the dike around the lake,
the dikes on Conservation Areas 1, 2 and 3. It did not have a chance because the water
has to go up and down, and it cannot go up too high and it cannot stay dry too long, and it
will not if people will leave the damn thing alone and put it back like it was and quit
screwing with it.
G: To what extent, do you think, the Comprehensive Plan the Corps has proposed will help
to restore those not-natural hydrological flows?
J: It will not work. They have got to get some natural hydrological flow. I supported the
plan for one reason, and that was to get something going. I saw it before it passed. They
called me over there, and I went over and looked at it. I told them I did not like the North
End. I do not like those [ASR wells] injections. They do not work. They will not work,
and they are just throwing away our water. By the time agriculture gets finished and the
cities get finished sucking the water out of the ground, there will not be enough water for
the Everglades left. Congress said the Everglades has to come first. Well, they are
pumping that water in the ground and putting it in those reservoirs up there, holding back
all that water. Do you realize what that does to the Everglades? It steals the water that
belongs in the Everglades, steals the water out of the lake. Now, impounding it, you get
too high levels for too long a length [of time]. You need to follow the natural drought
cycles. Droughts are not bad for nature. God has a way of doing all these things. He
knows what He is doing. It just tickles me to death to listen to talk about all the fires
caused by the drought. A lot of people do not protect their homes. They do not clear out
around their homes. But wherever they have had controlled burning, they have not had a
problem. You know, the Park control-bums. That is the only way that wildlife [can
survive]. Fire creates regeneration. It regenerates grass. They have new green grass all
the time, and that is what the animals like. The deer do not eat dead leaves. They need
something with buds. He is a bud-eater. He does not graze. They do not eat grass. They
eat buds. They eat the buds out of the grass, but they do not eat the grass. They browse
constantly. They eat as they walk.
G: Is the Comprehensive Plan, then, too dependent on technology?
J: Yes. That is really the biggest problem with it.
G: Is that something that is inherent in the Corps of Engineers, do you think?
J: I think so, but not as bad it was. They are far better [now] than they were. They are so
much better than they were twenty years ago I cannot tell you. I had a couple [of]
engineers from the Corps tell me when I was writing the Kissimmee Restoration Act, you
will never pass it. Then I passed it [and they said], you will never get [it] done. That is
getting done [now].
G: In what ways has the Corps of Engineers changed?
J: They began to realize all their mistakes, and they have had so many mistakes. Look at the
Missouri River and the Mississippi River and all these rivers. They have caused so many
problems from diking most of these rivers and channelizing these rivers. They bring
water down too fast. They just move the flood from one place to the other. In other
words, where it is supposed to flood, it does not flood anymore. They have moved the
flood to some other area. They have really created a hell of a mess. The Corps has never
really been very successful at anything they have ever done. In one way, they have been
successful in the water for the desert-military things, but the desert will not hold any
G: So, the Corps has learned from experience?
J: Yes. They have.
G: Do you think the Water Management District has also learned from experience?
J: To some degree. It is not that they have not learned. It is that they keep changing these
board members, and that is a [patronage] position. I am not even sure they are concerned
about water management. It is just a high position for them to be in. [The board] very
seldom [does] anything right. It is the staff that does things on their own a lot of times. It
really is where the good work comes from. The board is so poor now, I am telling you it
G: Could you describe the circumstances that led to your departure from the position of
executive director of the Florida Wildlife Federation?
J: I worked a lot of hours. I worked seven days a week. I never even had the weekends off. I
was always somewhere. I had depression so damn bad. I got involved in some other
things that I should not have gotten involved in, and I just got absolutely sick and tired of
[people asking], what have you done for me lately? I got tired of it. I had board members,
I found out, one of them killed a spotted leopard when he was in Africa and snuck it
back. This was one of my board members. Snuck it back to the United States inside of a
[mount]. He went over there and killed seventeen animals. These were animals [in a
situation] where it was like killing farm animals. It is not hunting. It is not going out and
stalking something or climbing up in a tree stand and waiting for some deer to come by. I
saw too much. When I left the Wildlife Federation, I left it with $1.4 million in assets,
mostly that was in land. We had appraisals on it. Tim Keyser has got it over in
Interlachen. Tim Keyser is a good man. But I just got to the point [where] I could not
take it anymore. It was just unbearable. The money was never important to me. I never
made very much money working for them. I was making over $50,000 way back in 1970
and started out working for them at $20,000 a year for Mariana and [I] both. There were a
lot of people in there who were very good to me. I had a lot of friends. I could have
stayed [if] I wanted to. I could have [gone] back if I wanted to. There are some people
who would say I had to go. They did not want me there in the first place. They were just
as bad as some of these board members I am talking about.
G: How actively did you remain involved with Everglades issues after you left the
J: First of all, the first year I got out of there, I went in the bedroom and stayed in there for a
year. I was so beat-up. I do not know whether you can imagine what it is like working for
eighteen years, when people call you twenty-four hours a day. I mean, they had my home
phone number, and I had a WATS [Wide Area Telephone Service] line here, and two or
three other lines were here. They found out the numbers of all of them. Hell, they would
call me up, some of them, not board members, but the people would call me up and say, I
am going to kill you; you listen to me, I am going to get you, I am going to kill you.
G: Who was doing that?
J: I do not know.
G: You think these were people associated with Everglades types of issues?
J: Yeah, I stopped that 1-75 for a while, which I did not take any pleasure in stopping, but I
had to do it in order to be able to get Big Cypress. Big Cypress would have never been
bought if it was not for me. So, I had to stop that road. I stopped it for eight years. I had
to block that road. Hell, the lawyer working for me, I think he was murdered. He was in
the hospital with appendicitis. He was well, he was getting dressed to go home, and a
nurse came in and found him laying across the bed, dead as a doornail. The Hendry
County project. Bobby McDaniel, who was on my board, came to me about [the project].
Actually at that time, he was not on the board. But Bubba Mills was a good friend of
mine. Bubba told him about me, and [Bobby] came over here and he said, Johnny Jones, I
do not know you. But Bubba Mills says you are pretty good. [Bobby McDaniel] said, I
need some help on this Hendry County project. He said, they are building that damn
thing; they are going to drain me dry. You [have] to understand Hendry County water
runs laterally, so, the aquifer is on top of the ground. If they [had] dug that [canal] like
they wanted to they wanted it about as big as the Miami Canal the water would have
run laterally. [McDaniels] was at twenty-six feet above sea level. The land they wanted to
drain was five feet above sea level. You can imagine why McDaniel did not want it.
Then, Bubba Mills had a ranch there that was closer to L1, L2 and L3 than he was, and
he would not have had any water. Those ranchers really do not mind the water so bad.
They can [handle] a rain, but they cannot stand the drought. The cows have got to have
water. They had big holes dug out. They had big old wells, and they would pump it out
on the ground for the cattle to get water to drink. I am telling you when it is dry over
there it is a bitch to raise cattle. Then you [have] citrus in there. Well, they asked me to
stop it, and everybody said I could [not] stop it. I threw up blocks everywhere I could.
Finally, they had a hearing, they were going ahead with it. Jack Maloy [former Executive
Director of SFWMD] called for a hearing in Broward County. They needed to put in a
structure to make the project work. They had to have a structure in Broward County. I
called on the phone, and I got all my boys from Broward and Dade County. I had a lot of
them down there; I got about 300 of them for the [Broward] County Commission
meeting. They [filled] the halls, plus they were outside trying to get in, and the county
commissioners could see it. I had already worked with a couple of them. Well, I did not
have all the votes, and I knew it, so I decided to see if I could scallywag them, really put
the pressure on. Let me tell you, it worked, because before the meeting was over it went
on for hours one of the commissioners said, hold it. He looked over at Jack [Malloy]
and said, Jack he was director then of the Water Management District he said, Jack, I
know you were down here last week, and I promised you I would vote for this thing.
Well, he [said], now I cannot; look here, look at this audience, look outside; these are
people I work for. He says, you ain't got no support for this thing; everybody is against
you. He said, my own people are against it. He said, Jack, I cannot do this; I got to vote
to kill it. Then he killed it in-house.
G: What exactly was this again?
J: It was a structure, a big one.
G: The broader plan. This was Hendry County?
J: Hendry County project. They were trying to get more drainage so that they could drain
all those wetlands. That night, I was really tired when I left there. I was staying over at a
friend's house in Fort Lauderdale. He went and got the car. At that time, I was limping
for some reason. I do not remember why, but I had a cane and I was limping. He said, I
will go get the car; it is way on off down there. The place was packed with people, and
everybody had the whole parking lot taken up. He said, let me go get it; I will come back
and pick you up. He came back and got me, but by the time he got back, some guy walks
up behind me, tapped me on the shoulder and he said, we gonna get you, boy; we gonna
kill you; we gonna kill your wife and all your kids; you wait and see. Some guy walks up
behind him, which was a guy from Hendry County, who was in the same car with him,
puts his arm around his neck and says shut up. They walked out behind a big long
Lincoln or Cadillac limousine ooh whee. I do not know who they were, but they looked
awful. Something like some of these guys you see on television, the ones who carry
machine guns in the back of their car. Anyway, he threatened me. I informed the law
G: Was that something that happened frequently?
G: So, this was not a recurring event type thing?
J: It happened all the time. Oh yeah, I carried a gun with me all the time. I always carried a
gun under my coat behind here.
G: These were landowners or people in that bank?
J: Yes. They were affected because they wanted to use land they had that was flooded.
Their land was almost a lake. I understood how they felt; I really did. I am not mad at
[them], and I never have been. He was just mad. He got beat. He got beat bad. That killed
the project. It was over that night. That was the end of it.
G: Let me come back to the question of your time after the Wildlife Federation. Did you at
some point become involved again with Everglades issues in an active way?
J: No, not really. I have been involved all along in different things. I went to meetings
sometimes, but as far as going out and lobbying or anything like that, I did not do
anything like that. I was sick of it. It has taken me all this time to get over some of the
bitterness and anguish that I went through. The membership loved me. I asked them for a
ninety-day leave of absence with pay, and I got it. I went home, and I just said I am going
to rest. I told them I am not going to come back until I get rested up. Bill Blake on the
west coast, a good friend of mine, called me and said, you need to come on back up here.
He said, they are going to move this thing to Tallahassee, and they are going to get
somebody to replace you if you do not come back. I said, tell them to get somebody else;
I do not want the job. I said I have just had it. You can call and verify; he will tell you. I
said, Bill, I have just had it; I do not want [any] more of it. I said, I hope they do well, but
in the first place, I am not moving to Tallahassee; that is a bad mistake.
G: I do not necessarily mean just with the Wildlife Federation but the community as a
whole, all the environmental groups. Is the [same kind of] environmental leadership there
today that you [used to have]?
J: Look, you got to understand, to have that kind of leadership, you have to have freedom. I
could do anything on my own, take any action, but I was responsible to the board. And
after I did it, if I could not call them in advance, poll them, to see how their votes went.
They always supported me. I never had them go against me once. Never. I said, if I ever
screw up, the buck stops with me. They never ever gave me any trouble. They were good
to me. They give you two lots up there. I got 1,900 acres given to us from Joe [Ferrish].
He is a friend of mine. I did him a favor, and he was going to give [the 7w7].
G: Let me kind of bring us back in. I would like to mention some specific events and
programs now and ask you to evaluate their significance for the Everglades restoration.
First, U. S. Attorney Dexter Lehtinen's lawsuit against the Water Management District
and State Department of Environmental Regulation.
J: That is a sad story. He should have won. [Tape interrupted]
G: The passage of the state of Florida's Everglades Forever Act in 1994.
J: No, I do not support it, really. I did support it as far as getting the money and getting it
started. Are you talking about the governor's thing, or are you talking about the
restoration of the Everglades?
G: I am talking about the law that is providing for the cleanup of water south of Lake
Okeechobee, providing storm water treatment areas as a mechanism to clean up water.
J: Now, that was Nat Reed's idea. No, I really do not support it; however, if we do not get
anything else done, that would be a good secondary. Buy the old sugar company and re-
flood that land, 100,000 acres. [Tape interrupted]
G: Thinking about your entire experience with the Everglades, to what extent have attitudes
towards the Everglades changed during that time?
J: I understand the conservationists are hot on it still, but I do not know how the public is.
You really cannot read them. Unfortunately, the cities and counties are getting so
involved in this thing now worrying about water supplies for their cities so they can
grow. That is a hurting situation. But as far as the group we were talking about earlier,
the national group, I think that they are doing a pretty good job of communicating with
each other, but that is like preaching to the choir. I am not that kind of conservationist. I
am an activist. I am not like some of them I know. I went into one group years ago when
I first started, and they asked me to come help where they were killing the wildlife and
killing the deer [with high water]. I went down to Miami and met with them, and they
had a couple [of] cases of dynamite stacked up on the floor. They were going to blow the
damn pumps up. I said, please, do not do that. I had a state legislator with me, Jack
[Poorbaugh]. Republican, but he was a good guy. I walked in there, and all these guys
were new to me. They had tears in their eyes. These guys were sitting around, and they
had tears in their eyes. But if you had [gone] down and saw what was happening, how
they were killing those deer, those deer were suffering. The hair was off their legs, and
they had spots all over them. The hair was falling out, and they were starving to death. A
lot of the does had fawns. They were dropping the fawns right in the water. I had one
guy, [Francis S. Taylor] he is dead now, but he built 2,000 little islands down there in
Area 3 and 3A. He built a big blade and put it on the front of his halftrack, which is a
hunting vehicle. He would get way back, and he started pushing. You can only push so
much with that thing, though. It was a curved thing like a bucket, and he would ride on
top and would operate a big lever thing. Anyway, they pushed this thing and created what
we called mud pies. That is all they were, little mud pies out in the water. Then they
brought along a bunch of sod, and they put sod all over the top of it. And, you know, I
did not think the deer would use it, but they did. They were starting to drop their fawns
on it, but, hell, [they] had nowhere to go. Fawn sitting there, and the mama, she goes out,
and she is nursing, of course. I could tell you stories about what I saw down there. It was
like a wildlife version of Auschwitz.
G: Do you think events like that help to change public attitudes?
J: It did then, yes. We really got a change. We had a Corps general come down here. Some
lady in one of the clubs down there wrote a letter to President Lyndon Johnson [U.S.
President, 1963-1969] and showed him pictures of all these little fawns. I got the pictures
in here I could show you. I took some up to Congress. I went up there and tried to cut the
money off. Damn near did it. Did not quite get enough. But they were told in no
uncertain terms if this happened again like this that they would cut their money off
G: When you say cut their money off, you are talking about the Corps?
J: The money which eventually wound up with the Water Management District. Public
G: To what extent do you think the current restoration initiative embodied in the Corps'
Comprehensive Plan represents a change from earlier management efforts?
J: Much better. It is not good, but it is better. The southern part of it could not be better.
From Palm Beach County south, it is excellent. From Palm Beach County north, it is piss
poor. (You can take the piss out of it.)
G: What specifically about the northern component?
J: All those ASRs.
G: Aquifer storage and recovery?
J: Yes, those damn things. Hell, we got Lake Okeechobee. You are talking about putting it
down in the ground. I do not like any of that stuff. Building those reservoirs is bad. There
may be one or two that are all right, but most of them are bad. That deep well injection is
strictly bad. It is dangerous. It could endanger our water supply, really. We may not ever
be able to get [it] back. We may not be able to get any more back. They think this stuff
will go down there and create a bubble of freshwater. What if it does not? If you took a
jug of saltwater and then you took a can with freshwater in it and had a straw that ran all
the way to the bottom of that can and you put that freshwater in there, they are saying
you will create a bubble of freshwater and it will push the saltwater back. I do not believe
it. I think [if] you put it down there, it will mix, and the worst, [and I think it will come
back up into the aquifer and pollute it]. If they did do it, it is too oil-dependent.
J: Yes. It takes fossil fuels to get it back out of the ground. You got to pump it back out of
the ground. That takes energy.
G: Is the only or best alternative to what has been proposed simply eliminating the
structures, eliminating agriculture and the EAA [Everglades Agricultural Area]?
J: Yes. My view is that what we ought to do is take Haiti and Costa Rica and all those
places that grow sugarcane, and Cuba, we ought to start buying the cane from them for
about 1/10 the price, and they would put those people to work back over there and they
would not be coming over here in boats and drowning. Do you know that sugarcane thing
out there has cost the lives of thousands of people coming over here in boats looking for
work. They used to grow cane over there in Haiti and sell it, and they had a market.
G: Looking toward the future, what do you see as being the most important obstacles to
J: Agriculture. Sugarcane mostly. That is the most important problem.
G: Final question. What are the most important lessons that you have personally learned
from your experience with Everglades issues?
J: When you believe something, say it and do it. In other words, if you believe they are
wrong, you should fight it with everything you have got to try to stop them, which I did.
No one has ever fought as hard as I did, ever, and that is why I am so tired now. I am
absolutely burnt out. I work with the District some on some things right now, and I get
along with them, and I work with other groups. [I am] working with the Arthur Marshall
Foundation. [I am] honorary chairman of the Marshall Foundation.
G: End interview.
Mr. Jones claims that political pressure from agricultural interests
was responsible for the Central and Southern Flood Control Plan (CNSF)
which he compares to a giant plumbing system (pages 1-2, 4-5). He
disagrees with John DeGrove=s views by identifying growth as a major
detriment to the environment (3). He describes his involvement with
the Florida Wildlife Federation, including his position as executive
director (pages 6-7).
Mr. Jones explains the dying of Lake Apopka and the concept of
environmental bankruptcy (pages 8-9). He remembers his relationship
with Art Marshall and the development of the Marshall Plan (pages
7,10). Getting media attention and the support of Governor Bob Graham
for the Marshall Plan is considered critical for the foundation of the
Save Our Everglades program (pages 11-13). He recalls becoming
friends with Marjory Douglass despite their differing views on hunting
and getting the purple gallinule off the game bird list at her request
(pages 15-16). He examines Ms. Douglass= role in lobbying and
increasing media attention (17). He contends that the key to
effective lobbying is making friends and telling the truth (pages 18-
Mr. Jones talks about the efforts to protect the Big Cypress Swamp
(pages 19-21), the 1971 Conference on Water Management (pages 21-22),
and his involvement with the Conservation and Recreational Lands
Program (pages 23-25). He addresses the controversy about back-
pumping Lake Okeechobee and South Florida Water Management District
[SFWMD] (28). He relates Governor Graham=s role in getting the
Kissimmee restoration funded and getting the C-38 project deauthorized
(29). He expresses his wish that Congress would end sugar subsidies
Mr. Jones analyzes the difficulty of the Kissimmee restoration and the
various roles of Bob Graham, Connie Mack, Lawton Chiles, the Corps of
Engineers, SFWMD, and the Fish and Wildlife Service. He goes on to
emphasize the Kissimmee=s importance to Everglades restoration (pages
32-36). Mr. Jones believes that the Comprehensive Plan for Everglades
Restoration benefits agriculture, is overly technical, and ignores
natural drought cycles (pages 31, 37). However, he sees a positive
change in the Corps of Engineers and good work by staff of SFWMD,
although he states that the SFWMD board members are tied to sugar
Mr. Jones summarizes his reasons for leaving the Florida Wildlife
Federation (38). He remembers being threatened by people who were
affected by his lobbying (39-40). He describes the effect of the
dying deer epidemic in south Florida on changing public attitudes
(42). He concludes with the opinion that aquifer storage recovery is
a dangerous technology; the solution to restoration is ridding the
Everglades of agriculture and importing sugar from the Caribbean