Write a well-developed esay discussing how a bi-partisan consensus was created over Everglades restoration that please both pro-growth and environmentalists. Write a well-developed es

  1. Write a well-developed esay discussing how a bi-partisan consensus was created over Everglade’s restoration that please both pro-growth and environmentalists.
  2. Write a well-developed esay discussing why Michael Grunwald argued that the Everglades must be restored.
  3. Write a well-developed esay discussing what Michael Grunwald means when he talks about the conquest of the Everglades.
  4. Write a well-developed esay discussing why Senator Marco Rubio is more optimistic than Michael Grunwald about Everglades restoration.


Rockefeller Center

1230 Avenue of the Americas

New York, NY 10020

Copyright © 2006 by Michael Grunwald All rights reserved,

including the right of reproduction

in whole or in part in any form.

SIMON & SCHUSTER and colophon are registered

trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Designed by Ellen Sasahara

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Grunwald, Michael.

The swamp / Michael Grunwald.

p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references.

1. Everglades (Fla.)—History. 2. Everglades (Fla.)—

Environmental conditions. 3. Environmental protection—

Florida—Everglades—History. 4. Drainage—Florida—

Everglades—History. I. Title.

F317.E9G78 2005

975.9’39—de22 2005056329

ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-3727-4

ISBN-10: 1-4165-3727-9

Visit us on the World Wide Web:


For Mom and Dad

with love


Introduction “A Treasure for Our Country”

Part One The Natural Everglades

1 Grassy Water

2 The Intruders

3 Quagmire

4 A New Vision

5 Drainage Gets Railroaded

Part Two Draining the Everglades

6 The Reclamation of a Kingly Domain

7 The Father of South Florida

8 Protect the Birds

9 “Water Will Run Downhill!”

10 Land by the Gallon

11 Nature’s Revenge

12 “Everglades Permanence Now Assured”

13 Taming the Everglades

Part Three Restoring the Everglades

14 Making Peace with Nature

15 Repairing the Everglades

16 Something in the Water

17 Something for Everyone

18 Endgame

Epilogue The Future of the Everglades




And God said unto them: Be fruitful, and multiply, and

replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion

over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air,

and over every living thing that moveth upon the


—Genesis 1:28

Nature is overrated.

But we’ll miss it when it’s gone!

—Florida golfers, in the 2002 film Sunshine State


“A Treasure for Our Country”

ON DECEMBER 11, 2000, the Supreme Court heard oral

arguments in George W. Bush, et al. v. Albert Gore Jr., et al.,

the partisan battle royale that would end the stalemate over

the Florida recount and send one of the litigants to the

White House. The deadlocked election had exposed a

divided nation, and pundits were describing Governor

Bush’s “Red America” and Vice President Gore’s “Blue

America” as if they were separate countries at war. After

five weeks of ferocious wrangling over “pregnant chads”

and “hanging chads,” hard-liners in both camps were

warning of an illegitimate presidency, a constitutional crisis,

a bloodless coup.

Inside the Court’s marble-and-mahogany chambers,

Senator Robert Smith of New Hampshire watched the legal

jousting with genuine awe. Smith was one of the hardest of

Red America’s hardliners, a passionate antiabortion,

antigay, antitax Republican, and he believed he was

watching a struggle for the soul of his country. Smith was

also a former small-town civics teacher, less jaded than

most of his colleagues in Congress, and Bush v. Gore was a

civics lesson for the ages, a courtroom drama that would

decide the leader of the free world. “It doesn’t get any

bigger than this,” he thought.

But less than an hour into the proceedings, Smith

suddenly walked out on history, squeezing his six-foot-five,

280-pound frame past his perplexed seatmates. “Excuse

me,” he whispered. “Excuse me.” A bear of a man with

fleshy jowls, a bulbous nose, and a sloppy comb-over, Smith

could feel the stares as he lumbered down the center aisle,

then jostled through the hushed standing-room crowd to the

exit. “Excuse me. Excuse me.”

Smith’s abrupt departure looked like one of his

unorthodox protests, like the time he brandished a plastic

fetus on the Senate floor, or the time he announced he was

resigning from the Republican Party because it was cutting

too many big-government deals with the Democrats. Smith

was an unabashed ideologue, rated the most conservative

and the most frugal senator by various right-wing interest

groups. He had voted against food stamps and Head Start,

clamored for President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, and even

mounted his own quixotic campaign for president on a

traditional-values platform.

But this was no protest. Smith was rushing to the White

House, to celebrate a big-government deal with the


At the height of the partisan war over the Florida

recount, President Clinton was signing a bipartisan bill to

revive the Florida Everglades, a $7.8 billion rescue mission

for sixty-nine endangered species and twenty national parks

and refuges. It was the largest environmental restoration

project in the history of the planet, and Smith had pushed it

through Congress with classic liberal rhetoric, dismissing its

price tag as “just a can of Coke per citizen per day,”

beseeching his colleagues to “save this treasure as our

legacy to our children and grandchildren.” So after his dash

from the Court, he headed straight to the Cabinet Room,

where he exchanged congratulations with some of the

Democratic Party’s top environmentalists, like Interior

Secretary Bruce Babbitt, the former head of the League of

Conservation Voters, and White House aide George

Frampton, the former head of the Wilderness Society. And

Smith was not even the most surprising guest in the West

Wing that day.

That was Florida’s Republican governor, another key

supporter of the Everglades plan, a former Miami developer

named Jeb Bush. As the world waited to hear whether his

brother would win his state and succeed their father’s

successor in the White House, Jeb was already there, staring

out at the Rose Garden with the air of a quarterback who

had stumbled into the opposing locker room near the end of

the Super Bowl. “The last time I was here, your father was

president!” one lobbyist told him. Jeb tried to smile, but it

came out more like a grimace. One Clinton appointee began

babbling about the Cuban Missile Crisis—possibly the last

time that room had felt that tense. Jeb even said hi to a

Miami congresswoman who had publicly accused him of

suppressing black votes. “This,” thought Jeb’s top

environmental aide, “is as surreal as politics can get.”

Unless, that is…but no, Vice President Gore, a key

architect of the Everglades plan, stayed home to listen to

the Supreme Court audiotape. “I was really proud of what

we accomplished in the Everglades,” Gore later recalled.

“But I was in a pretty pitched battle that day.”

At 1:12 P.M., an ebullient President Clinton invited

everyone into the Oval Office, the room that George W. Bush

liked to say needed a good scrubbing. If the president was

upset about Gore’s plight, or Jeb’s presence, or the legacy of

impeachment, or his imminent move to the New York

suburbs, the legendary compartmentalizer hid it well. “This

is a great day!” he said. “We should all be very proud.” He

used eighteen ceremonial pens to sign the bill, graciously

handing the first souvenir to Jeb. Senator Smith quipped

that it was lucky Clinton’s name wasn’t Cornelius

Snicklefritzer, or else the ceremony might never end. The

president threw his head back and laughed. “Wow,” thought

his chief of staff, John Podesta, “this is like a Fellini movie.”

If Florida’s political swamp was tearing Americans apart,

Florida’s actual swamp had a knack for bringing people

together. The same Congress that had been torn in half by

Clinton’s impeachment had overwhelmingly approved his

plan for the Everglades, after lobbyists for the sugar

industry and the Audubon Society walked the corridors of

Capitol Hill arm-in-arm. The same Florida legislature that

was in turmoil over Bush v. Gore had approved Everglades

restoration without a single dissenting vote.

At a press conference after the ceremony, Jeb

sidestepped the inevitable Bush v. Gore questions to

highlight this unity: “In a time when people are focused on

politics, and there’s a little acrimony—I don’t know if y’all

have noticed—this is a good example of how, in spite of all

that, bipartisanship is still alive.” Reporters shouted follow-

ups about the Court, but the governor cut them off with a

smile. “No, no, no, no, you’re going the wrong way on that

one. We’re here to talk about something that’s going to be

long-lasting, way past counting votes. This is the restoration

of a treasure for our country.”

The Test

TODAY, EVERYONE AGREES that the Everglades is a national

treasure. It’s a World Heritage Site, an International

Biosphere Reserve, the most famous wetland on earth. It’s a

cultural icon, featured in Carl Hiaasen novels, Spiderman

comics, country songs, and the opening credits of CSI:

Miami, as well as the popular postcards of its shovel-faced

alligators and spindly-legged wading birds. It’s the

ecological equivalent of motherhood and apple pie; when an

aide on NBC’s The West Wing was asked the most popular

thing the president could do for the environment, he

immediately replied: “Save the Everglades.”

But there was once just as broad a national consensus

that the Everglades was a worthless morass, an enemy of

civilization, an obstacle to progress. The first government

report on the Everglades deemed it “suitable only for the

haunt of noxious vermin, or the resort of pestilential

reptiles.” Its explorers almost uniformly described it as a

muddy, mushy, inhospitable expanse of razor-edged

sawgrass in shallow water—too wet to farm, too dry to sail,

too unpredictable to settle. Americans believed it was their

destiny to drain this “God-forsaken” swamp, to “reclaim” it

from mosquitoes and rattlesnakes, to “improve” it into a

subtropical paradise of bountiful crops and booming

communities. Wetlands were considered wastelands, and

“draining the swamp” was a metaphor for solving festering


The heart of the Everglades was technically a marsh, not

a swamp, because its primary vegetation was grassy, not

woody; the first journalist to slog through the Everglades

called it a “vast and useless marsh.” But it was usually

described as a dismal, impenetrable swamp, and even

conservationists dreamed of draining it; converting wet land

into productive land was considered the essence of

conservation. Hadn’t God specifically instructed man to

subdue the earth, and take dominion over all the living

creatures that moveth upon it? Wasn’t America destined to

overpower its wilderness?

This is the story of the Everglades, from useless bog to

national treasure, from its creation to its destruction to its

potential resurrection. It is the story of a remarkable swath

of real estate and the remarkable people it has attracted,

from the aboriginals who created the continent’s first

permanent settlement in the Everglades, to the U.S. soldiers

who fought a futile war of ethnic cleansing in the

Everglades, to the dreamers and schemers who have tried

to settle, drain, tame, develop, sell, preserve, and restore

the Everglades. It’s a story about the pursuit of paradise and

the ideal of progress, which once inspired the degradation of

nature, and now inspires its restoration. It’s a story about

hubris and unintended consequences, about the mistakes

man has made in his relationship with nature and his

unprecedented efforts to fix them.


THE STORY BEGINS with the natural Everglades ecosystem,

which covered most of south Florida, from present-day

Orlando all the way down to the Florida Keys. For most of its

history, it was virtually uninhabited. As late as 1897, four

years after the historian Frederick Jackson Turner declared

the western frontier closed, an explorer marveled that the

Everglades was still “as much unknown to the white man as

the heart of Africa.”

But once white men got to know it, they began to

transform it. A Gilded Age industrialist named Hamilton

Disston was the first visionary to try to drain the swamp. A

brilliant oilman-turned-developer named Henry Flagler

considered his own assault on the Everglades while he was

laying the foundation for modern south Florida. And an

energetic Progressive Era governor named Napoleon

Bonaparte Broward vowed to create an Empire of the

Everglades with more canals, declaring war on south

Florida’s water.

The Everglades turned out to be a resilient enemy,

resisting man’s drainage schemes for decades, taking

revenge in the form of brutal droughts and catastrophic

floods, converting Florida swampland into an enduring real

estate punchline. In 1928, a hurricane blasted Lake

Okeechobee through its flimsy muck dike and drowned

2,500 people in the Everglades, a ghastly fore-shadowing of

Hurricane Katrina’s assault on New Orleans. Mother Nature

did not take kindly to man’s attempts to subjugate her.

But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the ground troops

in America’s war against nature, finally conquered the

Everglades with one of the most elaborate water-control

projects in history, setting the stage for south Florida’s

spectacular postwar development. Suburbs such as Weston,

Wellington, Plantation, Pembroke Pines, Miami Lakes, and

Miami Springs all sprouted in drained Everglades wetlands.

So did Miami International Airport, Sawgrass Mills Mall,

Florida International University, Burger King corporate

headquarters, and a vast agricultural empire that produces

one out of every five teaspoons of American sugar. Disney

World was built near the headwaters of the Everglades. And

some people began to wonder whether the creation of a

man-made paradise across Florida’s southern thumb was

worth the destruction of a natural one.

So the story of the Everglades is also the story of the

transformation of south Florida, from a virtually uninhabited

wasteland to a densely populated Fantasyland with 7 million

residents, 40 million annual tourists, and the world’s largest

concentration of golf courses. “There has never been a more

grossly exaggerated region, a more grossly misrepresented

region, or one concerning which less has been known than

this mighty empire of South Florida,” the Palm Beach Post

said in 1924. That’s still about right.

AMERICA’S WAR ON NATURE has left a tattered battlefield in

south Florida. Half the Everglades is gone. The other half is

an ecological mess. Wading birds no longer darken the skies

above it. Algal blooms are exploding in its lakes and

estuaries, massacring its dolphins, oysters, and manatees.

And it is now clear that the degradation extends beyond

noxious vermin and pestilential reptiles, affecting the people

of south Florida as well. The aquifers that store their

drinking water are under siege. Their paradise has been

sullied by sprawl, and by overcrowded schools, hospitals,

and highways. Most of them are at risk from the next killer

hurricane—and the one after that. It is now almost

universally agreed that south Florida’s growth is no longer


The Everglades restoration plan that President Clinton

signed with Governor Bush at his side is supposed to restore

some semblance of the original ecosystem, and guide south

Florida toward sustainability. And the Army Corps of

Engineers, after decades of helping to destroy the

Everglades, will lead the effort to undo some of the damage.

“The Everglades is a test,” one environmentalist has

written. “If we pass, we may get to keep the planet.”

On that December day at the millennium’s end,

Republicans and Democrats described Everglades

restoration as the dawn of a new era in conservation—not

only for south Florida, but for mankind. Instead of taming

rivers, irrigating deserts, and draining swamps, man would

restore ravaged ecosystems. Instead of fighting over scarce

fresh water—the oil of the twenty-first century—Floridians

would demonstrate how to share. The Everglades, Jeb Bush

said, would be “a model for the world,” proof that man and

nature could live in harmony. America’s politicians would

finally pass the Everglades test.

It was a noble sentiment. But man had been flunking that

test for a long time.

Part 1

The Natural Everglades


Grassy Water

There are no other Everglades in the world.

—South Florida author Marjory Stoneman


“The Place Looked Wild And Lonely”

THE NATURAL EVERGLADES was not quite land and not

quite water, but a soggy confusion of the two.

It was a vast sheet of shallow water spread across a

seemingly infinite prairie of serrated sawgrass, a liquid

expanse of muted greens and browns extending to the

horizon. It had the panoramic sweep of a desert, except

flooded, or a tundra, except melted, or a wheat field, except

wild. It was studded with green teardrop-shaped islands of

tangled trees and scraggly shrubs, and specked with white

spider lilies and violet-blue pickerelweeds. But mostly it

looked like the world’s largest and grassiest puddle, or the

flattest and wettest meadow, or the widest and slowest-

moving stream. It had the squish and the scruff of an

untended yard after a downpour, except that this yard was

larger than Connecticut. It wasn’t obviously beautiful, but it

was obviously unique. “No country that I have ever heard of

bears any resemblance to it,” wrote one of the U.S. soldiers

who hunted Seminole Indians in the Everglades in the

nineteenth century. “It seems like a vast sea, filled with

grass and green trees.”

The Everglades seeped all the way down Florida’s

southern thumb, from the giant wellspring of Lake

Okeechobee in the center of the peninsula to the ragged

mangrove fringes of Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, a

sodden savanna more than 100 miles long and as much as

60 miles wide—just grass and water, water and grass,

except for the tree islands and wildflowers that dotted the

grass, and the lily pads and algal mats that floated on the

water. The Seminoles called it Pa-Hay-Okee, or Grassy

Water. The American soldiers who trudged through it during

the Seminole Wars described it as a grassy lake, a grassy

sea, an ocean of grass. The bard of the Everglades, Marjory

Stoneman Douglas, later dubbed it the River of Grass.

Sawgrass is actually a sedge, not a grass, but the nickname


The Everglades was relentlessly, remarkably, almost

perfectly flat—no majestic canyons, rugged cliffs, or rolling

hills, no glaciers, geysers, or craters. Even Everglades

National Park’s first superintendent admitted that its

landscape lacked a certain flair, calling it “a study in

halftones, not bright, broad strokes of a full brush,”

summarizing its attractions as “lonely distances, intricate

and monotonous waterways, birds, sky and water.” The

Everglades was also an incomparably tough slog. It lacked

shade and shelter, high ground and dry ground. Breathing

its heavy air felt like sucking on cotton. Wading through its

hip-deep muck felt like marching in quicksand. Penetrating

its dense thickets of sharp-toothed sawgrass felt like bathing

in broken glass. And there was something downright spooky

about the place, with its bellowing alligators, grunting

pigfrogs, and screeching owls—and especially its eerie


“The place looked wild and lonely,” one hunter wrote

after an 1885 expedition through the Everglades. “About

three o’clock it seemed to get on Henry’s nerves, and we

saw that he was crying, he would not tell us why, he was

just plain scared.”

The Everglades also teemed with rats, roaches, snakes,

scorpions, spiders, worms, deerflies, sand flies, and

unfathomably thick clouds of bloodthirsty mosquitoes that

flew up nostrils and down throats and into ears. The pioneer

Miami naturalist Charles Torrey Simpson loved the

Everglades like a son, but he readily acknowledged that “the

wilds of Lower Florida can furnish as much laceration and as

many annoyances to the square inch as any place I have

ever seen.”

“My advice is to urge every discontented man to take a

trip through the Everglades,” another explorer wrote. “If it

doesn’t kill him, it will certainly cure him.”

BUT THE EVERGLADES was more than a river of grass, and it

contained more than swarming bugs, slithering reptiles, and

lacerating annoyances.

The river of grass was only the most distinctive link of an

interconnected ecosystem that once blanketed almost all of

south Florida, from its headwaters atop the Kissimmee

Chain of Lakes near modern-day Orlando down to the coral

reefs off the Keys, an area twice the size of New Jersey. The

ecosystem was a watery labyrinth of lakes and lagoons,

creeks and ponds, pine flatwoods and hardwood hammocks.

It encompassed Biscayne Bay and Florida Bay, the St. Lucie

and Miami Rivers. And in addition to its extensive

marshlands, it included genuine swamps, most notably the

Big Cypress Swamp, a Delaware-sized mosaic of pinelands,

prairies, and black-water bogs just west of the sawgrass


Sawgrass could be as uninviting to wildlife as it was to

people, but the diverse habitats of the broader Everglades

ecosystem—also known as the Kissimmee-Okeechobee-

Everglades or south Florida ecosystem—supported an

astonishing variety of life, from black bears to barracudas,

turkey vultures to vase sponges, zebra butterflies to fuzzy-


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