Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. When Lake Okeechobee was enclosed by dikes in 1937, habitat changes had profound negative influences on South Florida. Water that once flowed freely, only inches deep across the vast river of grass we call the ‘Everglades’, was penned in and diverted to the ocean. Politicians heard many voices: “Keep the sugar cane from flooding, but give us water when we need it to grow the cane”, “Hold water in a reservoir so we can catch more bass”, “Give us water for drinking and watering our lawns”. There were voices for the natural environment, too: “You're killing the Everglades”. The snail kite, wood stork, American alligator, Cape Sable seaside sparrow, and other endangered and threatened species suffered as habitats were altered by lack of water, and changed water regimes. Water draining into the lake carried pollutants, high phosphorus levels, and run-off from cattle ranches to the north and from water with agricultural chemicals back-pumped from cane fields to the south. All took a toll. Many feared that Lake Okeechobee was dying. Efforts are now being made to restore the system.
'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.