Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. In the late-1890s and early-1900s, Lake Okeechobee was a source for thousands of herons and egrets shot and sold for the feather trade. Marshes and wetlands of Lake Okeechobee were rich in wildlife, shallow for great distances, and with emergent vegetation that provided shelter and feeding sites. Pond apple sloughs fringed Lake Okeechobee and provided prime nesting sites. What fringes Lake Okeechobee today are dikes reinforced with granite blocks and landscaped with mowed slopes. Beyond dikes to the south are cane fields that replace pond apple sloughs and sawgrass. To the north are citrus groves and cattle ranches. In 1937, Lake Okeechobee was ringed with dikes following deaths of more than 2,000 people during flooding in the 1920s. In 1961, responding to further flooding, the Corps of Engineers began a ten year canal construction project between Lake Kissimmee and Lake Okeechobee. Gone are most wetlands that gave birth to the Everglades and one of South Florida's largest wading bird concentrations. Gone is the water storage and cleansing these wetlands did for us. Gone, even, is a view of the lake unless you climb the slopes of the dike.
'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.