Stolen Water: Saving the Everglades from Its Friends, Foes, and Florida

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9780743474078: Stolen Water: Saving the Everglades from Its Friends, Foes, and Florida
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When the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan went into effect during the Clinton administration, Florida's great grassy wilderness garnered a host of national attention -- and has since become a breeding ground for environmental dispute. What does it take to "save" a forest? How can it be preserved?
Enter W. Hodding Carter. For an Outside magazine feature he's agreed to paddle the ninety-nine-mile waterway in Everglades National Park to examine the landscape from all angles -- physical, political, cultural, and very personal -- and get to the rock-bottom heart of the story. Stolen Water is the outgrowth of Carter's journey.
Through investigative research, eyewitness accounts, and interviews with key players in the conservation controversy, Carter offers a rare portrait of a national treasure. Utterly important, and at times downright hilarious, Stolen Water is a classic American adventure tale, and an environmental parable for our time.

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About the Author:

W. Hodding Carter has written for several national magazines, including Esquire, Smithsonian, Newsweek, and Outside. The author of Westward Whoa, A Viking Voyage, and An Illustrated Viking Voyage, he lives with his family in Rockport, Maine.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Manateeville

I am sitting on a derelict pier outside of Melbourne, Florida, babysitting a dead manatee. It's one of those grimy mornings, where you're caked with sweat and smog by 10:00 A.M., and frankly, I'd like to be elsewhere -- like sitting in the sand, a tall mango smoothie in one hand, the latest Harry Potter in the other, my kids frolicking in the surf. Instead, I'm here on the other side of paradise, watching a manatee decompose.

This particular manatee, recently found floating in some retired couple's backyard, has just been dragged a mile through the Intracoastal Waterway while tethered to a marine patrol boat. Skin is sliding off the poor thing as though it were a blanched tomato, and it smells like forgotten, one-month-old hamburger meat in the back of your fridge. This poster animal for the Florida environmental movement isn't going to make it to the kind of photo shoot you'd prefer.

All in all, it's an unpleasant beginning to a close study of Florida's ecology.

Two teenage boys, having seen me disembark from the patrol boat, ask my permission to swim. I glance down at the manatee, tied by its tail to the closest piling. Oily fluids slowly mushroom from the decaying body into the murky waters, and the Intracoastal looks as refreshing as a festering sewage ditch. "Sure," I say, shrugging my shoulders. "Why not?"

A marine patrol officer brought the manatee and me to this spot about a half hour earlier, bitterly complaining about spending three hours out of an eight-hour day on a dead animal. How can he do this while effectively enforcing the no-wake manatee zones? So upon my suggestion, he's left us alone to wait for a state marine biologist.

A sign declaring HAVE DEAD MANATEE, WILL TALK must be hanging over the dock because as the teenagers tentatively enter the brown muck, a skinny worn-out alcoholic teeters over from his broken-down pickup truck. "I've never seen one of these before," he declares, his Adam's apple bobbing up and down like a freaked-out aquarium fish, his breath drowning me in sweet fermented fumes. "I've always wanted to. I love wildlife." He peers down, nearly losing his balance. "It's not doing so well, huh?"

"Yeah, this cold water, even though it's only in the mid-sixties, is pretty rough," I offer, passing on information I've only just learned myself. "It kills them, even."

"This one's not dead, though. Just hurting a bit, huh?" The odor of decay is about to make me barf. After I break the news, the besodden sireniaphile stumbles away, head shaking. "Oh, I wanted to see a live one. Never seen one of them."

I understand how he feels. The reason I was in Florida was to see a very special live manatee named Brutus. My youngest sister had adopted him for me on my birthday, coughing up twenty dollars to the Save the Manatee Club, a nonprofit protector of Trichechus manatus. The West Indian manatee, indigenous to the West Indies, Central America, and Florida, isn't doing so well, although humans have been trying to protect them as far back as 1764, when Florida was briefly an English colony. "His majesty (proposes) that an Instruction should be given to the Governor of the Provence of East Florida," declared a representative of King George, "to restrain him from granting to any person whatsoever, without His Majesty's particular Orders and directions, those parts of the Coast of the said Province frequented by the Animals called the Manati or Sea Cow, where they have their Echouries or Landing Places."

Of course, everyone ignored this and Florida eventually became the developer's Mecca that currently makes it the fastest growing state in the nation. And as far as the manatee itself goes, humans continued to hunt the poor bastard to near extinction until it was placed on the endangered species list in 1973. Today, it's not faring much better, especially when compared to fellow endangered classmates like the bald eagle and the wolf, both of which were recently delisted. There were only a few thousand back when the manatee was first classified as endangered and today there are still only an estimated three thousand.

What do Brutus and his fellow Sirenia (the manatee's order) have to do with the Everglades? Well, pretty much everything. I've come to believe that as the manatee goes, so goes the Everglades. Their past, their fate, and even their range are intertwined. Look at one closely -- how it lives, where it lives, and what we do to help it live -- and you've looked at the other. The manatee also serves as a primer on Florida's environmental management programs. The mammmal's traditional habitat was the Everglades and its surrounding waters, and development has pushed both the Everglades and the manatee to the brink of extinction. And if we really protect the Everglades, then we'll probably end up protecting the manatee far into the future, or vice versa. So, we begin with the manatee.

The day Brutus's adoption packet arrives I don't know all of this, of course. Instead, I'm just wondering what silly thing has my sister done. Who has time to care about manatees? is all I'm thinking. Glancing at the club's literature, I learn that they only mate every two to three years and their gestation period lasts three months longer than a human's. Multiple offspring are nearly unheard of, and they have a high infant mortality rate. Their cousins, the Steller's sea cow, were hunted to extinction centuries ago. Florida's manatees are threatened today because they live in the shallows of both fresh- and saltwater, where pollution and development destroy their habitats. Boats hit them all the time. Well, that's awful, I mutter, and begin wondering how best to remove gum from my daughter's hair. But then something about Brutus's sad face and sunken eyes catches my attention. He is, after all, family.

As I read on, I notice that Brutus, probably in his late thirties, is very close to me in age. He likes to swim; I like to swim. He eats nearly 200 pounds of hyacinths and other water plants a day; I've been known to eat a lot, too, although I've never tried a water hyacinth. He weighs nearly 2,000 pounds; I weigh 165. He is quite the ladies' man, always seen chasing the girls; I, well...But what is this? According to the literature, Brutus is often found sleeping by himself. Is he depressed? Bitter? Suffering a midlife crisis since manatees only live to sixty? Suddenly I decide we have to make sure he is okay. "Brutus, we're on our way! Don't you worry!" I call out, speaking also for my wife and three daughters. "We'll swim together. Take some pictures. Let you meet your sisters. Make you feel like part of the family. Everything is gonna be all right!"

Before heading down to Florida, I figure I need to talk to Jimmy Buffet. I've noticed he co-founded the Save the Manatee Club in 1981 with then-Governor Bob Graham, and I figure he'll have a word or two to pass on to Brutus. I call his publicist, whose blunt response strikes me like a whirring propeller (the average manatee is hit by boat props up to twelve times a year, according to one informal study). "Jimmy is not available to participate. He is only making himself available for national television programs." Undeterred, I have her submit some questions anyway. "Do you have any message you might want to give Brutus or any of the other manatees you're helping to save?" I ask, and "Do you know anyone who might have been a manatee in a former life?" The publicist gets back to me a few days later and says Jimmy isn't answering the questions, not even the one asking how he might begin a song about manatees.

Hell, even I can do that:

Manateeville

Nibblin' on eel grass,

Watchin' some mare's ass;

All of those big boats loaded with Bud.

Swimmin' to warm springs, listenin' to props zing.

See our backs!

They're covered with blood.

Wasted away again in Manateeville,

Searchin' for our lost celebrity friend.

Some people claim that he'll bring us to fame,

But we know, this is surely our end.

Well, hopefully not, but things do look dire for the manatee, despite the efforts of the Save the Manatee Club and a cobweb of federal and state wildlife agencies. Between the club's adoption program and the state of Florida's Save the Manatee license plates and various other fund-raising efforts, millions of dollars are spent each year on rescue efforts, government research projects, and educational programs (for humans, not manatees) from Florida to the Carolinas. It's an uphill battle, against such well-connected foes as Wade Hopping, lobbyist for the National Marine Manufacturers Association, who a few years back called for the species' delisting because the manatees, he said, had made such a great comeback. Hopping speaks for boaters who don't like the no-wake and no-boat zones posted in high-density manatee habitats. Meanwhile, the manatee's mortality rate has slowly been increasing. (Three hundred and five died in 2002, and boats caused one-third of those deaths.) You don't have to be a pathologist to figure out why. A manatee's rib bones are solid and heavy, not porous like ours. When one of these bones is broken by impact, say whacked by an overloaded Ski-Doo, it's like having a hardwood two-by-four snapping apart inside you and splintering right into your heart, lungs, liver -- anything vital.

Luckily, Topping and his cohorts haven't won yet, and in a few of the no-boat zones, the manatees are doing quite well. Brutus's wintering grounds, Blue Spring State Park, is among them.

Back in 1970, when motorboats were still allowed at Blue Spring, only eleven manatees basked in its warm, calm waters, which fed the equally languorous Saint Johns River. Now, more than a hundred gather there each winter. Many scientists believe there are three distinct Florida manatee populations, although all are of the same species: the East Coast manatees, whose range stretches from Miami up to the Carolinas; the West Coast manatees, who travel from the Keys as far west as Alabama, and the Saint Johns. The ...

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Book Description Atria Books, United States, 2005. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. When the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan went into effect during the Clinton administration, Florida s great grassy wilderness garnered a host of national attention -- and has since become a breeding ground for environmental dispute. What does it take to save a forest? How can it be preserved? Enter W. Hodding Carter. For an Outside magazine feature he s agreed to paddle the ninety-nine-mile waterway in Everglades National Park to examine the landscape from all angles -- physical, political, cultural, and very personal -- and get to the rock-bottom heart of the story. Stolen Water is the outgrowth of Carter s journey. Through investigative research, eyewitness accounts, and interviews with key players in the conservation controversy, Carter offers a rare portrait of a national treasure. Utterly important, and at times downright hilarious, Stolen Water is a classic American adventure tale, and an environmental parable for our time. Seller Inventory # AAV9780743474078

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Book Description Atria Books. Paperback. Condition: New. 288 pages. Dimensions: 8.2in. x 5.1in. x 0.9in.When the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan went into effect during the Clinton administration, Floridas great grassy wilderness garnered a host of national attention -- and has since become a breeding ground for environmental dispute. What does it take to save a forest How can it be preserved Enter W. Hodding Carter. For an Outside magazine feature hes agreed to paddle the ninety-nine-mile waterway in Everglades National Park to examine the landscape from all angles -- physical, political, cultural, and very personal -- and get to the rock-bottom heart of the story. Stolen Water is the outgrowth of Carters journey. Through investigative research, eyewitness accounts, and interviews with key players in the conservation controversy, Carter offers a rare portrait of a national treasure. Utterly important, and at times downright hilarious, Stolen Water is a classic American adventure tale, and an environmental parable for our time. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Seller Inventory # 9780743474078

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