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April

Fire

The Everglades has developed over time to form a majestic fragile ecosystem. This is a widely acknowledged common opinion. A lot of people, past and present, have spent and will spend time and money to exploit, preserve, enjoy and destroy the Everglades.  And so the opinions for the correct path to pursue in order to get the most and longest benefit from the Everglades are widely varied.

Every one seems to agree that one factor that is undeniable is that water is a vital aspect for the Everglades to survive. There is a growing competition for the water supply that has existed since people came to South Florida. There are other factors that are as vital for the health of the ecosystem. One of them is fire.

When we finally have enough water flowing consistently to the Everglades it will need to be able to get through. The ecosystem doesn’t rely just on water. It also needs drought in order to survive. The dry season plays a significant role to the health of the system. As the water dries up each year it allows for plants and animals to stabilize to sustainable numbers. It also allows for necessary new growth.

Sometimes water levels are too high or too low for periods of time. When water is high for too long the undergrowth begins to die and algae can grow on the underwater rotting vegetation. When the water is low for too long the vegetation can become overgrown. In either case there develops a barrier that can slow or prevent the water from flowing properly.

Nature has developed the best answer to prevent the overgrowth of vegetation and to maintain the health of the whole ecosystem. Fire is that answer. Not only do we need to maintain a healthy water flow but we also need to allow the Everglades to burn. That might sound a little harsh but that’s natures way.

There are fire suppression programs in place as well as controlled burn programs. I’m sure the correct amount of burn is a widely debated topic. Many factors must go into the decisions of what, when, and how much to burn. the health of the people in surrounding areas must also be a factor. How much burning is proper and can the Everglades handle it?

There are two points to consider that nullify most of the arguments that are used to restrict burning. When the sugar cane fields are burned they are burned entirely every year. That’s not a small amount of acreage. That’s a lot of acreage every year. The health of the surrounding people comes second to the money that’s generated from the sugar. If we can allow vast amounts of cane to burn every year for the benefit of a few then we can allow larger amounts of the glades to burn more frequently for the benefit of all.

The second point to consider is the controlling of a burn. When the glades burn naturally they burn vast areas frequently and totally. They can take it. Nature was burning the glades long before man decided he knew how to do it better. The only downside to this approach is that we have allowed combustibles to build up for so long by not allowing burning that the fires would be intense. This is proven yearly in California by the out of control fires there.

We can control the fires at first until some of the built up fuel is eliminated. But we must begin burning soon and frequently if we expect the Glades to return to a balanced thriving system.

The Everglades is part of the reason South Florida is such a nice area. In order to maintain it’s integrity we must let the water flow trough the river of grass and empty in the surrounding bays. For that to happen we must also let the Everglades burn.

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