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History of the Study
Regional System
Hydrologic Systems
Final Word
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In 1968 the planned construction of an international jetport in the Big Cypress Swamp of south Florida by the Dade County Port Authority triggered a controversy and a series of events that involved private and public interest. Local conservation groups and concerned citizens questioned the potential effects of such a jetport and the attendant urban growth in the Big Cypress Swamp both on the nearby Everglades National Park and on the south Florida environment. The Federal Government initiated, through the U.S. Department of the Interior, a preliminary study to evaluate the environmental impact of the proposed jetport. That study (Leopold and others, 1969) indicated that the proposed jetport would adversely affect not only the ecosystem of Everglades National Park, but that of the remainder of south Florida as well. For that reason the Federal Government opposed the construction of the jetport at the proposed location.

In the pact with Dade County and the State of Florida, the Federal Government agreed, however, to aid in the location and purchase of a new and acceptable site for the jetport. An obligation of the Federal Government under this pact was to implement an ecological study of south Florida. Five bureaus of the Department of the Interior - National Park Service, Geological Survey, Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife (now Fish and Wildlife Service), Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs - and two former Interior agencies - Federal Water Quality Administration (now Environmental Protection Agency) and Bureau of Commercial Fisheries (now National Marine Fisheries) - were asked to participate. These bureaus and agencies completed 51 separate reports (available through the US. Department of Commerce, National Technical Information Service). This summary report, which is an overview of the south Florida environment, is based on and covers the highlights of the 51 reports. The abstract of each is included in the References.

The South Florida Environmental Study identified and described the natural ecosystems of south Florida as they functioned before man began to have major impacts on these systems. Where remnants of natural systems still function as before, they were measured and described. The study also encompassed the agricultural and urban developments of south Florida and their impacts on the ecosystems. Man is a natural component of the system and, like all living components, seeks to attain some degree of balance or equilibrium with the rest of the system.

line drawing showing outline of south FloridaThis report concludes phase one of the South Florida Environmental Study and fulfills in part the Department of the Interior's obligation to Dade County and the State of Florida to study and report upon the south Florida environment.

A second phase of the South Florida Environmental Study, now nearing completion, began in 1974 with a joint agreement among the State of Florida, the US. Department of the Interior, and the University of Florida Center for Wetlands, designating specific products from three participating bodies.

The Center for Wetlands was to (1) prepare land use maps of the south Florida region as a whole and of three demonstration counties within the region - Lee, Collier, and Hendry - showing them in their primitive state, as they were in 1953, and as they had become by 1973; and (2) to produce models of the ecological systems defined and/or described in the phase one study. These models were to determine, to the extent possible, flows and storages of energy in the south Florida environment and in select instances to make predictions and recommendations for water, land, and energy use, and for a carrying capacity that could sustain a viable economy and environment in the region.

The Florida Division of State Planning agreed to prepare and publish four reports - one for the south Florida region as a whole and one each for the three counties, Hendry, Lee, and Collier. The reports were to be written in laymen's language and contain the results of the Center for Wetlands modeling studies, together with copies of the regional maps. It was also agreed that the State would fund a full-time planner in each of the three demonstration counties, to work with the county planning departments on integrating the modeling study results and recommendations with the developing county land-use plans. The State effort was also to relate these activities to the Division of State Planning's legislated responsibilities under the Florida Environmental land and Water Management Act of 1972.

The Department of the Interior, in addition to substantial funding of the phase two project, agreed to help provide the data base for the Center for Wetlands modeling and to arrange for its own agencies' review of the resulting products. It is Interior's responsibility under terms of the joint agreement to publish the technical report emanating from the Center for Wetlands modeling studies. That report will be published by the National Park Service.

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