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U.S. Department of the Interior
National Park Service

Wildlife Reconnaissance: Everglades National Park Project

Prepared by

Daniel B. Beard
Assistant Wildlife Technician
October 1938

INTRODUCTION

Some General Conceptions of the Everglades as a National Park:

Practically without exception, areas that have been turned over to the Service as national parks have been of superlative value with existing features so outstanding that if the Service were able to merely retain the status quo, the job was a success. This will not be true of the Everglades National Park. The reasons for even considering the lower tip of Florida as a national park are 90 percent biological ones, and hence highly perishable. Primitive conditions have been changed by the hand of man, abundant wildlife resources exploited, woodland and prairie burned and reburned, water levels altered, and all the attendant, less obvious ecological conditions disturbed.

Director Cammerer recently said, "I would much rather have a national park created that might not measure up to all everybody thinks of it at the present time, but which, 50 or 100 years from now, with all the protection we could give it, would have attained a natural condition comparable to primitive conditions..." If the National Park Service is prepared to follow the strategy thus expressed, the Everglades National Park seems justified. If it is not ready to do this, the writer wishes to state emphatically, the Everglades is not justified.

In any approach to understanding the problems of the Everglades, it is necessary for one to look at the present and see the future - no easy task. However, any other approach is impossible. It is not so much what the area is now, but what it is going to be after years of protection and careful administration. We now have just about all the biological ingredients that were originally present. Wise administration, coupled with the truly amazing fertility of the tropics should begin to show results in about five years. In fifty years, the Everglades National Park is capable of becoming an outstanding place.

In this report, the writer has tried to describe existing conditions and give some indication of what may be expected in the future under Service administration. The area is essentially a watery wilderness of prairies, cypress, mangrove swamps, rivers, lakes, and little islands. Mr. Clifford C. Presnall, Assistant Chief of the Wildlife Division, expressed the "wilderness thrill" if we may call it such, peculiar to the Everglades in his July 12, 1938 report: "They are mystical and strange, having a peculiar enveloping atmosphere of timelessness that is most poignantly felt when one traverses the dark mazes in a boat. Under such conditions there is a feeling of vague uneasiness, even of slight depression, a sense that this will always be a wilderness capable of overwhelming the puny efforts of mankind by the sheer exuberance of its own life. Upon emerging from the confines of the Everglades there is a sense of escape, one breathes easier and once again can kid himself into thinking that he amounts to something. Later, in going back over the experiences the visitor will wish to return, the sense of bafflement will have been overshadowed by curiosity to see more of this strange tropical jungle. Hence the Everglades are not inspiring, they have about them a certain quality of making as deep an impression on human sensibilities as do the grand and awful silhouettes of the Rockies."

History of the Everglades Park Idea:

Like all important movements of its kind, the Everglades National Park idea did not come from the brain of one man alone. A number of people thinking along the same lines began to get together and the embryo of the scheme developed. The motives behind the early movement were not mercenary as some believed they must be in the hey day of Florida promotion. It was essentially a group of Floridians who were seeing a wilderness threatened with destruction and wished to save it as Florida's contribution to the nation.

The earliest manifestation of this conservative feeling in southern Florida was the purchase and preservation of Paradise Key as the Royal Palm State Park. In 1928, the Everglades Park idea began to take shape. In 1929, the Tropic Everglades National Park Association was formed with Mr. David Fairchild as its first president and Mr. Ernest F. Coe, of Miami, as chairman.

Through the years that followed, Mr. Coe was to take the brunt of the work. The Association was, and still is, primarily concerned with selling the Everglades idea and building up opinion in Florida and throughout the nation for the park. In 1929, the Florida legislature passed an act providing for the establishment of an Everglades National Park Commission which was to be an official state commission with a basic purpose of acquiring the necessary lands.

On October 9, 1931, a committee was appointed by the National Parks Association to study proposed park areas. A special subcommittee was appointed in 1932 to investigate the Everglades area. It consisted of Mr. Frederick Law Olmstead and Mr. William P. Wharton. They visited Florida early in the year and reported favorably upon the project (Senate Document No. 54, 72nd Congress, 1st session).

In 1933, the State of Florida set aside 325,000 acres of State owned land within the maximum boundaries of the Everglades Park specifically for national park purposes. In the following year, the Everglades National Park Commission was first appointed, with Mr. Thomas Pancoast, of Miami Beach, as chairman, and Mr. Ernest F. Coe as executive chairman. During 1935, the State of Florida made provisions for securing more State owned land for national park purposes and switched the Seminole Indian Reservation to a place outside the proposed park.

Various moves to get a bill through Congress culminated in 1934 and the enabling act was then passed with an amendment in 1937.

At times, there has been agitation to have the Service accept the area in part, but the Director has always refused to do so, cleaving to a policy of getting all or none. Points of contention have been to exclude Florida Bay and certain other smaller areas. In 1937, the boundaries were revised and a metes and bounds description sent to Governor Cone. It was insisted that Florida Bay be included.

In November or early December of 1937, Governor Cone appointed a new Everglades National Park Commission. Special changes made in the new commission was to place Mr. T. L. Palmer of Miami in as a chairman, to replace Mr. Ernest Coe and remove Mr. Porter of Key West. Mr. Coe continued as chairman of the Everglades National Park Association. No funds were allotted to the Commission.

During June or July of 1938, Mr. Palmer visited Tallahassee to see Governor Cone. He requested funds for his Commission and suggested that State lands be turned over to the Commission. At the present date (August 9, 1938) no funds have been allotted. The Governor has been ill for sometime. He answered a letter requesting him to turn over the State owned lands by saying that there were many things involved and it would have to be studied carefully before action is taken. It is hoped that when Governor Cone returns to his office again that there will be further action upon the suggestion.

At various times, Service officials have made inspections of the Everglades area. The list of those who have studied the proposition includes George Wright, Director Cammerer, Associate Director Demaray, Roger Toll, Assistant Director Bryant, Assistant Director Moskey, Regional Director Carl P. Russell, Mr. Ben H. Thompson, Mr. Victor H. Cahalane, Mr. William J. Howard, Mr. Clifford C. Presnall, and others.


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