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Ranching for Marine Conservation

Posted on October 13, 2009 07:03 by Ricky Booth


Last week I attended a workshop titled Just Add Water.  The objective, as stated in the agenda, was to “identify and explore promising strategies to promote landowner participation in Everglades and costal ecosystems restoration.”  Also on the agenda were code words like “Lake Okeechobee Watershed” and “conservation.”  Generally these terms mean you’re fixin’ to get screwed to Florida cattle ranchers.  With great skepticism, other cattle ranchers and I listened to speakers from the Ocean Research & Conservation Association (ORCA), a representative from the 10 County Coalition for Responsible Management of Lake Okeechobee, a field researcher from Resources for the Future (RFF), and others.  To my surprise these folks were looking for partners in conservation projects instead of condemning our cattle operations.I suppose a little background about the state of Florida’s plumbing is necessary.  In a nutshell - just north of Orlando, in the center of the peninsula, begins a system of lakes and creeks flowing south that eventually end up in Lake Okeechobee.  From there water travels out of the lake into either the Everglades or the Atlantic Ocean off the southeast coast via a few rivers, estuaries, etc.  (Two sentences, not to shabby!).  Over the last hundred years or so an intricate system of canals and dykes has been built to swiftly drain excess water away making it suitable for agriculture and urban development.  This was necessary due to the fact that Florida receives an average of 50 inches of rain per year, most of it coming in the 3 summer months, and the terrain is flat.  So what made it possible for all these folks to move to Florida – drained land or the invention of air conditioning?  That’s another topic. More...