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Dames of the Everglades

In celebration of International Women's Day, we're highlighting some of the greatest Everglades crusaders. In an interview with Mary Barley and Dr. Joan Browder, we celebrate their contributions and commitment to restoring and protecting America’s Everglades.

Marjory S. Douglas


Marjory Stoneman Douglas will be forever remembered for her passion and commitment to the Everglades. A renowned author, journalist, and advocate, she fought tirelessly for Everglades restoration until the age of 108. Her landmark book, “The Everglades: River of Grass,” was a lasting influential call for environmental activism. The “Grande Dame of the Everglades” has been a source of inspiration to many working to protect this unique ecosystem. Here are interviews with three remarkable women — a scientist, an advocate and a policy specialist — who are helping to carry on her legacy of protecting the Everglades.




Why is the Everglades worth protecting?

Every natural space deserves to be protected; humans have done a poor job of understanding the importance of these domains for our drinking water, for our recreation, for our place on the planet. The Everglades inspires me because of its uniqueness – the quiet, the recreational opportunities, the water, the people and more.

How did you first get involved in Everglades restoration?

I’ve been involved since the 1980s. My husband George and I had a house in Islamorada on Florida Bay, and we saw those crystal waters slowly turn to pea soup. Early on, we thought putting pumps in our boat basin would help. That shows how naïve we were. The bloom kept moving east to Islamorada and out to the Atlantic. We were very concerned. My husband became the first chairman of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and we learned so much from the science presentations. After George was killed in a plane crash on his way to meet with the Army Corps of Engineers about the Everglades, I became a central figure moving restoration forward.

With so many other organizations and agencies, why The Everglades Foundation?

Our mission focuses solely on America’s Everglades. Other conservation groups look at birds, wildlife, coastal reefs or national parks. They do great things but don’t have our clear focus on Everglades restoration.

What do you think is the biggest threat facing the Everglades?

We need strong political leaders at the local, state and national levels. After all, Everglades restoration is not something you can put out for bids and get the private sector to do it. Only government has the tools and resources to make things happen, with the guidance and active support of organizations like The Everglades Foundation.

How often do you get to visit the Everglades and do you have a favorite place?

I like to fish in Florida Bay, and I can see Everglades National Park from my backyard. It’s not more than a quarter of a mile from me. Through the years, I’ve spent a lot of time throughout the park, and probably 90 percent of it has been on the water. I also love yoga and fly-fishing. In addition, I serve on other boards working to improve America’s national parks and to protect fish in the wild.

What struggles have you experienced as a woman in Everglades restoration, and what advice do you have for women going into the field?

As a woman, it can be more difficult to get your voice heard. My advice would be to know your subject, stick with the facts and demand to be heard.

What keeps you going and how do you keep your passion alive?

I am never discouraged. Instead, I usually get outraged and that’s enough to make me continue fighting for the Everglades and against the other side. That might be a corporation, an agency or an individual who is not doing the right thing. So, I try to stay focused on how to correct and solve the problem.

Do you think the Everglades will be restored in the next 50 years?

I think it can be. It’s just a matter of having the political will to get it done, and that means we all have to stay involved in the fight.

What are your greatest hopes for the Everglades?

To have it in a better place before I die.

How do you hope to involve future generations in this fight?

The Everglades Foundation’s education program is vital to the future. We have to make the next generation understand why they should care about Everglades restoration. Eventually, these young people become adults and hopefully they understand that Everglades restoration is relevant to their families, their children, and their future, while preserving natural places for us and the critters that share our world.




Why is this a natural space worth protecting?

America’s Everglades is unique – there is nothing like it in the world. It’s a subtle landscape. You don’t see tall mountains, but even the little bit of elevation makes a big difference in the ecosystem. Along with the wading birds, crocodiles, panthers and other species, there are plants found nowhere else in the continental United States, particularly the dry hardwood forest and tropical hardwoods.

How did you first get involved in Everglades restoration?

I’ve been involved in Everglades Restoration since 1993. I was part of a science subgroup that wrote the first draft of federal objectives for restoring the Everglades. They were never presented or adopted, but they raised quite a ruckus at the time. The group’s work was an important step toward the eventual approval of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).

How do you keep your passion for restoration alive?

You have to be patient with the process. It takes projects a very long time to come to fruition. But I remain optimistic because we keep making progress. I just hope the money from the federal government keeps coming to keep CERP moving forward.

What do you do when you feel discouraged?

I shift and work on something else for very encouraged and inspired by all the young people who are coming in to the restoration process and their enthusiasm and dedication.

Can you point to a success story?

I was thrilled to hear about wading birds nesting in 2018. A supercolony reappeared, and the coots also came back to the enclosed lakes. That hasn’t happened since the 1930s and it is a direct result of the improved hydrology – a clear step forward in our efforts to restore the Everglades.

Do you think the Everglades will be restored in the next 50 years?

Yes, because so much has already been accomplished. Even though many goals are still only on paper, we have really come a long way.

Do you have a favorite destination in the Everglades?

My husband and I like to walk down the Shark Valley tower road from Tamiami Trail. We also ride our bikes or take the tram. Sometime, we go to the Anhinga Trail because it’s usually a great place to see wildlife. Other favorites are Mahogany Hammock, Pa-Hay-Okee and Paurotis Pond, where lots of wading birds nest.

How are you carrying on the legacy of Marjory Stoneman Douglas?

We are trying to keep Everglades restoration process moving forward and continuing to preserve and restore the Everglades.

What is your life outside of restoration work? What do you do on your days off?

I go to ballet class on Saturday mornings and dog obedience class on Saturday afternoons. I play Scrabble with my son and my brother-in-law and my eldest granddaughter whenever I get a chance. Besides spending time on the treadmill, I walk my two Dandie Dinmont terriers around the block.

Do you have any advice for future women who are going into the field?

Hold your own. Be persistent. Think for yourself. Speak up for what seems right to you and defend your points.

How can we involve future generations in this fight?

We need to provide educational outreach programs, including hands-on opportunities to experience the natural beauty of the Everglades. We also need to stay connected with the millions of young people around the world who appreciate the Everglades from afar.


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