Tag Archives: everglades

Pedro Ramos new superintendent of Everglades and Dry Tortugas

Pedro Ramos
Pedro Ramos

Superintendent Pedro Ramos has been selected as superintendent of Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks in Florida. Ramos has been serving as superintendent of Big Cypress National Preserve since January 2009.

If his name sounds familiar, it’s because Ramos was acting Superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a few months in 2014.  He was friendly, approachable and he got things done in the short time he was in the mountains. Everyone loved him in the Smokies and hoped he would stay but that was not to be.

It’s amazing to me that I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many park officials. Rangers, park partners, and volunteers make the parks run. It’s not just about the flora and fauna or even the cabins and chimneys.

At OVC with Lynda Doucette
At OVC with Lynda Doucette

People manage the parks. Superintendent Ramos will have his hands full with the challenges of the Everglades and Dry Tortugas.

Here’s what the press release said about the two parks.

Everglades National Park is the third largest national park in the lower 48 states. At 1.5 million acres (approximately 2400 square miles), it covers much of the southern peninsula of the State of Florida. Spanning the area from Naples to Miami and south to Florida Bay, it includes many different habitats, is home to 14 federally-listed threatened and endangered species. The park is located between the highly populated (nearly 8 million people) urban areas of Miami, Naples, and the Florida Keys. It has experienced significant ecological damage from water management decisions made over the last 130 years in south Florida. The National Park Service is a partner in the regional ecosystem restoration effort undertaken to improve the health of the Greater Everglades. Everglades National Park was designated a World Heritage Site in 1979, an International Biosphere Reserve in 1976, a Wetland of International Importance in 1987, and a Specially Protected Area under the Cartagena Treaty in 2012.

Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the most remote parks in the lower 48 states. Located 68 nautical miles from Key West, the park is accessible only by boat or seaplane. A cluster of seven islands (64,700 acres), the Dry Tortugas are composed of sand, limestone, and coral reef fragments and surrounded by shoals and waters to depths of 25 meters. The primary island, Garden Key, is home to Fort Jefferson, the largest masonry coastal fort in the country. Loggerhead Key also contains a historic district consisting of a lighthouse station and 19th Century Lighthouse that is still used as an active aid to navigation.

Guest Post – The Future of Everglades National Park

20150108KW1Lenny 002A

While driving and walking through Everglades National Park, Lenny, my husband, looked at the park through his eyes as a climate change scientist. Here’s what he saw:

Danny and I went to Everglades National Park today, the latest in a series of visits over the last forty years. As we entered the park and I looked out over “sea of grass,” I realize that when our granddaughters are our age, about sixty years from now, none of what I was looking at is likely to exist. Yes, there will be an area defined as Everglades National Park, but most of it will be underwater.

I’ve been a climate change expert for more than twenty-five years. I read all the reports and intellectually know that sea level is projected to rise one to four feet by 2100. I also know that storm surges and salt-water intrusion will dramatically change areas that are not directly flooded. But there is a difference between knowing something intellectually, and feeling it in your gut. Today, I felt the future impacts of climate change in my gut.

20150107EVERrockreef 026AOne of the cuter signs on the way to Flamingo, the end of the road in the Everglades, identifies Rock Reef Pass, elevation three feet. Another identifies the dwarf cypress forest, elevation four feet. If these places are not underwater by 2100, they will be soon afterwards.

To my surprise, the National Park Service is not highlighting climate change as one of the threats to the Everglades. None of the displays at either the main visitors center, at the park entrance, or at the smaller one in Flamingo, had any information about sea level rise. When I asked the ranger at Flamingo whether he had anything about climate change, he had to hunt for it. After a few minutes he gave me a brochure that appear to have been published in 2008, because it quoted old, smaller estimates of sea level rise, and a 2007 study by a researcher at the University of Miami on the effect of a two-foot sea level rise on the Everglades.

The impacts of two feet of sea level are dramatic. The western area of the park, which is now covered by mangroves, would be underwater. The mangroves would move north and east – displacing the pinelands and shallow marsh that now cover the eastern and central parts of the park. The American crocodile would thrive, but many of the bird and land animal species that now inhabit Everglades would have to migrate. The “sea of grass” would be gone forever.

After Miami, the calm of the Everglades

I thought I had lost it yesterday, driving and even riding through Miami. For those who think that Atlanta traffic is bad, I invite you to try I-95 through South Florida. But today, I regained my sanity in Everglades National Park.

The Everglades is a big place, most of it water. In this subtropical paradise, the elevation doesn’t go any higher than eight feet. We drove from the Homestead entrance into the park to Flamingo at the edge of Florida Bay, about 33 miles. This park is made for canoeing, not hiking, but we walked all the boardwalks that they offered. When we tried to walk the Christian Point Trail, a real dirt trail, we got eaten alive by mosquitoes. We were the Christians and the mosquitoes were the lions. We turned around quickly but not quickly enough. We’ll be scratching for days.

We walked the paved tourist trails but didn’t see any tourists. The trails seem to be ordered almost in altitude order: Freshwater marsh (the river of grass), Mahogany Hammock, Pineland, baldcypress, mangrove and Florida Bay.

Baldcypress in the Everglades
Baldcypress in the Everglades

I know baldcypress from walking the Mountains-to-Sea Trail through North Carolina, in the coastal plains. But here the cypress trees are scrawny and really bald.

The Everglades is otherworldly. The savannah really does look like a river of grass. But it’s the birds that stand out. They’re big and identifiable. We have egrets, herons, ibis, vultures.

Heron in the Everglades
Heron in the Everglades

And the birds don’t fly away when approached. Even when they cross the road, they take their time.  If I can photograph a heron with a small “point and shoot” camera, you know I was close.

The Everglades are the only place where alligators and crocodiles coexist. We saw several alligators floating lazily in a pond. No crocodiles, today, though.

The Everglades is mostly water, but the big problem is the lack of water.  As the park explains, before 1880, Lake Okeechobee used to overflow its southern rim in the rainy season. This started the waterflow to Florida Bay. Now the flow is interrupted by cities, roads, levees, dams, locks and pumps. The everglades must compete with people and agriculture and it’s not doing well.

Attracting Visitors

20150107EVERBISCtrolleyAEverglades National Park works hard to attract visitors. It offers a free trolley ride on weekends to three destinations from Homestead, the gateway town. You can take it to the Everglades visitor center, to Biscayne National Park or even a beach. Because it’s a joint venture with the city of Homestead, it’s well advertised. The park, itself, can’t advertise.

20150107EVERTarps 024AOnce in  Flamingo, the park also worries about your car.

It seems that vultures will eat the rubber around the car doors and windows. The park can’t shoo away the birds but they can try to protect your car. So they offer tarps to put over your vehicle. I guess that they realize that most visitors will find the Everglades a strange or even frightening place. And they try to smooth the experience, all in the name of attracting visitors to their national park.