Chris Wilhelm


Floridians have always had complex, contentious, and dynamic relationships with the Everglades. Most Floridians in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century saw the Everglades as a wasteland and supported draining useless swamp in order to facilitate economic progress. The publication of Marjory Stoneman Douglas' The Everglades: River of Grass (1947) and the advent of modern environmentalism encouraged Floridians to reconsider the identity and value of the Everglades, seeing it as a 'river of grass' that needed protection and restoration. These two views, however, only scratch the surface of the multiplicity of ways Floridians have perceived and interacted with the Everglades. Even before the publication of Douglas' seminal book, Floridians expressed a wide range of opinions on the value of the Everglades and the efficacy of drainage. Neither modern environmentalism, nor the ideals of the Progressive Era conservation movement neatly encompass the variety of perceptions Floridians had of the Everglades. Just as the Everglades is made up of a multiplicity of landscapes and ecosystems, Floridians have perceived and interpreted the Everglades in many different ways.