The Striking Endangered Everglades Snail Kite, and the Fight for Water. St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon
Everglades Snail Kite, Audubon web site. Photo by R. J. Wiley.
To me there are few birds as striking as the Everglades snail kite, especially the hooked-beaked, wicked-talloned, dark/red-orange colored male. They are raptors in the family of eagles, hawks and vultures. Skilled beyond belief they have specialized their hunting ritual to include one thing, the apple snail. They fly with what is described as the slow, head-down, gargoyle-like flight of a blue heron, but eyes lowered with radar vision positioned to see and seize their tiny prey. Beautiful, remarkable, a machine of God’s creation and nature’s adaptation. An inspiration to all.
Video: Photographer Mac Stone: (https://youtu.be/ZrVFZFa_W2Q)
Well almost all….
You may have heard that recently at the South Florida Water Management District the Snail Kite was discussed in light of pumping water from Lake Okeechobee. I do not know all the details of the meeting, but I would imagine it had something to do with the Endangered Species Act, the birds are endangered, and that the snail kite’s habitat. Their habit is around Lake Okeechobee, so if too much water were pumped out of the lake, more than likely their habitat and health would be affected. They are protected by federal law.
Another species also affected by the level of Lake Okeechobee is humans. We are not endangered. Homo Sapiens flourish in Florida. Especially those who are farming south of the Lake in the Everglades Agricultural Area, (EAA), 700,000 acres of sugar cane, vegetables, and citrus that is also reliant on the waters of the lake (to water their crops free of charge….) This area totally blocks the once free-flowing waters of Lake Okeechobee. Those waters were diverted to the estuaries such as the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatchee.
Do I sound like I have a chip on my shoulder? I do.
Also— I believe the aquifers under and surrounding the Water Conservation Areas south/outside of the EAA are connected to the people of Miami-Dade and their water supply.
This is huge….
Presently it is not raining that much and the lake is close to being near “water shortage,” for the Homo Sapiens as defined by the SFWMD.
I feel for everyone “hemmed in by this situation,” I really do but I also feel for the birds, for the lake, and for all of us who endure the wrath of a system that is totally altered and totally out of balance. A system we have created and can work harder to improve.
Perhaps situations like these will push us to develop more water storage south, north, and around the lake? To buy more land? To support Amendment 1? To exercise the option…or something like it?
Because we all know, with out the needed water levels, we too, like the snail kite are “dead.”
Although born at Travis Air Base, California, Jacqui considers herself a native of Stuart, Florida, having moved there at eight months old. Her father’s family, originally from Syracuse, New York, has lived in Stuart since 1952. Her mother is a 5th generation Floridian from Gainesville. Jacqui is a Daughter of the American Revolution.
Jacqui is journalism graduate of the University of Florida, and an education master’s graduate of the University of West Florida. She went on to teach English and German and later after a serious accident of breaking her neck, started selling real estate. Later, she ran for public office having served on the Town of Sewall’s Point Commission since 2008, and is former mayor. During this time she saw the opportunity to help showcase the work of a locally formed river group, the River Kidz, and this has been her passion ever. She incorporates youth/river education into her political work for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
Jacqui is the treasurer/secretary of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council; has chaired the Florida League of Cities Environmental and Energy Committee; was chair, and a six year member of the Treasure Coast Council of Local Governments; is an alternate for the Water Resources Advisory Commission for the South Florida Water Management District; and is a board member for Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation, in St Lucie County. She also serves as a board member (ex-officio) for the Rivers Coalition Defense Fund, and is head administrator for her beloved River Kidz, now a division of the Rivers Coalition.
Jacqui’s reach involves not only local, but state and federal government. In 2013, she served on Senator Joe Negron’s panel for the Select Senate Hearing on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee. In 2014, she actively supported the elections of both Senator Joe Negron and Congressman Patrick Murphy who have both been strong supporters of Indian River Lagoon issues. In 2015, she is part of the Florida League Cities Treasure Coast Advocacy team to influence and educate Tallahassee. Jacqui received the Everglades Coalition’s 2015 “John V. Kabler Award” for “Grassroots Activism” working to organize and educate the public, generating grassroots support for Everglades restoration.