Everglades National Park Expansion Act

Because of all the recent news, I decided to find actual facts on this issue by going to Barbara Jean Powell, Jack Moller, and Freddy Fristkilly who were involved in the Everglades National Park Expansion Act about 26 years ago.

Unfortunately John and Mariana Jones had retired by 1986 from the Florida Wildlife Federation (FWF).  While they were active, they fought for access and making sure Sportsmen had representation. The expansion act was created in June 1989 and Sportsmen were not represented in Washington DC while this awful deal was on the table.

Sportsmen working with Everglades Coordinating Council (ECC) had asked to protect the land and save it from development.  To work towards making it a Wildlife Management Area (WMA).  Which would keep it within State lands and out of the federal government hands. Jack Moller and Dave Balman, at different times, went to Washington DC to testify before Congressional Committees about not putting these lands into the hands of Everglades National Park (ENP).  Environmentalist Nathaniel Reed spoke against the conservationist (Sportsmen’s) by strongly asking that the acquired lands go to (ENP),

Governor Bob Martinez at the time did not support the Sportsmen community, this may have been the reason why he was a one term Governor. If the Governor would’ve appointed a sportsman to the committee we would have a voice in Washington DC. He also recommended giving this land to the federal government.

Because sportsmen were not on the committee in the governor’s office, they told Congress that there were no deer or other huntable animals in the expansion area and it had little recreational use. They also promised to give Sportsmen’s everything we were asking for on the west side of Big Cypress called the Addition Lands, which we still don’t have everything they promised us today 23+ years later.

Because Colonel Brantly with the Game and Freshwater Fish Commission (GFC) tried to help Sportsmen, by sending a letter on commission letterhead stating just the opposite and with numbers of wildlife.  Governor Martinez was upset, so His staff and the anti-hunter groups were able to cut GFC budget by $1 million the following year. GFC learned their lesson and have never crossed a governor again.

The Sportsmens reached out to the Wilderness Society and Florida Audubon who were on Gov. Martinez Committee both  said they would make sure we were not cut out, which obviously they did not.

Governor Martinez had appointed Sam Poole as Executive Director of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) at the time and he was a board member of Florida Audubon. Mr. Pool met with the Everglades Coordinating Council (ECC) and he did not support making the expansion area a WMA because of hunting with guns right up to the future house development along Krome Ave. Sportsmen had pointed out that shotguns, bows and muzzle loaders could be used. Of course the committee ignored the Sportsmen’s position and put a National Park right up to these houses.

After the dust settles Sam Poole gave the ECC a special award for its commitment to land protection acts, on the Everglades. We were thankful Estus Whitfield and Sen Bob Graham pushed for language that gave access to those who previously used area by grandfathering in Airboaters that use the area and were 16 years of age in 1989 to continue using the area for the life, but would have to be on trails.

Sportsmen would’ve had a better chance if the businesses along Tamiami Trail giving Airboat Tours would’ve stuck with us and not their gut feeling.  They thought they would be able continue their business and believed the NPS BS.  They were told nothing would change and they could continue like they always had. Some say they are the biggest loser in this issue, but Sportsmen say the Gladesmen Culture is the biggest loser here today.

We’re proud to have the access we have had since 1989 it shows the Gladesmen Culture commitment in the fight this battle even though in the end we gave the most and received the least thanks to the federal government and politics.

A big thanks goes out to FAA affiliates the Everglades Coordinating Council and the Airboat Association of Florida for the continue 26 year battle to keep this area open to the Gladesmen Culture.

We must stay unified.  Airboat enthusiasts, clubs, manufacturers, and businesses must stick together and fight together as one, if the tradition is to carry on.

Bishop Wright Jr.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top