Everglades Trust’s aim is to defend nature

Group calls attention to restoration efforts

For some people, heat, mosquitoes, alligators and swamps are what come readily to mind when the Everglades is mentioned.

But not for members of the nonprofit Everglades Trust. They think about the Everglades in a different way.

Mary Barley, the chairman of the Everglades Foundation and the president of the Everglades Trust, says her organization has helped bring national attention to the Everglades and the need to clean up its water and enable it to flow freely. For decades, the Everglades suffered as water was diverted to farms and ranches and was held back from towns and cities to prevent flooding. Reversing that comes under the category of Everglades restoration, a decades-long project that has moved unevenly.

“I would consider us defenders that try and get enough money to support this cause’s needs,” said Barley.

The Trust, she said, seeks restoration of the Everglades based on sound science not political interests. Her office is in Islamorada in the Florida Keys.

It was created in 1994 with the same main  objectives it pursues now: keeping water in the Everglades and in much of the rest of Florida safe and clean. It has been a big challenge. Federal and state officials say Lake Okeechobee has been heavily polluted by fertilizers, pesticides and animal waste that run off from farms and towns on the edge of the Everglades.

The work has been costly. Estimates on the cost of cleaning up the Everglades and restoring its natural flow range into the billions. Florida has about $100 million earmarked for the project, and the federal government has allocated billions of dollars.

Barley said the Everglades Trust has tried to supplement the government’s work and has campaigned for financial support.

“We use this money not just to support Everglades foundations and their tools, but to continue to have the ability to pay for lobbyists in Florida and even Washington, D.C.,” Barley said.

The work in Florida has been challenging, she said. “We get set back by government apathy and the government protecting polluters by not making them clean up their own mess.” The government, she said, makes “taxpayers  pay to clean it up instead.”

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