Letters from the Issue of April 25, 2002

The Everglades, dead fish, and dictators

Everglades Restoration: It's Now the Big Boys' Game

And the little guys are needed more than ever: Joe Podgor and his record as a leader in Florida's conservation community are worthy subjects for New Times. But fundamental changes within Florida's environmental movement in the early Nineties primarily account for Joe's absence from the front line, with all due respect to his own travails as described by Mike Clary ("Adrift on a River of Grass," April 18). Those changes began with the settlement of state and federal litigation over Big Sugar's pollution of the Everglades. The settlement agreement in the early Nineties led directly to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, set into law by Congress and the president in 2000.

Prior to that settlement, ordinary citizens pushed government to action regarding the Everglades. Decades of mismanagement of fresh-water resources, beginning with the travesty of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' drainage system, had severely diminished the biodiversity and sustainability of the Everglades ecosystem. Big Sugar was using the Everglades as its toilet, flushing its pollution onto public lands. Joe Podgor was a vital and vibrant voice then. Prior to the settlement agreement, dedicated environmentalists like the late Jim Webb of the Wilderness Society had drawn up realistic solutions to restoring water flow to mimic the natural functions of the ecosystem. Once the settlement was agreed upon (not all environmentalists supported it), the role of grassroots activists changed, along with the plans on paper.

While some environmentalists saw the settlement agreement as an end to the exhausting, debilitating legal war waged by wealthy sugar barons, in fact there was no end to the lawsuits.

And political pressure, strongly dominated by Big Sugar and the home-building industry, actually increased. Major environmental organizations began making compromise a priority, building private/public partnerships and forging alliances with agriculture and development interests, all competing for the same slice of the Everglades. "Restoration" had become an insiders' game, an enormous hotel conference room, a place for career advancement, networking, and marketing of well-drilling services. It was now a green scrim behind which Big Sugar and Florida's exploding suburbs were being accommodated. Grassroots organizations and citizen activists like Joe Podgor were cut out.

But the game is not over yet. Every flaw in our democracy, as well as every ideal expressed in our Constitution, is reflected in the Everglades as clearly as towering thunderheads over a still, quiet Florida Bay. Nothing shows our strengths as a society so well as what we choose to protect. Now is the time for Everglades champions.

As Joe Podgor once said, "The Everglades is a test. If we succeed, we get to keep the planet."

Alan Farago

Coral Gables

Turk Not Murk

A transcontinental scolding: I want to let you know that the article by John Anderson about Turkish musician Omar Faruk Tekbilek ("Playing Is Praying," April 18) incorrectly used a photograph of Funky Green Dogs, the Miami-based dance-music group composed of Ralph Falcon and Oscar Gaetan (a.k.a. the Murk Boys) and vocalist Tamara Wallace.

Erwin J. Alvarez

San Diego

Editor's note: Sorry about that. Here's the Omar Faruk Tekbilek photo that should have run with John Anderson's story.

Maverick Newspaper Breaks Mold

Free weekly announces debut of "nice" issues:I looked for but did not find the following three headlines in the April 11 edition of New Times: 1) "Los Muñequitos de Matanzas Play Jackie Gleason Theater Without Incident!" 2) "Anti-Embargo Group Meets at Biltmore Hotel Without Incident!" 3) "New Times Shuts Down Due to Lack of Material!"

Oscar A. Sanchez

Coconut Grove

Hooked: I Saw It with My Own Eyes

It was at Haulover and it was ugly: Thanks to Mike Clary for his great article "Hooked on Death" (April 11). I had a chance to witness the problem firsthand just last week. I hosted out-of-town visitors who wanted to try offshore fishing, so I arranged a half-day trip on the Old Hat with Capt. Paul Lee. Captain Lee and I discussed the issue of killing fish. He pointed out that it wasn't necessary to kill a fish even if I wanted a mount.

We had a great trip and on the way back the subject came up again. Captain Lee told me that some boats really pressure the anglers to buy mounts, even killing fish needlessly so the angler would feel guilty if he didn't buy a mount.

My guests and I then stopped at Haulover Park for a picnic lunch and some kite-flying. While there one of the boats Mike Clary mentioned docked at the marina. The crew threw a large dead sailfish up on the dock and the captain began yelling at the angler because he wouldn't buy a mount. It was a very unpleasant scene. That angler will never again fish on a charter boat out of Miami. I'm betting he'll never return to Miami -- period. The captain was very rude.

Anyone going out on a charter should discuss with the captain ahead of time whether or not they want to kill a fish. A much better way for charter captains to add to their bottom line would be to sell anglers a videotape of the fight and release of the fish.

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