Caloosahatchee River Ecoscape

Caloosahatchee River Ecoscape, a photo by Carlton Ward Photography on Flickr.

We arrived at the American Prime property and set camp on the southern banks of the Caloosahatchee River. We have just spent more than three week traversing the vast natural habitats of the Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, Seminole Big Cypress Reservation, Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest and several beautiful cattle ranches. All of these place were functionally connected as one. Then we entered the narrowing wedge of remaining natural habitat leading up to SR 80 and and the Caloosahatchee River east of La Belle. I could feel the tight squeeze of human development on the land there for the first time in the Expedition and a real sense urgency that from a wildlife perspective, knowing that Florida south of that point would soon become an island isolated from the rest of the state if the American Prime property was not protected. We just learned that the land was going into foreclosure and at risk of being sold to developers and that the USWS, USDA, Nature Conservancy, and National Wildlife Refuge Association were scrambling to pull together a deal to save it. It all feels intensely pivotal, geographically and politically. Keith Fountain, director of protection for the Nature Conservancy, came to meet us at our camp and interviewed with Elam for the film. Joe and I successfully swam across the river from our camp. I'm sure most animals can do it too. Some restoration of the floodplain would certainly help bring natural ground cover closer to the water's edge. We also really need a series of wildlife underpasses under SR 80 along the southern edge of the new conservation property.

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