FLORIDA'S freshwater wonder is facing a very grave threat as restoration efforts go terribly lagging.

For years, whenever I found myself in Miami with an afternoon to spare, I sneaked off west to where a road abruptly separates the urban grid from the Everglades.

Depending on time, I drove as deep into the saw gross void as I could, parked, got out and gazed up at tropical clouds, racing unimpeded by tree or building. THEN, usually, I burst into tears.

Sly and grass. Nothing else. it's a bit embarrassing to admit that anything in Florida - with its postcard palms plastered against post card sunsets, its coconut tanning oil and Lily Pulitizer pinks and greens., its schmaltz and buffoonery and hanging chads and ''Florida Man,'' with his love of Styrofoam, weapon and monster trucks - affects me this way. But it does.

''There are no other Everglades in the world. They are, they have always been, one of the unique regions of the earth, remote, never wholly known, Marjory Stoneman Douglas wrote in her 1947 book, ''The Everglades: River of Grass.''

''The spears prick upward, tender green, bright green, darker green, to spread the blossoms and the fine seeds like brown lace,'' she wrote. ''The grass stays. The fresh river flows.''

Where it's not diverted or blocked by human engineering, the water still trickles south at the rate of a quarter a mile a day, as it has for millenniums. But it is profoundly imperiled by pollution, human schemes to drain and control it, animal and plant invasives and sea level rise.

As salt water breaches the lime stone bedrock around the Florida peninsula and enters the aquifer, this natural freshwater wonder is threatened like never before..

In series of trips to South Florida in the last year, I explored the interior of the Rover of Grass, the only subtropical wilderness in North America, plunging into microclimates and diminishing habitats, traversing slices of the Everglades National Park and its adjacent neighbor, Big Cypress National Preserve, by car, kayak, foot and even looking down from a small plane at greens and yellows and blues, flecked thousands of white birds.

Yet after almost two weeks I still barely scratched around the edges of more than a million acres of wetlands with nearly 300 species of fish and about 360 bird species and more than 700 kinds of plants.

The honor and serving of this beautiful Travel Post and Publishing, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Nina Burleigh.


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