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Florida's Aquatic Preserves - PBS Documentary
by Niki Butcher from her 2003 Summer Newsleter - The Muck-About Journal

Elam Stoltzfus, of Live Oak Production Group, with Clyde
filming the PBS documentary on the Aquatic Preserves of Florida

Several years ago Clyde joined Bolton Dracket, Elam and Gary Lytton, Director of Rookery Bay, to create an educational video about Rookery Bay. At that time Clyde didn't understand the importance of the estuaries and Aquatic Preserves in Florida. It was the fervor of Gary Lytton that inspired him to learn more. Gary is a man with vision, and his exuberance for the estuary systems of Florida made him an inspiration.

One afternoon, while waiting for the clouds to form into some good photographic subjects, Gary, Elam, and Clyde began "dreaming" of projects that could be accomplished to help the people of Florida better understand their Aquatic Preserves. Many ideas came out of that discussion (Rookery Bay will be opening their new visitor center in Naples in 2004). One of the ideas that Elam and Clyde felt they could accomplish was a PBS documentary on the Aquatic Preserves of Florida, combined with a traveling exhibit of Clyde's photography, and a book on the Preserves. Some people dream; others make dreams come true. It took Gary and Elam about three years of hard work to make this dream come true.
(For information on Rookery Bay:

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When Elam called to tell us the funding had finally come together for the project, we were ecstatic! Combining Clyde's love for photography with his love for being out on the water was a dream come true! Not only is there personal joy in being involved in the project, but the "whip-cream" on the top is that Clyde can participate in helping the people of Florida understand the importance of keeping our Aquatic Preserves pristine.

Clyde and I have lived in Florida for only twenty-two years. During that time we have seen the population explode beyond our belief. Because people love to be near the water, the vast majority of the population growth has taken place along the Florida coastline, or other bodies of water. Having raised our children on a sailboat, we understand the mystical magnet that water creates, but if Florida is to survive into the future, we have to be careful about how much development we allow on the water's edge where it destroys Florida's estuaries. It was Eric Freyfogle who commented on our behavior toward our wetlands by saying, "We are cutting out our kidneys to enlarge our stomachs…"

Most estuaries are near shore waters, such as bays and lagoons, where fresh and salt water mix. Other estuaries are fresh water. Their unique environmental conditions create very delicate and productive ecosystems. Estuaries provide many species of birds, mammals, fish and other wildlife places to live, feed and reproduce. They provide habitat for an estimated 75% of America's commercial fish catch and 80-90% of the recreational fish catch. Many species of fish and shellfish rely on the sheltered waters of estuaries as protected places to spawn, giving estuaries the nickname of "Nurseries of the Sea".

Besides serving as important habitat for wildlife, the land that buffers many estuaries provides other valuable services. Water draining from the uplands carries sediments, nutrients and various pollutants. As the water flows through freshwater and saltwater marshes, sediments and pollutants are filtered out. This filtration process creates cleaner and clearer water, which benefits both people and marine life. Wetland plants and soils also act as a natural buffer between the land and the ocean, absorbing floodwaters and dissipating storm surges. This protects upland organisms, as well as valuable real estate, from storm and flood damage. Mangroves, grasses and other estuarine plants also help prevent erosion and stabilize the shoreline.

The Aquatic Preserves of Florida have been created to save the natural beauty and habitat of our environment, making Florida a healthier state in which to live. All but five of the forty-two preserves are located on the coast in the shallow waters near shore. The Florida DEP choose twelve Aquatic Preserves to be featured in the documentary:

1. St Joseph Bay
2. Rainbow Springs
3. St. Martin's Marsh
4. Charlotte Harbor
5. Estero Bay
6. Cape Romano - Rookery Bay
7. Loxahatchee River - Lake Worth Creek
8. Indian River
9. Mosquito Lagoon
10. Wekiva River
11. Nassua River, St. Johns Marsh,
12. Pumpkin Hill Creek (Jacksonville area)

The Florida DEP, NOAA, and Progressive Energy are funding the PBS Documentary on the Florida Aquatic Preserves. Sandy-White Boats is providing Elam with a boat. The estimated release of the documentary is early 2004. We will announce the release of the film, as well as dates for exhibits through our E-mailing list. If you'd like to be on our emailing list click here. For more information about the Aquatic Preserves:

To read more by Niki Butcher visit - Big Cypress Gallery website

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