For more than 20 years, the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed has been cleansing Southwest Florida’s water, educating its children, sheltering its wildlife and providing recreational opportunities for its people. But what will the next 20 years hold? Will CREW be able to expand beyond its 60,000 acres and enhance its offerings? Or will the fervor for environmental preservation wane in the face of tough economic times and shifting political priorities?
In 1974, a new park was added to the National Park system -- the Big Cypress National Preserve. Unlike national parks, the country's first national preserve allowed traditional uses of the land, including hunting, air boats, swamp buggies -- even oil drilling. It was a landmark conservation compromise that allowed unprecedented resource usage, while protecting the vast swamp from development.
The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge complex represents promises kept: a promise to nature and the earth to preserve and protect its habitat and its inhabitants, and a promise to the American people to make this 8,000-acre sanctuary available for their enjoyment, reflection and education. It is a fragile, carefully orchestrated balancing act. But the result is a true partnership between man and nature that bears the name and the stamp – literally and figuratively -- of an unassuming political cartoonist from Iowa who led the initial charge to save Sanibel Island from unbridled development and exploitation.