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Volunteer experts and grass-roots workers have been the key to the environmentalists' most important victories. Or, as Carr puts it, "When it comes to the final battles, the bodies have to be there." At 65, she's now directing her efforts toward increasing the clout of the Florida Defenders of the Environment, an organization she helped found in 1969. "The objective then was to defeat the canal," she says, "but now the thing I'm most excited about is trying to expand the organization. We plan to hire an executive director and a couple of assistants so we can make the best use of our volunteer specialists. And we want to open a year-round office in Tallahassee because we think there ought to be at least one environmental center in the state capital."
There is still much work for enthusiasts like Carr. For instance, in a second special supplement in December, the Sentinel Star reported that the phosphate mining industry, which is based primarily in central Florida's Polk County, currently uses 200 million gallons of water daily, almost four times as much as the city of Orlando. But the quantity of water consumed, the pollution by waste of yet more water and the miles of landscape scarred by slime ponds and gypsum piles are insignificant compared to the uncomputed damage to human and animal life that may result from exposure to radioactive by-products of the mining operation. One Florida organization, Manasota 88, based in Sarasota, south of Manatee County, is making the problems created by phosphate mining its major concern.
Countless conservation groups have sprung up in the decade since environmental awareness took root in Florida. And countless thousands of individuals have joined the activist ranks. These crusaders believe that, though parts of Florida are ruined forever, other areas can be at least partially repaired, such as the Everglades system, which is vital to south Florida's human and wildlife populations, and still other parts can be preserved, such as the Apalachicola, the last major undisturbed river and estuary in the state.
The fate of Florida depends on these environmentalists as well as on its well-informed hunters and fishermen because they're light-years ahead of everyone else, including government, in the drive to keep Florida livable.
A central figure in this battle is Nathaniel P. Reed. 47. of Jupiter Island. 25 miles north of Palm Beach. A former assistant secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks in the Nixon and Ford administrations. Reed is wealthy, articulate and extraordinarily energetic. Sooner or later anyone who messes around with Florida's environment has to reckon with him. "Nat Reed is a 2,000-pound gorilla." says Jones of Florida Wildlife Federation.
An avid birder and lepidopterist and a skillful hunter and fisherman since boyhood. Reed went north to prep school and college and then served four years as an Air Force intelligence officer until his discharge in 1959. "The change in Florida in those four years was so dramatic I couldn't believe it," he says. Reed traveled the state and was appalled by what he saw. "I became totally incensed about what was happening. I started speaking to Rotary Clubs and local Audubon chapters and wrote a great many letters. Now there are hundreds of thousands of people who are willing to raise hell, but they weren't there 20 years ago. I was regarded as a lunatic or the rich kid who didn't want to share Florida with anyone else. I actually got thrown out of one water board meeting."
In 1966 Reed met Claude Kirk, the GOP gubernatorial candidate that year. No Republican had ever won the governorship of Florida, but after Kirk told Reed that he was "going to change everything in Tallahassee." Reed helped raise campaign money and. with Lyman Rogers, a sporting-goods salesman and angler, wrote Kirk's position paper on natural resources. When Kirk was elected. Reed served as the governor's special assistant for four years. "I did everything from opening his mail to troubleshooting." Reed says. "For the last two years I also served as chairman of air and water pollution control. Things were so bad that even the polluters wanted some guidance. Kirk was the first governor to take a stand for conservation. He became the strongest proponent of the Biscayne National Monument. He was against the barge canal and the dredging of the Kissimmee River."
In 1969 Reed, Rogers and others organized Conservation '70s to serve as a lobbying group in the legislature and as a result, the next year the legislature passed 41 of 55 proposed environmental bills. Although some of the legislation was weak, the new laws gave much-needed muscle to Florida's environmental movement by providing funds for sewage-treatment plants, penalizing polluters, creating a state wilderness system and establishing setback lines for beach construction.
In 1970, after Kirk lost the governorship to Democrat Reubin Askew. Askew asked Reed to stay on in his same role. He remained for seven months and then moved to Washington and the Department of the Interior. Askew kept the momentum going for reform, appointing a 15-member task force to recommend legislation. In 1972 the legislature passed four important bills: the so-called Endangered Lands Act, the State Comprehensive Planning Act, the Water Resources Act and the Environmental Land and Water Management Act. These constituted the last big burst of legislation. The last two were landmarks at the time. No other slate had anything comparable in scope.
When Graham, who is generally credited with getting the bills through the state senate, was elected governor in 1978. environmentalists were full of hope. But the Democrat from Miami Lakes has been a disappointment to many of his supporters.