A billion-dollar project in the Florida Everglades has saved the Kissimmee River, which has yet again become a refuge for local wildlife.
It all started in the middle of the last century when the Army Corps of Engineers straightened the course of the Kissimmee as part of flood control measures, draining the region of water. Before the canal project, the Kissimmee was a winding river of 100 miles where wildlife prospered.
Fast-forward to the 1990s, when officials took notice of the terrible ecological damage and started a plan to restore the river habitat. Just a couple of decades later, the improvements are profound.
Recent aerial footage of the river, shared by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), shows the Kissimmee curving through lush, green vegetation. Birds are seen traveling in flocks over their restored habitat.
“It’s a triumph of imagination [and] of partnership between the federal government and the state,” Estenoz told National Geographic.
Now, 44 miles of the Kissimmee have been saved, along with 20,000 acres of wetlands, where fish, birds, and other species are returning. Florida U.S. Rep. Darren Soto recently kayaked the river to see the stunning improvements. His voyage is part of the video shared by the SFWMD.
“It’s critical for habitat, it’s critical for recreation, and for our water supply. But, also, to clean the water going down through this notoriously windy river … ultimately out into the Everglades,” Soto says in the video.
It’s important work, with National Geographic noting that 1,000 people are moving to Florida each day, creating more demand for development. Protection for the Kissimmee and the surrounding habitat will be crucial to keep the river and other key ecosystems pristine.
The success so far is gaining attention on Instagram, where National Geographic’s post has nearly 400,000 likes from fans of the river’s resurrection.
“I’ve been here and seen the results. It’s absolutely amazing seeing the wildlife return,” one Instagrammer posted.
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