The Putrefied Forest

Southwest Florida Water Management District's practice of storing agricultural water in the Myakka River Watershed is killing the trees and destroying wildlife habitat. Plans are in place to alleviate but not solve the problem.

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Despite the problems and many unknowns that concern others, Swiftmud's Tom Dabney is sanguine about the Classie Farms and Pacific Tomato projects. He says the participants have been model corporate citizens. 'They were in compliance with their permits, so they didn't have to work with us. They could have litigated, but they've cooperated."

Dave Tomasko, too, seems to think well of Classie owner, John Falkner. 'He's a progressive guy," says Tomasko, and given corporate mores these days, that may be a rare find. Thus cooperation is the applicable buzzword for Swiftmud, rather than litigation, cooperation with industry, agriculture and developers to solve problems.

However, for Flatford Swamp, Crowley Museum and the Myakka River Watershed and State Park, the 'jewel" of Florida as it has been called, Chris Becker says, 'they haven't solved the problem. They've taken steps in the right direction, put in some projects, but they can't call it a solution." Certainly, the district feels the political necessity to look concerned, look fair and look effective, but it won't take long for the trees, the wildlife — the whole Myakka River system for that matter, to sort out what's real and what's not. The dead trees bear testament to past actions; what occurs in the future will also be written in the landscape.

Freelance writer Preston Whaley can be reached at [email protected].

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