The late 1960s became a turning point for the Everglades with the proposal for expanding the Miami International Airport. The plan for the new jetport was to be larger than O’Hare, Dulles, JFK, and Los Angeles Airport combined. An area was chosen that was six miles north of Everglades National Park. In the U.S. Department of Interior’s study of the environmental impact of the jetport it read, “Development of the proposed jet port and its attendant facilities… will inexorably destroy the south Florida ecosystem and thus the Everglades National Park. The report was also known as the Leopold-Marshall Report.
The studies indicated that the proposed jetport would create 4,000,000 gallons of raw sewage a day and 10,000 short tons of jet engine pollutants a year, luckily the project meet staunch opposition. In the New York Times, it was called the “blueprint for disaster.” Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson wrote to President Richard Nixon: “It is a test of whether or not we are really committed in this country to protecting our environment.”
At 79 years old, Marjory Stoneman Douglas was persuaded to go on tour and give hundreds of speeches against it. She was joined by a coalition of hunters, conservationists, and citizen activists. This was the group that formed the “Friends of the Everglades.” Soon, Governor Claude Kirk withdrew his support for the project. President Nixon instead established Big Cypress National Preserve in a Special Message to the Congress Outlining the 1972 Environmental Program.
Located along the eastern boundary of Big Cypress National Preserve is the 24,960-acre Dade-Collier Training and Transition Airport. Only consisting of one runway and used as an aviation training facility it is also known as TNT.
In 1974, President Gerald Ford set up the Big Cypress National Preserve, as the nation’s first national preserve, set aside to: “assure the preservation, conservation, and protection of the natural, scenic, hydrologic, floral and faunal, and recreational values of the Big Cypress Watershed in the state of Florida and to provide for the enhancement and public safety thereof.”
There has been three known airplane crashes in the Everglades:
- 1963 – Northwest Airlines Flight 705
- 1972 – Eastern Air Lines Flight 401
- 1996 – ValueJet Flight 592
Photograph credit: USGS 1995