The Indian River Lagoon has been the site of most manatee deaths. This estuary is biologically diverse and has suffered from water quality issues and large-scale seagrass loss. Photo courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Although the hugely complex plan to rebuild the Everglades made significant progress in 2021 but Florida’s environment was still a challenge.Environmental managers are taking drastic measures to stop the mass death of manatees.Intersection is joined by Amy Green, WMFE’s environmental reporter, to discuss the highlights of 2021.
“The wildlife agencies say they are going to provide romaine lettuce for the manatees,” says Green.
“And this is not a decision the wildlife agencies take lightly. This is a very serious and a very significant step that the wildlife agencies are taking in response to a record die off this year of manatees in Florida.”
Green estimates that over 1,000 manatees have already died this year. The epicenter was located in the Indian River lagoon. Poor water quality has led to the loss of seagrass, which is the manatees’ main source of food.
“I think many of the advocates would say, usually the last thing you want is for a wild animal to be dependent on humans for food,” she says, adding that feeding manatees without a permit is still illegal.
“This is a very unusual step and a very unusual response to a serious problem.”
Green says there have been some milestones for Florida’s environment in 2021. One was the completion a project to restore historic paths of the Kissimmee River that feed into Lake Okeechobee, Lake Okeechobee, and the Everglades.
“What they did was basically restore those historic meanders of the Kissimmee River. And the goal is to improve water quality, both in the Kissimmee River and in Lake Okeechobee.”
Green’s reporting in 2021 also covered the complex science and policy of methane emissions from landfills, and an examination of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s environmental record.
Researchers have released birds from captivity back into nature as a success story for the endangered grasshopper sparrow.
“Nobody knew whether the sparrows would know how to breed in the wild and feed themselves and they’ve figured it out. And they’re thriving. And the wildlife agencies say that population now is beginning to stabilize, which is great news.”