Big Cypress National Swamp


ASB crew members hard at work. Back (left to right): Nick, Chris, Tom. Front: Kenneth.

Officially, Big Cypress is a National “Preserve”, but why should we be so bland? Why not call it what it really is? After all, we have national forests, national grasslands, national seashores, national lakeshores, etc., etc., etc. The benefits of these descriptive names are many. Let me start by listing just a few.

1. Visitors would instantly know their location.

No need for maps, compasses, interpretive rangers, or fancy-schmanzy GPS devices. When they see a swamp, they will have found their destination, easy as that.

Even alligators perish in this tough environment.

2. Distinguishing native species from invasives.

Does it swim? Does it fly? Does it look like it can swim or fly? Then it probably belongs here. This general rule of thumb would forever solve the ranger’s education dilemma of explaining the concept of a non-native species to a visitor. Gators = yes. Boars = no.

3. Are your feet constantly soaking wet? You’ve probably arrived in Big Cypress National Swamp.

Check your calendar. If it’s anywhere between June and December, your feet should probably be underwater in BigCy (unless you’re cheating, and standing up at a man-made visitor center, or the like). If it’s between January and May, you’ll have a bit of mud on the bottom of your boots. No harm done.

4. Making it famous.

Preserve rangers boast of the “River of Grass” being the world’s largest wetland ecosystem. Coupled with the Everglades, Big Cypress forms an integral part of this whole, allowing for the southward flow of freshwater from Central Florida into the “lungs” of the south. Whereas “Ever-Glades” tells us a bit about what to expect of the region, “Big Cypress” just implies we’ll find a type of tree, and “National Preserve” simply lets people know the federal government has something to do with this project. “Big Cypress National Swamp” gives paramount, national importance to a chronically undervalued ecosystem.

Preserve botanist Dr. Jim Burch.

5. Getting back to its roots.

Historically, this region was named the Big Cypress Swamp. Where that comes from? I’ve yet to discover. Together with the National Preserve, the region comprises national wildlife refuges, state forests, wildlife management areas, and our humble abode for the week, Collier-Seminole State Park. Although the entire region may not be have been included within the Department of the Interior’s preserve property, they should still do the historical name justice. Given their historical mantra and all, it would be a wise move.

6. Mosquitoes, Mosquitoes, Mosquitoes

Naming thousands of acres a “national swamp” would definitely detract some visitation, especially by those who may be mosquito-averse. The National Park Service would solve its over-visitation issues with the single stroke of a pen. Anyone thinking of coming to visit a “national swamp” in the middle of summer would instantly change their mind, and allow others to enjoy the true wilderness of the place, undisturbed.

Attentive students listening to Big Cypress Acting Superintendent J.D. Lee.

7. Prevent future airport plans.

In short, the impetus for the park’s creation arose due to an environmentalist-conservationist-hunter-fisherman-concerned citizen coalition opposing the development of a mega-airport, to be located halfway between Miami and Naples, in the heart of the treasured ecosystem. Although Big Cypress’ designation as a national preserve provides strong protection against future development, ephemeral preservation is not guaranteed. National Parks have been disbanded. Conservation lands have been developed. But naming it Big Cypress National Swamp? That’s some strong word choice. In choosing your vacation destination, would you fly into South Florida Swamps International Airport?

That’s all for now. Any more ideas? I’m open to suggestions.

Bzzzzz, Bzzzzz, Bzzzzz,