Two core values guide our work at Friends of the Everglades: integrity and impact. Since our founding in 1969 by Marjory Stoneman Douglas, these principles have served as our moral compass as we advance our mission to preserve, protect, and restore the only Everglades in the world. That work started with our first campaign, to kill the Everglades Jetport (we won!), and we continue today across the Greater Everglades ecosystem.
Today, we’re proud to share our 2023 Impact Report, with the grateful recognition that YOU powered this important work. If you have donated recently, we thank you for helping us achieve these results. If it’s been a while, we invite you to make a contribution today — knowing Florida’s waterways and green spaces face daunting challenges that require persistence. As Marjory said, “Never give up.”
🌱 Advocated for Sugar Reform in the U.S. Farm Bill: Friends of the Everglades led a campaign to reform the outdated, environmentally damaging sugar industry protections in the Farm Bill. We enlisted state and national allies — from Key West to California — and took our cause to Capitol Hill, meeting with key members of Congress to push for an end to federal protections of sugar’s abuses. Our Sugar Reform Now petition drew more than 5,600 signatures, demonstrating broad support for this environmental-justice issue. The chaos in Congress has provided additional time to make our case as 2023 Farm Bill negotiations were delayed.
🔥 Spotlighted the Injustice of Sugarcane Burning: Sugarcane is burned before harvest on about 400,000 acres of the Everglades Agricultural Area each year, causing negative health impacts on residents downwind. Burns are permitted when winds blow west toward lower-income Glades communities south of Lake Okeechobee, but not when winds blow east toward wealthier communities. Following our Last Burn Seasonmini-documentary series, we collaborated with Stop the Burn campaign organizers to demand action from the Florida Department of Health.
🌊 Held State Legislators Accountable: One of our goals at Friends of the Everglades is to encourage politicians to recognize the long consequences of their actions. In that vein, we expanded our legislative accountability work in 2023, standing firm against environmentally damaging bills such as House Bill 1179 — which would have robbed local governments of the ability to protect water and wetlands. We also worked with allies to sound the alarm on the “Session of Sprawl” and expose a clandestine effort to undermine local fertilizer protections. Through in-person meetings and livestream events with politicians and advocates, we created awareness and action around issues that matter.
🔬 Grew our Science Expertise to Track Water Quality: Working with our Senior Scientist Dr. Thomas Van Lent, we monitored phosphorus levels in waters of the Everglades to hold the state of Florida accountable for meeting court-ordered pollution deadlines. These pollution limits stem from successful Clean Water Act litigation previously brought by Friends of the Everglades and the Miccosukee Tribe — one indication of our enduring commitment to water quality. We also met with state officials to elevate concerns voiced by the National Academy of Sciences about challenges the state faces in meeting its pollution deadlines.
💧 Applied Public Pressure for Better Water Management: Our advocacy efforts to improve water management in Lake Okeechobee reached a national audience through extensive press coverage, including in a front-page story in the New York Times. Our team continues to watchdog water-management decisions by the Army Corps of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District to ensure public health and the environment are prioritized.
🏡 Advocated for Responsible Growth: As co-founders of the Hold the Line Coalition, we have worked to protect the last remaining green spaces in Miami-Dade County (and beyond). We supported a legal challenge to approval of the South Dade Logistics & Technology District — a proposal to bring dense industrial development to hundreds of flood-prone acres of farmland in Homestead. We also continue to fight the State Road 836 boondoggle, which would damage Everglades wetlands and do little to improve commute times. And we filed an amicus brief in support of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s challenge of the Rivergrass development, which resulted in a settlement that protected more than 600 acres of Florida panther habitat.
🌟 Nurtured the Next Generation of Advocates: Our Young Friends of the Everglades youth education program reached new heights this year with the addition of a full-time professional educator and creation of the Karen Mashburn Environmental Scholars program. Our Everglades Learning Exploration Kits arrived at new schools across South Florida and the Treasure Coast, inspiring and empowering future stewards of the Everglades.
🎨 Collaborated on Art Initiatives for Awareness: We’ve embraced the power of art to connect with our community. We sponsored the Passages exhibition created by Artists in Residents in the Everglades (AIRIE), and hosted a gathering of our Friends at AIRIE’s Nest gallery at Everglades National Park, followed by a hike along Anhinga Trail. We also were invited by Hulu to speak on a panel at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin about the importance of a public monument to Friends of the Everglades’ founder, Marjory Stoneman Douglas. The monument will be installed at Peacock Park in Coconut Grove in the coming months.