Eighty-five years ago today, on May 30, 1934, Congress established Everglades National Park.
The park is one of the most unique national parks in the country. It is 1.5 million acres of what is commonly referred to as “swampland,” but actually contains at least eight different ecosystems, including freshwater sloughs, marl prairies, hardwood hammocks, pinelands, cypress, mangrove, coastal lowlands, and estuarine. These ecosystems and habitats support a collection of species not found elsewhere in the world.
Everglades National Park is designated as an International Biosephere Reserve, a Wetland of International Importance, a World Heritage Site, and is an area protected under the Cartagena Protocol. It has been affected greatly by population growth in South Florida and serves as a place of study and warning for issues such as climate change, threatened and endangered species, drainage and disturbed lands, and invasive and nonnative species of plants and animals.
The iconic king of the Everglades is, of course, the alligator, but many other plants and animals abound. A variety of snakes, mammals (including the severely endangered Florida panther), amphibians, reptiles, fish, and insects can be found year-round. Birding is also quite popular, especially during the winter months. My favorite iconic Florida birds are the roseate spoonbill, wood stork, and osprey. Interestingly, despite being associated with Florida and tourism, flamingos were considered nonnative and invasive for a long time. However, a recent studyhas questioned that designation and they may be native to Florida after all.
Interested in learning more about the establishment of national parks? The Law Library of Congress now has all public laws available by chapter from 1789-1950. You can browse by congress or use the search and facets function to narrow your desired law by subject. This search will allow you to see the 113 statutes tagged with “national parks.” We are still working towards completing this historical collection and adding more functionality in the future!