The S.A.F.E.R., or South Florida Anglers for Everglades Restoration, annual benefit tournament was again a testament to their success. The success was not in the number of entries (down slightly from 2006), or the fact that the BASS team boated a limit (though not even enough weight to make the top ten). The success of the event was the mere fact that the tournament even occurred at all. If it were not for S.A.F.E.R, these fabulous Everglades canals would likely have ceased to exist.
Everglades restoration has long been supported by south Florida anglers, despite the multi-billion dollar price tag. Anglers recognized the devastating impacts human population growth, development and agricultural practices were having on the once pristine Everglades ecosystem, and they were among the voices for change. Unfortunately, that change brought with it the potential to destroy fishing access to this incredible resource.
Basically, in order to restore the Everglades, you need to restore the natural sheet flows. These sheet flows are essentially broad expanses of shallow water that flow steadily but slowly across the Everglades, to the south, east and west. For the last several decades during the spring and summer, water flows have been diverted into canals, bound by levees, directly to their salt water destinations. This diverted water during a critical time of the year is slowly killing the native plants that are the heart of the "Sea of Grass".
Early restoration proposals called for removing the levees and backfilling the canals in order to restore the natural flows. Although S.A.F.E.R. in fully supportive of restoring the sheet flows that nourish the Glades, the canals have provided access to hundreds of miles of exceptional fisheries and are worth saving. Fortunately, S.A.F.E.R. convinced the powers that be to look at other alternatives, like removing the levees, but without back filling the canals. Preliminary hydraulic models indicate that their suggestion has merit.
So for now, the canals remain open to thousands of anglers looking to catch their first ten-pound bass, and we owe it in large part to the efforts of S.A.F.E.R. Comprised of local anglers, many of which are BASS Federation Nation members, the key to their success has been their willingness to get involved, an open minded approach to alternative solutions and their enduring persistence. They are a testament to what a few anglers, standing together, can accomplish on behalf of the resource and our sport.