Clyde Butcher, Photographic Artist
"Big Cypress Swamp and the Everglades have always been at the heart of my photography. My first baptism in swamp water was in the Big Cypress Swamp, where I felt a primeval presence I had never felt before. It was as though I was entering a time warp where the beginning and ending of time were combined together in the waters of the swamp…a feeling that we humans are part of a greater whole than we could ever imagine.
"Big Cypress Swamp is one of the last pristine wilderness areas of Florida. It has not yet endured the overly aggressive footprint of man. Big Cypress is a true wilderness, a place where nature is still natural. We have a jewel in our midst and keeping Big Cypress healthy is a legacy we must pass on to our children and their children. It is important for us to think beyond ourselves." –Clyde Butcher
While the Everglades ecosystem stretches from the middle of the Florida peninsula to Florida Bay, the Western Everglades occupies about one third of the area to the southwest of Lake Okeechobee. It is made up of a collection of protected lands, the largest of which is the Big Cypress National Preserve. The Big Cypress Swamp and the Western Everglades are ecologically distinct from the area of the Everglades National Park to the east. The Everglades National Park lands are those referred to by Marjorie Stoneman Douglas as the “River of Grass.” During the wet season, they are primarily a saw grass marsh and watershed fed by the Kissimmee River and Lake Okeechobee. The Western Everglades are one to two feet higher in elevation and so have much more dry land and a greater variety of ecosystems. The water source of the area is local rainfall, therefore the Western Everglades has not yet suffered much of the environmental damage caused in Everglades National Park by restricted water flow and pollution from agricultural run off.
Among the many jewels of the Western Everglades is Fakahatchee Strand, an area with the largest variety of native orchids in North America, and the Florida Panther National Refuge, dedicated to protecting the last native Panthers east of the Mississippi, and their habitat. While much of the Western Everglades is now protected a surge of growth and development in Southwest Florida in the past decade has begun to put this pristine environment in danger. With this exhibition, Clyde Butcher wishes to bring new public attention to the successes of Everglades preservation and remind all of us, with his inspiring photographs, what a treasure we have in the relatively unspoiled Big Cypress Swamp, Fakahatchee Strand, and the Western Everglades as well as the greater Everglades ecosystem.
Connie Bransilver, Conservatyion Photographer
"The totality of the images in the Guardians of the Everglades® installation gives this conservation story emotional appeal. It connects, inspires, and engages us, and paired with solid science and strong grass-roots conservation support, I believe we can protect our unique heritage." ~Connie Bransilver