River of Grass: Part III

Scientists say over the years, development in the "River of Grass" could have cost these animals their lives.

In the past three years, scientists say the "River of Grass" has made a comeback, thanks to the beginning stages of a multi-billion dollar restoration project and returning with it are the animals that call it home.

The Florida Everglades is a world-renowned nature lovers' paradise, but when the "River of Grass" began to disappear in the late 1940's, so did its wild inhabitants.

Lawrence Glenn, environmental scientist, said, “wintering water fowl declined by 90 percent, birds that were here were gone. The bass fishery collapsed. Wading birds disappeared, shorebirds disappeared.”

Ecologists say the threat of losing these animals and their habitat demands action. Through research and reconstruction of the Kissimmee River floodplain they say they're learning from nature itself how to bring back the river of grass.

Mark Cook, environmental scientist, said, “we're going to stock the whole area with fish, do different water levels."

Geoff West, environmental scientist, said, “most of the wading birds in the Southeastern United States come down here to build these supercolonies in the Everglades, and they rely on these fish to feed on and feed their young."

Scientists hope by bringing back the birds, they'll also be restoring plant life to the Everglades. They say by setting up these perches, they hope to attract birds that will naturally reseed the tree islands.

Dick Baker, fishing on the Kissimmee River, said, “see a lot of alligators out here, we probably saw a dozen of them since this morning, didn't we?”

Scientists say it will take years of hard work to restore the river of grass, but as they build it, the wildlife will follow.

Ecologists tell me more than 320 species have been affected by the changes in the everglades environment. There are currently about 15 endangered species that call it home.

The main thing scientists are urging is that people should not try to introduce non-native plants and animals to the everglades.

They say exotic plants, as well as pollution, are killing native species and ecologists want everyone to support conservation legislation without it they say their work wouldn't be possible.