Distributor:  Bullfrog Films
Length:  87 minutes
Date:  2018
Genre:  Expository
Language:  English
Grade level: 10-12, College, Adult
Color/BW:  Color
Closed captioning available
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An award-winning documentary about the federal government's ban on Florida's iconic airboats in much of the Everglades.


GLADESMEN: The Last of the Sawgrass Cowboys is an award-winning documentary about the federal government's ban on Florida's iconic airboats in much of the Everglades. The measure is part of the world's largest and most expensive effort to repair a damaged ecosystem, a vast river of sawgrass and cypress swamps that has been ravaged by more than a century of development, pollution, and other environmental degradation. The outcome will determine the future of the region's water supply and its ability to withstand rising sea levels. It may also lead to the demise of the Gladesmen, who for more than a century have hunted alligators and gigged frogs, sought peace on isolated tree islands, and taken refuge from the ever-increasing development that has carved up the Everglades.

'Gladesmen presents the conflicted flashpoint of deeply contested ecologies around the culture wars over access to Florida's Everglades in the era of climate change and sea level rise. The film deftly reveals larger fissures in American society through the examination of how folks from all sides stake their claims to American wildlands. Inflected with nostalgia, worry, anger, affection, condescension, indignation, and righteousness every voice in Gladesmen clamors in a cacophony that masks the deeper divisions that threaten to drown us all. Gladesmen creates a compelling teachable moment around a singularly American political discourse.' Bernard L. Herman, Professor, Department of American Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

'Gladesmen offers rare insight into a community long-associated with the Florida Everglades, though now pushed to the margins as conservation efforts become increasingly exclusionary and critical to the ecosystem's long term survival. The film offers no easy answers, instead providing a thoughtful platform to explore the consequences of environmental restoration and protection to those who call this landscape home. A great film for environmental studies classes, while its engaging story and vivid imagery would appeal to a much broader audience.' Dr. Laura Ogden, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Dartmouth College, Author, Swamplife: People, Gators, and Mangroves Entangled in the Everglades

'Great movie - GLADESMEN shows the ever-present conflict between the needs and desires of modern society and those of old-time culture.' Lee Clarke, Professor of Sociology, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

'Gladesmen provides a striking portrait of the few remaining gladesmen and women whose families for decades have plied the Everglades sawgrass for sustenance and the freedom of riding the wind through the River of Grass. But it also tells why their uninhibited lifestyle must change as the south Florida ecosystem succumbs to a century of human attempts to 'tame' this dynamic water-driven region. Gladesmen provides a focal point for appreciating the cultural and environmental impacts of an ill-conceived manipulation of nature for short-term gains. Its perspective is challenging and will undoubtedly lead to much classroom discussion.' Dr. C. Kenneth Dodd, Jr., Courtesy Associate Professor, Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida

'Gladesmen is a kaleidoscope of the lives of those men, women, and children who live full-time within the Everglades and how they contribute to Florida and the rest of the nation...This film demands that the National Park Service now create a compromise, just as it did in the founding of the Big Cypress National Preserve, and support its Gladesmen today, just as the Gladesmen supported the Park in its hour of need 40 years ago.' Richard Weisskoff, Professor and Chair of International Studies, University of Miami, Author, The Economics of Everglades Restoration: Missing Pieces in the Future of South Florida

'Eye-opening, poignant and captivating...The film carefully balances a sympathetic portrayal of embattled Gladesmen - airboaters threatened by the federal government's recent decision to block their access to Everglades National Park - with a searching discussion of the effort to restore the ecological health of the Everglades. The storytelling is both engaging and enlightening, and there is much to learn here.' Raymond Arsenault, Professor of Southern History, Founding Director of the Florida Studies Program, University of South Florida, Co-editor, Paradise Lost? The Environmental History of Florida

'Recommended...Change as a constant is a theme throughout and viewers are left with feeling that these filmmakers documented Gladesmen lifestyle in the nick of time.' Bonnie Jo Dopp, Educational Media Reviews Online

'A nuanced and balanced look at a controversial Everglades restoration decision...The film humanizes the involved stakeholder groups, from conservationists concerned with long-term disruption to natural flow paths, to Native Americans for whom the value of airboating is both cultural and practical, to multi-generational families for whom the Everglades is the core of their identity...The film provides a warning of deeper repercussions, showing how a decision such as this can turn groups of people otherwise naturally aligned with a mission of conservation against the institutions tasked with Everglades restoration. I found the film an enjoyable and thought-provoking experience and wouldn't hesitate to use it in a classroom setting or among friends to stimulate discussion.' Dr. Laurel G. Larsen, Associate Professor, Geography and Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Berkeley


Made in Miami Award, Miami Film Festival
Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital
GlobeDocs Film Festival
Monadnock International Film Festival
Canes Film Festival
American Film Festival (Poland)
Key West Film Festival


[orchestral music]

- [Keith] A lot of
people ask me, you know,

what's it like being on an airboat,

driving an airboat.

I go, "Have you ever ridden a motorcycle?"

They go, "Yeah."

I say, "Have you ever got on one with real

isolated roads, where
there's nothing but you

and the two green lines on
either side of the road?"

They say, "Yeah."

"So add a couple more cylinders

and take the green lines away."

That's the closest thing
to flying you can get,

and not leave Earth.

[engine roaring]

[electric guitar music]

- [Donnie] We actually run these airboats

to stick these frogs.

You see a pair of eyes,
you go towards them,

try to stick 'em and pirouette around him.

Go on to the next one.

The slower you go, the more you see.

I put it in the bucket and
hopefully we'll get to eat 'em.


[engine chugging]

I feel like I'm a keeper
of the Everglades.

It's my heart and soul.

I've just been coming here all my life

and being able to venture
out and see everything.

So when they take all this away,

then all of us are gone.

Then nobody's going to be able to take

the next generation out
to see what we see--

my Everglades.

- [David] This one right
here, that's Orion.

His sword points due north.

- And up there somewhere
is the Big Dipper.

That's how we find our way around.

- Here we are, probably 14
miles from downtown Miami,

out in the middle of the Everglades,

sticking frogs.

Best camaraderie in the
world is right here.

- [David] Another glorious
evening of froggin'.

Now to go clean 'em.

- [Donnie] Sometimes you
get 40-50 pounds of legs,

sometimes 20 pounds of legs.

I probably killed 20 deer back here.

Hogs, maybe a good handful or more.

Okay, we take this little bag of frogs,

reach down and you pull a frog up.

These dark black ones are the bigger ones.

These are the females.

Actually they all lay eggs,
from what I've been told.

I guess we could call him a he-she.

But he's all speckled up.

Make the cut.

Pull the pants.

Turn him over.

In the bucket.

That's it for me.

What a wonderful night.


[gavel banging]

- [Keith] Ladies and gentleman, welcome to

the Airboat Association of Florida.

- [All] I pledge allegiance to the flag

of the United States of America.

And to the republic for which it stands,

one nation, under God, indivisible,

with liberty and justice for all.

- [Keith] Thank you
everybody, please be seated.

We gotta make the best of this, folks.

We've got to make the
best of this, and we will,

and we will come out on top.

It's not gonna to be
resolved in this room.

It will be resolved by letters
to your state representatives

and your congressman.

- Correct.

- That's who you gotta write to.

Now, I can't particularly
say I'm excited about

any one of these particular politicians

one way or the other, but,

if they're gonna get on my train

and they wanna walk the
gauntlet and go up there

and blow the whistle, then you know what?

Welcome aboard.

Bottom line, the U.S.
Department of Interior

now owns more land than it is capable

of maintaining to begin with.

The best way for them to maintain it

is to keep you out of it.

That's gonna be the final line.

If they can't give us the
rights to run back here,

I'll go to my grave
fightin' for that easement.


And now is the time for us to turn around

and get word out to the
other airboat clubs.

And all of a sudden, all these congressman

and representatives from
Florida are gonna be

gettin' hammered by all these other

congressman throughout
the United States, on

"What is going on in the Everglades

that it's coming to my
attention in Arizona,

in Colorado, and in Nebraska?

What can we do to change this?"

That's how it's gonna get done.

But when you get as many people involved

as we know we can get involved now,

it's not just a voice, it's a choir.

We're gonna be heard.


I'd like to call some people
that have come before the board

and they're back here to present

themselves to the general membership

for petitioning to become a
member of the Airboat Club.

If you would, addressing
the general membership,

explain why you would like
to join our organization.

- Now they're closing down almost

every place to go airboat riding.

I wanna be part of-- of
the people that fought,

for the reasons that they try now

to close us down, I want to be here.

I've been raised in the Everglades.

And I think this association
can push it forward

for us younger people
to keep riding airboats

here in the Everglades.

- [Keith] That's our future
Gladesman right there, folks.


Ladies and gentleman, the chair would

entertain a motion for adjournment.

All of those in favor
signify by saying "Aye."

- [All] Aye.

- All those opposed, go home.


By the way, anybody interested,

I've got the new NRA calendar gun raffle.

104 guns being given away
over a year's period.

[indistinct chatter]

- Work on this, for this is serious shit.

- You don't have to tell me!

I've been working on
this for 12 years now!

And you've been working at it longer.

But I've been working on this, right here.

- Yeah, but the whole picture
is bigger than just this.

And it's gotta be the
whole frickin' thing.

It can't be just back here.

- We'll talk later.

- No. No.

[upbeat acoustic music]

♪ Well there's lots of things ♪

♪ In the wide wide world ♪

♪ From the desert to the mountains ♪

♪ So many things in the wide wide world ♪

♪ That you'd never be able to count 'em ♪

♪ There are five oceans ♪

♪ Four winds ♪

- So welcome to the 100th anniversary

of Royal Palm State Park, the nucleus

to the beginning of
Everglades National Park.

♪ But there are some
things like nothing else ♪

- Last year we actually
had a 2.8 billion dollar

local economic benefit. We
are big business in Florida.

♪ There's only one Everglades ♪

♪ Only one ♪

- Most of Everglades National
Park is wilderness area.

That's the highest
protection afforded to any

public lands in the
United States of America.

It's about 1,500,000 acres.

- [Man] One, two, three, cheese!

- Within 50 miles of this park's boundary

there are seven million people.

♪ Right in our backyard ♪


- [Singer] Just one.

- Good morning, I'm Pedro Ramos.

I'm the Superintendent for Everglades

and Dry Tortugas National Parks.

I'm glad that we had some other

people out there walking around.

It can't be just park rangers donating

blood to these mosquitoes all the time!

[laughing and clapping]

In my opinion, we really do
stand on historic ground here.

We stand on some of the first
ground in the state of Florida

to have been set aside for the

benefit of not just some people,

but for the benefit of all the people--

the people of Florida,
the people of our country

and the people of our nation.


I oversee a staff of professional people

in a variety of disciplines,
from law enforcement

to interpretation to scientists,

in order to protect
Everglades National Park

and also to present it

and share it with the American people.

It was the first park
that was not set aside

because of the scenic values.

It was really set aside
because of its natural values.

[ambient atmospheric music]

Many many years ago we diverted its water,

its life source, and we are
now trying to restore it

because one out of every four Floridians

drinks water from the Everglades region,

and the Everglades region
contributes to the economy

in Florida upwards of a
billion dollars a year.

And natural areas like this help mitigate

the effects on the developed area,

so it helps Miami with
those sea levels rising.

Back in 1989, Congress had
the wisdom setting aside

what we now refer to as East Everglades--

a place that we knew back
then would be the receiver

of a lot of the water that
would come into the park

once we get all these
restoration efforts put in place.

And some of it needed to be set aside

without uses that carry a
certain level of impact.

Airboating is an activity that

it carries the air pollution impact,

and it has the impact of affecting
the behavior of wildlife.

And airboats being ran over
grassy areas creates a path

and that feature can be visibly seen

for decades after its initial use.

Everglades National Park is a place

where Congress decided that we needed

to leave this place alone in many ways

so that we can help it thrive

and make sure that we have something

to leave behind in good
shape for generations ahead.

- We are so blessed to
have two national parks

in this county, that's
unprecedented in the country.

So we are embedded, if you
will, in these national parks.

The health of the parks is
a reflection on the health

of our entire community and society.

So let's get going, the
important thing here,

it's birthday time!

So one, two, three.

♪ Happy birthday to you ♪

♪ Happy birthday to you ♪

♪ Happy birthday Biscayne National Park ♪

♪ Happy birthday to you ♪


♪ And many more ♪

- We talk about the Greater Everglades--

that was bigger than New
Jersey. So it was everything...

- Isn't that amazing?

- ...from Key West to Disney World.

Historically it was one ecosystem,

and it's our human
interpretation to split them up

into Everglades Park, Biscayne Park--

but it's really connected.

- [Woman] Woo hoo!

- Happy birthday!

- We're celebrating the National
Park Service Centennial,

100 years of America's national parks.

We are thrilled to have
many national park units

here in South Florida--
we've got Everglades,

Dry Tortugas, Biscayne, and
Big Cypress National Preserve,

and these places are
incredible environmental

as well as cultural resources.

- So thanks for coming out
tonight and enjoy the evening.


- Thank you, Gary.

89% of Americans think it is the

federal government's duty
to fund our national parks.

That is a bipartisan answer.

The Park Services Centennial initiative

has been "Find your park."

NPCA's initiative to parallel that

and to work towards our centennial

in 2019 is to "Find your voice,"

find your voice and speak
up to create national parks,

to celebrate our national parks,

to advocate for our national parks,

to make sure that they're strong.

[crowd applauding]

We've lost more than
half of the Everglades

to development and agriculture.

And so, with that, Everglades
Restoration was born.

[ambient atmospheric music]

There's no airboat operations.

In fact, the majority of the area in

Everglades National Park
is wilderness designation.

Part of what the culture

and the activities that
occur with airboating

and that are not going to
continue moving forward

are hunting.

- My net in the wing, I have a net.

- Airboats themselves can cause

preferential flow patterns for water.

This is Miami here, Everglades
National Park is here,

Big Cypress National Preserve is here,

the water conservation
areas are along in here,

with Lake Okeechobee
and the Kissimmee chain

of lakes all up through here.

As we zoom in and come
along what is Tamiami Trail,

the historic road-- shortened
from Tampa Miami Trail--

US 41, cutting across the top
of Everglades National Park.

The area that we're talking about

for the 100,000 acres

of the expansion, the East Everglades,

is right along here, down to about here,

and up and over. But
as you zoom in further

you can see how airboat
trails start emerging

from Everglades Safari Park.

As you continue eastward,

another one of the airboat operations

and the Airboat Association.

And you can see how their
trails truly leave a mark

that are visible from satellite imagery,

and can alter and change the way

that water patterns can move.

This area of the Everglades
is critically important

for re-establishing the water flow

through the Greater Everglades ecosystem

and out into Florida Bay.

You know, I have a lot
of respect, deep respect

for our friends and allies
in the Gladesmen's culture.

We have different ways
of using the environment,

and we have a different
perspective on who should

and how they should be used.

There's a reason why, and a
choice for making this decision

to protect this part of the Everglades

because of its placement

and its importance for the
entire ecosystem's health.

[grand orchestral music]

- [Voiceover] Everything
was lovely in Florida,

so it seemed, but once you got
past the surf and the shore

there was trouble. The trouble was water.

When the rains came they
inundated the Platte Lowlands

of Central and Southern Florida,

overfilling the inland waters,
flooding the rich soils,

destroying crops, turning hard earned

farm profits into devastating losses,

covering towns, ruining homes
and businesses and roads.

And when the rains had
left, there was no water.

Once lush farmland,
now reduced to dry dust

by the crazed antics of the elements.

- So you had this terrible cycle

of incredibly harsh droughts
followed by terrible floods.

And it all culminated in 1928,

when a horrible hurricane
hit Southern Florida

and crashed Lake Okeechobee
through its dike.

It killed more than 2,000
people in the Everglades,

and that was when the United
States government really

realized that they needed to
take control of this water.

And the Army Corps of Engineers,

the shock troops in
America's war with nature,

they were put in charge
of the most elaborate

flood control project of its day.

- [Voiceover] The U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers

was assigned the mission
of planning and designing

a complete project for flood control

throughout the district.

Let's take a look at the problem.

The area takes in about
one-fourth of the entire state,

more than one-third the population.

The liquid heart of this
area is Lake Okeechobee--

"The Big Water," 730 square miles of it--

the second largest freshwater lake

wholly within the United States.

This monster had to be
controlled by bigger levees

and by bigger canals that would give

it bigger outlets to the sea.

That went for the other lakes, too.

More levees and improved
channels and water control

to discharge the flood
waters as fast as possible.

- [Michael] They came
in and built the most

elaborate water control
project of their day.

There were 2000 miles
of levees and canals,

pumps so powerful that
they had to cannibalize

the engines from nuclear submarines.

And they created this
water management system

that essentially grabs
ahold of every drop of water

that falls in South Florida and whisks it

into the lake or out to sea.

South Florida's safe
for the most spectacular

development boom in human history.

- [Voiceover] Now they've
come, and how they've come!

Bringing with them thousands of jobs

and millions of dollars
of additional income.

If it weren't for the
Flood Control Project,

many of them wouldn't be here.

- [Michael] We've built
this completely artificial

man-made water management system

which has sustained a civilization,

but it's been horrible for nature.

At first it was very subtle,

but you've seen these incredible changes.

Water doesn't hang out
here the way it used to

when there was an Everglades
covering most of South Florida.

[ambient guitar music]

And that's what led to this

comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.

Really a re-plumbing
project for South Florida

to try to get the water right.

So Everglades Restoration
has become a model

for restoration projects
around the country,

and even around the world.

People are looking to the Everglades

to see if man can fix its mistakes.

The Everglades is a test, and if we pass

we may get to keep the planet.

- The Corps of Engineers got started

in all of this a long time ago.

Some of those projects
provided flood control

and water supply, and didn't
take as hard of a look

at the environmental impacts
and the environmental aspects

of what those projects would achieve.

What we have today is an effort to

really look at the environment

and more purposefully
balance the natural system

with the man-made system.

The bridge that we're looking
at is a one-mile bridge

that allows water to flow
into Everglades National Park.

It's critically important
to changing the way

that water flows from a canal system,

with point source inputs,
into a sheet flow system,

and how that really supplies
clean drinking water

to the eight million people
that live in South Florida.

What we're looking at, really,
with Everglades Restoration

is that it's more important
than ever in the face of

climate change and sea level rise.

Making sure that we push
back the salt water intrusion

with continued flow of fresh water.

The more that you become involved
in Everglades Restoration,

the more important you realize that it is.

And the only thing that
keeps me up at night

is trying to get this done quicker.

[ambient atmospheric music]

[bluesy guitar music]

- Turn on the mag.

[engine rumbling]

Now we know she's gonna start.

Bring that big bad boy
out here and let him see

a big horsepower motor.


Hold tight.


I dream about it at night,
to tell you the truth.

I dream about my
Everglades, riding to camp,

spinning around and seeing a big gator--

shut off and watch him.

It's just being away from
in town, and we get out here

there's no complication.

Everybody that comes here is
all like your best friends

or become your best friends.

I like riding airboats barefoot,

just the feeling of being free.

My name is Donald E. Onstead.

They call me The Legend.

Been doing this all my life.

I had my first airboat when I was 16.

Been an airboat club
member since I was 16.

Maybe I'll show you my
special little gator I got

over here, he's about a 12 footer

and he likes everybody.


[calling to alligator]

[calling to alligator]

I know you love me.

I been messing with
this guy for six years--

ever since he's been about four
foot, three and a half foot.

Now he's really big.

[calling to alligator]

I know of guys that's gotten
bitten and lost fingers

and hands and so forth, but not for me.

I'm gentle.

I can feel a gator, I can
touch him, I can lift his tail,

I can hold him easy and let him back down.

You treat them with respect,

I believe they treat you with respect.

[engine roaring]

These little islands around
here, they're history.

It's unbelievable.

I remember going to those
camps when I was 15 and 16

and seeing all these
celebrities that came here then.

President Eisenhower, he'd
come out to the Duck Club.

He was an avid duck hunter.

[engine roaring]

In 1957, the game
commissioners came in here

and built this camp for the governor.

So after he quit being the
governor of the state of Florida,

they moved the Game Commission
out here to this facility,

which the old gator
poachers and the old guys

didn't like them having a house out here

in the middle of the Everglades.

So they burnt this camp to the ground.

In 1962, we built this camp.

In 1992, I became half owner of this place

for $1000.

You met my beautiful wife, Carol Ann.


- Oh, you mean me?


[upbeat country music]

- That's my rat catcher
right there, buddy.

Right now I'm at war with
a rat that's probably--

no tail, from nose to back end, that big.

Looks like a small kitten.

- [Woman] Yeah, scary.

- He's mine.

I'm gonna eat that dude.


- This is the kind of area you look for

when you want to come out and spend more

than just a day out here.

I'm flattered that I
have Donnie as a friend

and that he thinks enough
of me to invite me out here.

Some people's country's in the mountains

or out in the prairies.

In South Florida, this is country.

It doesn't get much
more country than this.

- One time the water was so
deep it was like mid-calf.

Well I was standing on
this step right here,

casting and catching fish
right here-- tilapia.

[engine roaring]

- That water's ice cold.

You get underneath that
and that's the best shower

in the world.

[acoustic guitar music]

I'm a picker, I'm a bluegrasser.

Guitars, banjos, mandolins, fiddles--

little bit of everything, master of none.

But that's the kind of
stuff we do out here.

♪ Pig at home in a pen ♪

♪ Corn to feed him on ♪

♪ All I need's a pretty little gal ♪

♪ To feed him when I'm gone ♪

When I first met Carol Ann, I said,

"Would you like to join
the Alligator Club?"

She said, "Of course."

So I take her out and I grab
a little gator up about,

oh maybe two feet.

And I said, "You gotta
hold him in your mouth."

She said, "What?"

I bite on top of his mouth,
and "Hold your hands out for me

so I can take your picture
and show it to the guys

at the Alligator Club guys."

She takes this little gator,
she does this and holds

her hands out and I take the
pictures and I blow it up

about this big, give it to her.


- I was puffed up too, buddy!

- I 'member her saying, "Look,
I'm in the Alligator Club.

I'm in the Alligator Club!"

Said, "Girl, you're crazy!"


- Nobody does that!

- I'm like, well you guys did it!

"Nah, nobody does that."

It's been 30 years of
stuff like that, hadn't it?

- Okay guys, we're gonna
take a ride up through

Hoot Owl Hollow and try
to do a sundown ride out.

- Nice.

- There's nothing like the
sundowns in the Everglades.

I guess it would be the same
if we got up early enough

to see the sunrise.


[engine rumbling]

- Okay guys, on to the next one.

Nothing like having a little bit of fun.

Here's where she rides, right there.

She don't want to be down there.

She wants to be right there.

[upbeat country music]

This is nature at its best, right here.

♪ Some people out there ♪

♪ Would like to blow me up ♪

♪ Can't use a bus or train
now I don't drive my truck ♪

♪ What in the world ♪

♪ Did I ever do ♪

♪ I don't recall ever
doing anything to you ♪

♪ Get me outta here, help me to the door ♪

♪ I just don't like that
kind of livin' anymore ♪

- I was raised in the Everglades.

She's raising in the Everglades
as much as possible anymore.

It's your life, it's like
being at a certain town

for so long you don't know
anything else but that town.

And this is the way it is here.

We don't know anything else but this.

- I've been coming out here
since I was, like, a day old.

And when I hear my dad's stories,

it's sad how I can't do
half the stuff that he did.

Kind of, like, breaks my heart.

- Kind of reminds me of
that old hippie song--

♪ Signs, signs, everywhere's a sign ♪

♪ Blocking up the scenery
and changing my mind ♪

♪ Do this, don't do that,
can't you read the sign ♪


The perfect sign for it.

What it is, it's stopping us,

telling us we can't run out here no more.

No buggies.

They got a four wheeler,

and they got a motorcycle.

And at one time there was a
trail here that you could go

through the cypress and hunt
right over on the other side.

It's a mess.

Believe it or not, you
can actually eat sawgrass.

Tastes like coconut.

But the sawgrass-- if you
ever get really messed up

and have to eat something--

this white bottom piece, you peel it off.

Tastes like coconut.

But the sawgrass,

that's where it soaks up
all the water in the roots

and it tastes just like coconut.

But it has alot of moisture in
there and you get your water.

But sawgrass,

if you're looking at it,

you can run your hand one way

and it's smooth like a saw blade.

But if you come back the other way,

you'll see my finger jittering on it.

Okay, this is where they
made a designated airboat

launching area.

Now, all this property
used to be my family's.

- [Carol] Well, what we do here
is we check the hunters in.

We check their game when they come in.

We weigh 'em. I measure the horns,

make sure they're legal, pull
the jaw bone off the deer

when they come in so we can age the deer.

It's a nice job.

See this alligator right here?

- [David] Oh, looka him.

- That gator...

...is about 14 foot long.

We call her my yard dog.

When people see it laying in the yard,

they don't bother to venture in there.

That's what we call our pets.

And finally somebody shot her in the head

and knocked her eye out

and they had to have her taken outta here,

because she was
malnutritious and dangerous.


There you go, there's another.

- This is the old man here when he was

probably my age right here.

Went hunting that morning.

This is all of us down here
running around in the airboats.

- It's the most fun you can
have with your clothes on.


How's that, that a good way to put it?

- [David] Not according to Grandpa.

- I was conceived on an airboat.


- The first time I went out in the airboat

was with him, his dad, and
David was six months old.

You cannot describe
what you feel out there.

You don't know if you're
gonna go around a head

and see a big old bear standing up.

You don't know if you're gonna see a cat.

I mean, the airboat takes
you where you can't get to.

- [David] That's one of
the game commission guys

and that's Dad.

- I grew up eating alligators,
'cause if it wasn't

for alligators sometimes we
wouldn't of had nothing to eat.

I love it.

But my father broke me from eating snakes.

'Cause I was the one that
had to kill the snakes

and skin 'em and all for him to eat 'em.

He liked to eat
rattlesnakes and moccasins.

And then my family had to do
something to make a living

and a dollar.

Well they logged the big
cypress in all the Everglades

and they had the largest mills.

'Course Grandpa Charlie
spelled it, not M-I-L-L,

but S-C-I-L.

There was more money in that.


Then later on, they asked
my dad to be a game warden.

- One of the first ones.

- You don't see a Game
Commission out here no more.

Game Commission just stepped
back and let Park Service

take over the whole thing.

And they ain't done nothing
but just stop us from

coming out here, and that's
how they can only have

four or five rangers take
care of the whole place.

It's crazy. It's crazy.

- There's these people want
to save it and everything.

Well, so do I.

I was the President of the
Airboat Association of Florida

for 26 years.

I testified in Congress
twice on Everglades issues.

An airboat and a buggy harms
nothing in the Everglades.

- If you didn't live it,

you wouldn't know what we're missing.

And we don't have it anymore.

It's sad, and it's sad for them.

She's not gonna be able to do

what he did when he was
growing up and it just...

It breaks your heart when you
know you can't have it back.

- And we gotta figure out
some kind of way to run

the National Park flat
out of South Florida.

I'd love to, but I don't know how.


[upbeat rock music]

- We mainly came to see some alligators.

- This little guy is
gonna grow to 18 feet.

- I've met people from every
country in this world I'm sure.


We educate them about the
wildlife that's out here--

something they've never seen before.

It's really the way to see the Everglades.

Now the lily pads that you
see growing in the water

on both sides, those are
called spatter-docks.

Now the Seminole Indian always
said that the flower itself

would never fully bloom
as long as man was here.

Folks, let's go for a ride
through the River of Grass.

Welcome to my backyard!

[engine roaring]

Right now we take thousands and thousands

of people a year out to see it.

And they keep coming.

[light acoustic guitar music]

This is a part of the channel
that we can usually find

a couple of alligators.

This is gonna be about
a five and a half footer

that we call Lily.

I mean, if they take this
away from the public,

how else are they gonna
see the Everglades?

You tell people that you got
the Everglades National Park.

I mean, yes, there are many
trails, many places to walk.

But the main way to see it is by airboat.

We're running in designated trails.

That's the biggest
thing-- staying in trails.

Now as far as the private
airboaters running out

and just being able to
go anywhere they want--

that's gonna tear it up.

If it's not taken care
of, it's not gonna be here

for the young ones to enjoy
later on down the life.

[engine roaring]

- [Man] Why aren't you afraid of your kids

being eaten by gators?

- [David] Them probably
the meanest kids out here.

Look at their daddy!

Gator wouldn't stand a chance.

- You follow the noise
off to the east of us,

there's a large boat, tour boat,

that's gonna be coming out in a minute.

We're all in agreeance
that airboating is by far

the best way to see the Everglades.

Back when they were anti-airboat 100%,

it was proven to the
National Park that two thirds

of the people in the world
that visit the Everglades

visit it by airboat.

Now, the larger boats,
their size, their weight--

these boats have a
greater impact than we do.

- It's like a dog in a yard.

If he runs the fenceline all day long,

that's the spot that's gonna get worn.

And the same thing with these.

They gotta push harder,
and it makes more noise

and the birds ain't
gonna be around as much.

The smaller boat, the more horse power,

the less noise and less
vibration you have on the water.

- Now they're going to allow
the three concessions to stay,

but run us out because of
our impact on the Everglades?

How can they pick out one
group and not the other?

Our impact is minimal compared to these.

We should be able to run within
the same airboating bubble

that they're allowing these guys to do.

- If they're gonna discriminate against us

and not lettin' us come out here,

why should the Park Service make the money

and throw us out?

It's not fair.

If they ain't got the money
to run an area, get out

and let the Game Commission have it back.

Bottom line.

- If I go out in the
Everglades, sometimes I'll just

drive for a couple hours or
so and I'll just stop the boat

and just feel nature around me.

To be connected with nature,
that's why a lot of people

get into airboating,
is to be a part of it.

And it's that love for being
out in the environment,

an airboat makes sense.

Buffalo Tiger Airboat Tours is named after

one of my husband's uncles,
William Buffalo Tiger,

who was the very first
elected chairman of our tribe.

And after he left chairmanship,
he started the airboat tours

as a way to continue to
educate about the Everglades.

This photo here...

...is a very important photo...

...taken in 1930

with Governor Schultz.

And they told him,

"Pohoan checkish,"

which means "Leave us alone."

And that meant, leave us
alone to be who we are,

to govern our own
people, to live our life.

We just want the right
and the freedom to exist

here in our homeland.

Basically what everybody else wants.

As communities got built,
the areas of the Everglades

got smaller and smaller,

and also the more chemicals
put into the water.

Our people left the tree islands
and came to the mainland.

I would love for my
grandchildren to grow up

the way I did, fishing
and hunting all the time.

If I did that now, I would
do that knowingly poisoning

myself with toxic fish, mercury,

consuming a lot of phosphorus
that's in the water

to drink the water.

That's a sad situation to be in.

There are times when the big
male alligators will kill

and eat the smaller alligators.

It's all a big circle of how the animals

and the environment out here exist.

In the time when I grew up,
you could no longer travel

by dug-out canoe, and so a
lot of the people progressed

to the airboat because maybe
they didn't have enough water

to use the dug-out canoe,
but with the invention

of the airboat, they could still hunt

and they could still fish.

The Everglades, for the Miccosukee people

we call it "Kahayatle,"

which means "shimmering waters."

It's supposed to be an open river.

Right now you're not seeing a river,

and that wasn't done by airboats.

[engine rumbling]

This particular island,
it's like the United States

has George Washington's house.

Here is our version, we have
Buffalo Tiger's ancestral home.

This is how our people would've
lived in the Everglades.

Some of the islands like this one,

in certain times of the year,
naturally it can get flooded.

Tree islands, more than
30 days being submerged,

start to deteriorate
because of the mismanagement

and the water flows.

Over 40% loss of tree islands
within the Everglades.

We're tied to this land.

This defines who we are as a people.

[ambient atmospheric music]

What's happening to the other airboaters

in Everglades National
Park, I don't agree with it.

A lot of them call themselves Gladesmen.

Most of the ones that
I have met are very--

almost similar to the
indigenous people of how

they respect nature.

And for the National
Park to force them out--

if you're gonna get rid of boating,

get rid of all boating. Just
don't pick one user group.

It's all about being responsible

in how you use that airboat.

For us, it's a way to get
around in the Everglades.

But I think there's more
damaging things happening

to the environment by
other man's creation.

It makes me sad that
more people can't realize

without the Everglades,
there will be no us.

She can survive without us,

but we can't survive without her.

We hid in the Everglades
during the Seminole Wars,

and we've been here ever since.

She protected us in our time of need,

and now it's our turn
to do the same thing.

[upbeat music]

- Consider a comprehensive
Everglades Restoration Plan.

There's a...

- The plan to fix this.

- ...the plan to restore the Everglades.

We've just departed our
headquarters in Palmetto Bay

in south Miami to kick off

a 12 day, 20 city bus
tour engaging the public

on the importance of
Everglades Restoration.

We've got about a third of
the original Everglades left.

We have to ensure that we protect it.

- With the focus of advancing
the "Now or Neverglades"

petition, getting folks to
understand this campaign

and the need to sign on to that.

It's about advancing Everglades
Restoration, a plan that

we've had in place for
almost 16 years now.

And we feel like we need this
push to make more progress.

- We're here this morning
because we're in the midst

of a state of emergency.

The beauty of this is we have a plan,

and that plan calls for a new way

to take polluted lake water

and send it south, store it so
that it can then be cleansed

so that we can flow it south
and ultimately send that water

down to Florida Bay in the Florida Keys.

The plan is in place, we have the money.

What we're lacking now
is the political will

to ensure that these
massive restoration projects

come online sooner rather than later.

It is Now or Neverglades.

Join this movement.

[crowd clapping]

- [Woman] We're trying to
collect 100,000 signatures.

- Cool, cool, cool.

I'm sure guys will get there.

- Thank you.

- So basically what we've
been focusing on this year

has been talking to young people.

They can actually do
something to affect change.

- You're part of a big movement.

- I've been here in Miami all my life.

I want to make sure that
my daughters can see

the Everglades and be
able to see the animals

and be able to drink clean water.

It's the last thing I want to see,

that the Everglades go to waste.

- Some of the impacts
that we are taking into

consideration when we're
doing restoration is to try

and minimize any activities
that might disturb

the ecosystem.

Airboating is something that's very fun,

but we have to take into
consideration that that

might disturb wildlife.

- We have a national park
that is actually critical

to our future.

So anything that happens in the Everglades

has not only an impact
on the flora and fauna

of the Everglades, it has
an impact on the survival

of people in South Florida.

We're mutually interdependent.

[engine rumbling]

- Good to make the jump to light speed.

My name is Tom Frankovich, I'm a biologist

at Florida International University.

I study marine ecology,

specifically ecology in seagrass beds.

We are in eastern Whipray
Basin, which is in Florida Bay.

This area has historically
been one of the best

sport fishing areas.

These seasgrasses contain
a lot of life that the

sea trout feed on.

So all the arthropods,
shrimp and small fish

all get their nutrition
from stuff that grows

in or on the seagrass beds.

[water splashing]

We're seeing a large area
of dead seagrass leaves

that are laying on the top.

So we're going through
what appears to be an area

that was affected by seagrass die-off.

Without seagrasses, we
would have a flat mud bottom

without that three-dimensional structure.

So that provides the habitat
for all these organisms

and also the nutrition,
production of algae

that leads up the food web

up into the higher trophic levels--

our game fish, and also
our pelicans and ospreys

that we saw earlier.

- This area is probably what was once,

prior to that die-off, one
of the prime fishing spots

in Florida Bay.

You don't see any of that here.

It's very different.

Thinking long-term, we know
the solution is to flow

more water from Lake Okeechobee

back to the Everglades,
ultimately into the Florida Bay

where we are today, to make
this more of an estuary

as it once was.

[ambient atmospheric music]

[Crowd] People over sugar profits!

People over sugar profits!

People over sugar profits!

- We have a water management
district that is parroting

the talking points of Big Sugar.

If we want change, we
need it from the governor.

He needs to step up and be
our hero and take action

to save the Everglades,
save the estuaries,

save our water.

Next up we have Marty
Baum. Come on down, Marty!

[crowd cheering and applauding]

- Just two days ago they
refused to pass a resolution

in support of the only thing that will

properly hydrate the Everglades,

reduce our unnatural
discharges east and west

and put a positive head
on the Biscayne Aquifer--

buying land south of the lake.

We, the citizens of this
state, put an amendment

on the ballot to provide
funding to restore

our land legacy monies
to buy the needed land

to protect our water.

Then we re-elected the
same officials who stole it

the first time, and now
they have stolen it again.

Last summer's toxic algae
blooms will now become

the new normal for
Florida's water statewide.

And if you don't believe me,
look at this lake behind us

full of blue-green algae,

sponsored by the South Florida
Water Management District.

Without clean water we
have no tourist industry,

no fishing, no small boating.

Fishing alone is worth
more than of all of Ag.

Water is life.

Demand clean water. It is your right.

Thank you.

[Crowd] Buy the land! Buy
the land! Buy the land!

[crowd cheering]

The rally was about the lack of action

of the South Florida
Water Management District.

We've gotten 200 billion
gallons of polluted water

dumped into our estuary.

We're talking two and a half
million pounds of nitrogen,

a million pounds of phosphorus,

three million pounds of
sediment into what was just

a couple years ago the most
biodiverse estuary in all of

North America, that contains
more than 800 species of fish--

all of the Bahamas only has 500.

And that is now all a desert,

thanks to polluted water
and Florida water policy

that favors agriculture
instead of the people.

[acoustic guitar music]

- [Man] We have a full agenda
today, and with that in mind

I want to emphasize,
everyone, please be brief.

We're gonna start to
my right and go around.

- [Woman] We're all so conscious
of the fact that there are

eight million plus people
that have to be considered

in South Florida when
we're looking at working to

restore the Everglades.

- The South Florida Water
Management District is one of

five districts that are
created by the state.

Our mission is flood
control and water supply

for the human environment,

however based on the
restoration plans that have been

laid forward by the
legislature so that we could do

Everglades Restoration--
which makes us a little unique

from some of the other districts.

- [Man] If there is a need
for additional storage

in the area, the district
would look at funding

the remaining 73 to 96 million dollars.

- They'll take every drop
that we can send them.

- That river was designated in 1985.

We still haven't gotten water to it.

- Why did we not send the extra--

at least 600,000 acre feet of water--

through the park into
Florida Bay this year?

- We need to focus on what's
best for the taxpayer.

When I say what's best for the taxpayer,

I mean we need to focus on what we have

for state-owned lands.

- We're in the control room right now--

our four technicians that
are here all the time,

monitoring the system for
everything from bad sensors to

high water levels that require responses.

So we cover all the water
management from up in Disney World

all the way down to the Keys
and over on the west coast

and Fort Myers and Collier County.

We have 50 major pump stations,
and by major pump stations

we mean pump stations
that would fill this room

in seconds with water.

We can open gates, turn on pumps,

we can look at the whole system.

We can see the rain as it
falls-- we have about 300

rain gauges that we see
online within seconds

of the rainfall so we can
get ahead of the runoff.

Over here, we have our control systems.

That is just a small portion of it.

If you put them all on one
screen, it would be unreadable.

- The overwhelming majority
of water that we have

to sustain life here arrives
as rain in our district.

If we get a 20% drop off in
rainfall in any given year,

that's a big impact because
there's a lot of people,

a lot of straws in the water.

It's kind a like cutting
back 20% of how much

you get to eat everyday.

It takes a toll the longer it lasts.

- On a nice breezy day,

sitting in the middle of the sawgrass

and you hear the wind blow,

that sawgrass just...


[trumpet music]

- There was concern a few
years ago that the culture

that I'm a part of, the Gladesmen culture,

the local history and culture

was being lost and disappeared.

The Park Service was ignoring it.

And so they came up with the
wonderful idea to have an

annual Swamp Cultural Heritage Festival

and have people from the
surrounding area come in

and talk about their growing up here

and their life experiences
and in their interaction

with the Big Cypress Swamp--

which is my favorite place in the world.


- You want a demonstration on
how it constricts something

and kills it?

Well, let me get your sound guy.


♪ Cowboys and Indians roam free ♪

And so I've fallen in love
with wild Florida hard,

but there's a lot of fightin' to do left.

♪ Every chance I get ♪

♪ In old Florida I ride ♪

- Gladesmen, today, it's our extinction.

You're the last of your race.

You're the last of the dinosaurs,

stomping around in the swamps.

I'm here for the last
part of the Everglades.

I'm here to see the end
part of the Everglades,

where other people got to enjoy it.

♪ Chance I get ♪

♪ In old Florida I ride ♪

[crowd applauding]

- This is right behind the
house in the Big Cypress.

This is one of the first shots I took.

The shutter didn't work.

And I made some interesting
comments to nature.


And then I started
exploring more and more.

And then of course the most
dangerous part of Everglades--


You ever got your hair stand on end?

Lightning come out of your fingers?

Yeah, that's good stuff.

I started walking the Everglades in 1984.

I have never met another person here.

How many places in the
United States in parks

can you say you've never
met another person?

How many places?

It's hard to find something
like this anywhere in the world.

This swamp here, you just
can't keep it from growing.

It has a life of its own.

It's always changing.

I can go back to the
same spot year after year

and its different.

A lot of tourists love
the airboats out here.

But to me, it's disserving the wildlife.

You're making canals out of the airboats.

So there's other ways
of seeing the Everglades

besides airboats.

I think you get a lot more if you walk

or you canoe, going slow.

Going that fast, you're getting
a kind of an overall brush

feeling of it, but you're
not getting the real feeling

of what it's all about.

[soft acoustic music and chanting]

Our son with three other
guys were going to a movie.

And they were making a left
hand turn and there was a car...

broadsided the car and
killed him instantly.

When our son was killed,
I basically went to the

environment to heal.

When you get something that's beyond you,

that's been here 10,000 years,

you know there's consistency in life.

I think that's really important,
when you have a problem,

to go to these places.

If there's no places like this to go,

it makes it a little more
difficult to cure yourself.

My concern about global
warming is we're not gonna have

any Everglades.

We're only at 10 feet here.

When Greenland goes, it's
gonna be 20 feet here.

We're gonna be underwater.

If the Everglades is not here,

Miami's not here.

Fort Lauderdale's not here.

New York City is not here.

I just love this place, and
to have it under the ocean?

Not that far off in the future.

[water splashing]

- It's right where we found an alligator

a few weeks ago when we were out sampling.

I was feet from its mouth.
Now we're a little bit

more cautious when we come out here.

Obviously we're in the
Everglades and you need

to pay attention to that.

[acoustic guitar music]

In the Everglades, one
of the main types of soil

is called peat, and it
stores a lot of carbon.

So one thing that we're worried
about with sea level rise

is that the ability of the Everglades

and other coastal wetlands
to store amounts of carbon,

preventing the release
of green house gases,

that function will be
altered as salinity comes in

and stresses the system.

At this site it's historically
fresh, and it's still fresh,

but in the future it may see
some increase in salt levels.

So one of the things we're
trying to figure out here

is how adding salt--

like what you would see
with sea level rise--

will affect that ability of this peat soil

to maintain its function
as a carbon storage area.

What we do is we come
out, we add our salt water

and then take a bunch of
measurements to see how

different processes will
change in the future

when it gets saltier
because of sea level rise.

And in the future, when sea
level rises, there will be more

salt water coming in and
it will alter the species

composition that you see in the marsh

and it will affect the Everglades' ability

to recharge our aquifers.

Even if you aren't necessarily
fond of the Everglades,

it provides a service
of clean drinking water

to South Florida and that
will affect everybody.

- You can smell the sulfur.

And the sulfur comes from salt water.

So the rock underneath
us is really porous,

so it contains these holes
that allow water to move

through this rock pretty easily.

So as the sea level comes up,
there's no barrier between

that salt water from below
and the wetlands above.

I mean, really, the only
thing that's protecting

our fresh water from salt
water is more fresh water.


Over 90% of Miami-Dade
County residents get their

drinking water from the Biscayne Aquifer,

which these Everglades wetlands protect.

In South Florida, it's
not just sea level rise

that contributes to salt water intrusion.

It's the diversion of fresh water

from its historic flow path.

The way that we manage
the system will have

a large impact on the
future of the Everglades.

- My name's Harold Wanless,
I am the professor and Chair

of the Department of Geological Sciences

at the University of Miami
in Coral Gables, Florida.

My research have been looking
at the last 7,000 years

of our evolution of our
coastal environments

as sea level rose to its present position.

Right now, the amount of
carbon dioxide we put in

the atmosphere, we haven't
seen this for nearly

a million years-- and last
time carbon dioxide levels

were at this level, sea level
was 70 to 90 feet higher

than it is today.

That's where we're headed.

Global warming is really
the buildup of the heat

that's caught in the atmosphere,

it's transferred to the ocean.

Over 93% of our heat's
transferred to the ocean.

That warmed ocean water is
getting in under the outlet

fjords and glacial
outlets to both Antarctica

and Greenland, and accelerating ice melt.

And that's the huge
concern for the future.

This whole area, Miami-Dade
County and Broward County,

is basically uninhabitable.

It's truly unbelievable
how low the land is

that we live on.

I don't think that there's
anything we can do to stop it

because when you start
looking at the feedbacks

we're seeing that are
speeding up ice melt,

it means we're probably
in for a 10 to 20 foot

rise of sea level

shortly after the end of this
century, or maybe before.

South Florida

is gonna be underwater soon.

We knew about sea level rise

when they started Everglades Restoration,

and so you do have to look at,

is this worth doing?

And I been up to Florida
legislature several times.

And you know darn well
they're looking for an excuse

not to spend money.

You can question whether
we should be doing it,

but rather than look at that
as the end of the Everglades

and look at that as learning how to manage

a dynamic, evolving coastal
wetland with sea level rise--

I think that's money very very well spent

that will apply all over
the world to learning how

to manage dynamic, evolving wetlands.

- As a child here growing
up in South Florida,

one of the things I was
taught as a kid was how to

take and prepare a conch shell.

Back when I was still
working, we were working the

Lake Kissimee Drawdown.

Well, for this to be out there
in the middle of the lake

dates it back to when
Florida was underwater.

So this puts it around

about maybe 10,000 years old or better.

Took the tip off of it.

And like the old Key West conchs...

[shell blowing]


My toy shop.

Me occupied, and out of
my lovely wife's hair.

This prop up here, in my rafters,

is my original prop
when I bought the boat.

It was great in the trails and stuff.

I'll be working on the airboat again soon.

- This is my new airboat,
and it's a fine machine.

When you get out in the
middle of them woods,

you want everything tight and right.

She puts out about 250 horsepower
and it's a crazy motor.

Figured out everything
I could from my last

hoorah of airboats.

[upbeat rock music]

♪ Yes, I'mma trading up ♪

♪ Time to get me a new ride ♪

Going to the airboat club tomorrow

to show off a little bit.


Okay, this is my kitchen.

I'm sorry, Carol Ann's kitchen. Excuse me.

- No, our kitchen!

- This is my sweetheart here.

- Me to you too.

- She takes care of me, all these years.

- Have to, 'cause you
have to take care of me.


- I love music.


[light piano music]

It fills up that other side.

The going and doing and airboating,

you could only do so much of that.

This can continue all your life.

[fiddle music]

[banjo music]

Give you an idea of where I
come from, there's my daddy.

18 years old in Bozman, Montana.

He was... broke horses,
caught wild horses.

Wound up being chief inspector
of Pan American Airways

in Miami, Florida here.

We're involved with the woods all my life.

This is 1958.

I was on the swim team
at Hialeah Senior High.


I don't know if I changed
too much, except got grayer.

Showing my Tequesta Indian beads.

- [Carol Ann] Tequesta are
the original Gladesmen.

- Just makes me feel good
in the woods to wear it.

When the Miccosukee see me, they tell me,

"I know you some time."

I got Fireman Of The Year one year.

Guy had his arm cut off
by an airboat propellor

and Carol Ann and I ran
down, jumped on him,

and got the tourniquet on and

about eight months later, he
showed up at the airboat club

with his arm attached.

This is behind the airboat club.

- [Woman] 'Cause there's a story to this.

- [Man] 'Cause we're gonna
video this whole thing, Whitey.

Look at me, dammit. Alright.

- Barbecue chicken, barbecue ribs cookin'.

Carol Ann's collecting money
for the grease pole climb.

- [Man] Oh yeah, oh yeah.

Yeah, this is going right
in my mouth right now.

You have to barely touch him,

and barely lift him

and he'll let you do
that to him right there.


No more. I'm a good guy, I'm a good guy.

We do some airboat drag
racing out in the back.

My little boat was the fastest
one out there at the time.

It run right about 87 miles an hour.

Okay, here we go.

When I see this, it makes
me think of that moment.

I don't ever want to do that again.

She's catching air under that bow

and I didn't let enough of it
off the corner of the boat.

Coming up, it's coming up, oh shit!


I went straight to the moon, I thought.

And the grass-jumper,
the boat went clean up,

back down, bent this

all the way up, hit me in the head

and ripped my hull in half.

14 stitches in my head,
27 in the back of my leg.

Then my own rescue truck
from my own station

came to get me.

- [Woman] That's too high Donnie!

[alarm buzzing]

- Okay, go ahead.

I'll see you at the club.

I can't wait, I can't wait. Okay.

Okay. Alright, bye.

[light acoustic guitar music]

- I think it's time for
me to take a look at

and work on that letter.

This'll be my door-opener
to various congressmen

and state representatives.

Dear fellow Americans, the
Airboat Association of Florida

was established by a
culture of Gladesmen in 1951

and remains the oldest not-for-profit

airboat conservation club in
America. The Gladesmen culture,

including most of the founding fathers

of this airboat conservation
club and their forefathers,

have co-existed with the
Everglades for over 100 years.

We, the Airboat Association of Florida,

are disappointed by not
allowing us to continue

passing along our
Gladesmen culture, heritage

and history to our
children and grandchildren.

Airboats, like any vessel,
have to be registered

with FL numbers and their stickers.

As this is the month of September,

I am due to put my sticker on my boat.

Now, we can legally go
riding in the Everglades.

Everglades air conditioning.


Laws for over 200 years have
been created and written

by men, they've been
changed and amended by men.

And this is one that will be amended.

This is something that we're working on.

I'm not done until they
lock me out the gate.

I'm gonna be petitioning politicians.

This will be a fight to the finish.

[engine roaring]

My daughter can run an airboat
as good as any man there is,

and for my daughter not to
be able to go back there,

where I raised her--

it means alot to me.

And hopefully this visit
with our congresswoman

will allow us to get
our point across to her

and get our foot in the
door towards doing this.

Apparently this is the building here.

Mr. C.

- Thank you, thank you.

- [Keith] Last year we
couldn't of had this meeting

and I do appreciate it.

- [Ileana] How are you doing?

- [Keith] How you doing?

Keith Price, President of
the Airboat Association.

- Well nice to see you, Keith.

- Carter Burrus....
- Carter, thank you.

- ...board member of
the Airboat Association.

- Airboat Association, come on in!

Let's chat about the
present and the future.

Yeah, I find people who grew
up or have an affinity now to--

whether it's Biscayne
National Park or Everglades--

they're the best stewards
of the environment.

What happened to the Airboat Association?

- The Airboat Association
was granted the right

to keep our land.

- So you are grandfathered
for the operation.

- Only the people that
were operating airboats

in that area from 1989 could continue.

If they're going to keep this open

for the commercial boats...

- Why not you?
- ...why not us?

- We're gonna be able to
continue here as long we we live,

Keith and I.

But once we die out,

they won't be able to go out there either.

Even though they're members of the club,

they weren't airboating from 1989.

- The only way it can be changed

is an amendment to that Act--

- Holy moly.

- ...that will allow you us to pass it on.

I've got to start somewhere.
I've got to start somewhere.

- That's like saying I'm
gonna be a billionaire

because I'm gonna have to start somewhere.

That's a big enchilada you're proposing.

- Nothing's impossible.

- I would say this is pretty darn close.

Anything that has to do with

expanding use in
Everglades National Park--

holy moly.

If you could pull this off,
that would be a miracle.

So, it's--

- I believe in miracles.
- I like that.

- I still believe in Santa
Clause, I mean come on.

- I like that.

I like that.

But that's what it would take.

[engine roaring]

- Let me tell you what,
I've never had a person

that I brought out here for the first time

and didn't say this was
the most beautiful place

they've ever seen.


I can sit out there in the
sawgrass on the airboat

all day long, and enjoy
listening to the wind blow

through the sawgrass.

To somebody else, looks
like a bunch of weeds.

Between development, the Park Service

and the government, the
day of the Gladesmen

in South Florida is coming to an end.

So this will probably be our
last big outing out here.

- I was airboating when I
was in my mom's stomach.

Explore what's out there.

See alligators. And
that's what the government

and the Park Service trying
to take away from us.

[engine rumbling]

- Me and my husband
and my children grew up

in these Everglades.

My husband was very, very
involved until his death.

It was something that he wanted to do.

And I came aboard

and it sort of makes him closer to me.

I miss him very much,
and I know that this is

what he wanted me to do.

We are who we are.

We are the Gladesmen.

And the Gladesmen will
always stick together.


- [Gunky] G-U-N-K-Y.

- [All] Gunky.


- I got it over in Vietnam
and it come back with me,

and I've had it ever since.

And I'm fixing to tell
you about my grandson.

I got a $25,000 airboat.

But now, it's his boat.

But what good is it if
he has no place to run?

I'm done.

I'm sorry, I just get so upset about it.


- No, no, no. Gunky, it's...

This is what we're talking about.

This is what we're trying
to get across to the world,

that what we have here is irreplaceable.

But what we're doing now--
right here, right now--

is the footprint. Okay?

The beginning.

We've already got two
congressmen on board.

They believe in our culture,

they believe in the fact
that we need to pass it on

to our youngsters.

- We'll do the best we can
do to keep everything we can.

You gotta start somewhere!

You could be a critic, it's fine,

but you gotta start somewhere!

Goddammit, then start somewhere!

Help these goddamn people!

They're trying to do
something good for us!


I want my damn grandkids
to be able to come out here

and ride!

- [Man] I do too!

- [Keith] It's the guys like you

that inspired me to
push for what I'm doing.

And I'm not gonna turn this loose.

- I don't want to give it up either.

- I'm not gonna turn it loose.

Trust me buddy, it's gonna happen.

- [Gunky] I'm behind you 100%!

- Audience, attention.

Color Guard, forward march.

Audience, please join me in
The Pledge of Allegiance.

- [All] I pledge allegiance to the flag

of the United States of America,

and to the republic for which it stands,

one nation under God,

indivisible, with liberty
and justice for all.

- [Man] This is a song I
wrote about the Everglades.

Here we go.

[Country rock music]

- A Gladesmen is someone
that holds this whole area

close and dear.

It's a heritage that's been passed on.

Goes all the way back to my birthright

there in the Everglades, in
the Everglades National Park.

♪ Dead full drive ♪

♪ We are living the swamp
life out in the 'Glades ♪

♪ Deep in the sawgrass ♪

♪ With the gators and the rattlesnakes ♪

- You can't learn about
this place in a university.

This is something you have to experience.

But you gotta have mud in your blood.

And this isn't for
everybody, but it's for us.

- So we got gator, we got fish,

we got fixings and they're
fixing to close down the kitchen.

- Feel, listen to, see--

all of those senses that the Everglades

offers us is inspiring.

And losing that is almost
like losing a sense.

- Because Everglades
National Park is already

started, if you weren't 16 in 1989

you can't drive an airboat.

This might be the last hoorah
for us at this airboat club.

And we need to keep that going somehow.

- Park Service, it's an
ongoing battle with 'em.

And eventually we're
not gonna have anything.

It is what it is.

Can't do nothing about it.

You're already trying to
get my blood pressure up

this morning.


- This is some of the best
airboating country there is.

If they have their way, this
club will not be allowed

to go out into the Everglades.

My granddaughter grew up,
since the time she was two,

riding around with me on the airboat.

And for you to tell these
kids, you know, growing up

out here, that they're not
allowed to run an airboat here?

You're stealing the
culture from these kids.

Thank you all for coming out and enjoying

all of our Everglades.

["Taps" being played]

[engine rumbling]

- I'm gonna tell you guys about
a story of me and Carol Ann.

And we were at a place
called the Duck Club.

The old 145 Continental starter broke down

and I couldn't get the boat started.

[banjo music]

So I told Carol Ann, "Listen.

Leave right now and walk
back four miles to the back

of our airboat association."

And we started walking out.

Water's probably hip deep on me,

and almost shoulder deep on Carol Ann.

- We didn't have too much trouble

with mosquitoes that night.

We were worried about bigger things.

- As far as gators, well,

no headlight-- so whatever
was there, was there.

So we're walking along and
I said, "Listen, I am not

walking from here to the
club with my Levi's on."

When you walk with Levi's in the water

they weigh twice as much, your legs.

So I took mine off.

Carol Ann says, "I can't, I can't do it."

I said, "Why?"

She said, "I don't have any skivvies on."


So I took my shirt off...

- Girl, you went commando!

- ...a long sleeve shirt off and I...

- [Carol Ann] He made me a diaper.

- ...I made a diaper for her.

I could see a light at the airboat club,

in the distance, on a high pole.

I said, "That's where we're going."

So I had him singing.

♪ I saw the light ♪

♪ I saw the light ♪

Singing all the way in.

I say, "How 'bout number one?"

"Oh, I'm OK!"

She was way in the back.

We had to slow down, 'cause
her legs were so short.

We walked for hours.

- Step on the mud and it
sinks to the bottom and

it comes back up, floats back
up and bumps you in the leg

and it's like, 'What the??"


I was like, "What is that?
That didn't happen before!"

And that's when I was
like, "Get me outta here."

- And I'd say somewheres before
midnight, we walk up on to

the land at the airboat club.

Carol Ann just throws everything off.

- And the next day, it was
like I had 10,000 paper cuts

all over my body from the sawgrass.

I mean, you think a paper cut hurts?

Boy, I'll tell ya.

- That was quite an
adventure on an airboat.

[ambient atmospheric music]



Main credits

Abel, David (film director)
Abel, David (screenwriter)
Laub, Andy (editor of moving image work)
Laub, Andy (screenwriter)
Laub, Andy (composer)

Other credits

Edited by Andy Laub; cinematography by Cassandra Keith; original soundtrack by Andy Laub, Scott Cumpstone, Alexis Kesselman.

Distributor credits

David Abel, Andy Laub

David Abel

David Abel, Andy Laub
David Abel
Editor: Andy Laub
Writers: David Abel, Andy Laub
Original Soundtrack: Andy Laub, Scott Cumpstone, Alexis Kesselman

Docuseek2 subjects

American (U.S.) Studies
American Studies
Recreation and Sports
Oceans and Coasts
Climate Change
Conservation and Protection
Environmental Design
Habitat Destruction
Environmental Anthropology
Local Economies
Government Policy
Environmental Geography

Distributor subjects

American Studies
Climate Change/Global Warming
Earth Science
Labor and Work Issues
Local Economies
Marine Biology
Oceans and Coasts
Political Science


competing interests, gladesmen, airboats, Everglades National Park, restoring damaged ecosystem, sawgrass, cypress swamps, development, pollution, environmental degradation, water supply, rising sea levels, hunting alligators, gigging frogs, tree islands, Army Corps of Engineers, history of Everglades Development, South Florida, Miccosukee tribe, environmental campaigns to save the Everglades, Florida Bay, Everglades restoration, Swamp Heritage Festival, Donnie Onstad, Balman, Keith Price, lobbying congreswoman, airboat association of florida, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Harold Wanless, climate change, sugar industry, agribusiness, toxic chemicals; "Gladesmen"; Bullfrog Films

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