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Protest walk to defend fragile environment gears up

TRAIL — A consortium of aboriginal groups, environmental activist groups and independent citizens will stage an 80-mile protest walk March 20-25 from Miami to Naples to shed light on matters they say threaten to kill South Florida’s unique, fragile ecosystem.

At risk are numerous endangered wildlife and plant species, Florida’s only fresh water source and the Native homes and traditional lifestyles of indigenous peoples.

The six-day march led by Miccosukee citizen Betty Osceola; Shannon Larson, of Ancient Trees; and Karen Dwyer, of the Stone Crab Alliance, will snake through seven national and state parks, a World Heritage site and the proposed site of the River of Grass Greenway (ROGG).

Dwyer, the acting spokesperson for the event, said the protest is strengthened by the alliance of people whose expertise serves different problems.

“We are in a time of so many threats against the Everglades. Too many problems are going on that building a large alliance helps to bring attention to everyone,” Dwyer said.

Protesters aim to provoke local and state policy makers into standing against pro-fracking oil operations in the Everglades, permits that could allow amateur archaeologic collection, laws that prohibit medicinal and cultural plant collection by Tribe members and the construction of the government-funded ROGG.

Planned to include tourist stops, restrooms, traffic turning lanes and an electric light and power system, the road to run mostly parallel to Tamiami Trail will require destroying miles of archaeologically and culturally sensitive wildlands within yards of historic Miccosukee and Seminole camp grounds.

The protest is sanctioned by Bobbie C. Billie, the elder leader and medicine man of the Council of Original Miccosukee Simanolee Nation Aboriginal Peoples. Billie is a long-standing and vocal opponent to human encroachment in the Everglades.

According to a prepared statement, Billie said the most important concern is: “The destruction of the natural world that sustains us all: the earth, the water, the air, the trees the plants and the wildlife. These creations must survive in order that we may all survive. Nature has a right to live a life undisturbed by further development.”

Stops along the walk will include focused information sessions regarding each location.

The protest will begin at Pump Station S335 where marchers will ask Miami-Dade Parks officials to withdrawal plans for the ROGG; implore Florida legislators to reject a pro-fracking bill currently before lawmakers; and ask the same lawmakers to adopt another bill instead that calls for a total ban on fracking.

On day four, the march will seek to persuade state lawmakers to vote against another bill that calls to deregulate archaeological sites and will, in effect, allow poaching of sensitive artifacts, including human remains.

Dwyer said a similar march was held last year by up to 125 protesters per day who walked along the entire length of Tamiami Trail against the ROGG.

“This year we’ve expanded into something larger with daily focus issues, speakers and press conferences. It is a responsibility,” Dwyer said.

Overnight camping will be available. Nightly fire circles will be held.

For a schedule of daily meeting locations, meal plans, protest focuses and camping arrangements, visit Walk for Future Generations 80 miles in 6 Days on Facebook.