As a child growing up Officer Tom Shirley was a name I became familiar with. He has been a family friend for over forty years. I learned to recognize him, not only as an outstanding law enforcement officer, but also as a true conservationist. Conservationist he is indeed. In 1999 he received the prestigious Frances S. Taylor Outdoorsman of the year award as recognition for his conservation efforts He had a remarkable career with thirty years experience as an officer of the Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission working in the Everglades. Before working for the commission he grew up in and around the Everglades and then after his retirement he continued with his own business, Tom Shirley’s Everglades Travel Tours, taking tours deep into the swamps and hammocks of the Everglades. He has over fifty years experience and knowledge of the Everglades habitats.
Mr. Shirley is now using his extensive knowledge and experience of the natural water flow to bring notice and correct what he and others have recognized as a terminal detriment to the survival of the Everglades and consequently our own well being! These efforts are within Serpentoxin’s Philosophy of our stewardship responsibility to save and restore the environment.
This problem is a result of another example of mankind’s ignorance to “correct” a situation that is unpleasant or inconvenient with a “quick fix” without first understanding the significances of these actions. These actions have and will continue to affect all life.
It is appropriate here to remember parts of Chief Seattle’s Letter. A letter written by a “primitive man” to the “learned” men of the Government of the United States of America. In 1852, in that letter he wrote; “. …This we know, the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that joins us all. Whatever he does to the web of life, he does to himself…”
Then later in the letter he wrote; “your destiny is a mystery to us…”
I can only imagine similar thoughts and beliefs are still with some of the Everglades Indians that understand and still hold to the “old ways”, but now they must wonder, OUR DESTINY IS A MYSTERY…. This affects us ALL! (Emphasis added)
“We” must become alert to this problem and do whatever is necessary to correct it.
Just one man, or even a few men cannot do it. We must all be concerned enough to take a deeper look and make note. Mr. Shirley has and is still giving of his time, efforts, experience and knowledge to bring notice to this problem. It will not be enough, unless we listen to him and others, like him, who understands the significance of this excessive water flooding for extended periods of time.
In a letter written to Governor Jeb Bush, Mr. Shirley wrote:
“ In 1955 when I became employed by The Game and Fish Commission I was requested to take an oath to protect The State of Florida’s natural resources. This included birds, fish, wildlife, plant life and the ecosystem. I cannot turn my head or ignore the procedures which are taking place. Governor Bush without your leadership to truly save the everglades it will be lost forever.”
Please visit Tom Shirley’s site www.evergladesrestorationfear.org