Anderson Design Group Interviews Friends of the Everglades!

Anderson Design Group Interviews Friends of the Everglades!

As artists and wilderness explorers, our passion is to venture into the 63 American National Parks, photograph and document these wonderful natural places, and share our enthusiasm for the parks by creating original, high-quality poster art.

The National Parks were created to preserve America’s natural beauty and cultural history, with each park representing a significant chapter in the great American story. We strongly believe in preserving the parks for future generations to enjoy, so we’re always seeking new opportunities to support the conservancies, associations, foundations, and friend groups that protect them.

To raise awareness for the important educational work and conservation activities in Everglades National Park, we met with Allie Hartmann, Communications Director for Friends of the Everglades, this week.

Friends of the Everglades

ADG: Can you start by introducing yourself and your role in Friends of the Everglades?

Allie: Sure! I’m Allie Hartmann, Communications Director for Friends of the Everglades.

ADG: What is Friends of the Everglades? If you have an elevator pitch for what your group does, what would that be? 

Allie: Friends of the Everglades is a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to preserving America’s Everglades and its interconnected ecosystems. Over the past century, more than half of the Everglades have been cleared and drained for agriculture and urban development. We believe that the future of Florida depends on the survival of the remnants that remain — not just to safeguard wildlife habitat and the incredible beauty of the only Everglades in the world but also to protect Florida’s drinking water supply, reduce our flood risk and safeguard our future in the face of climate change. Our legacy goes back 55 years, and we remain dedicated to this increasingly urgent cause.

Cypress swamp: Cypress swamps serve as a home to wildlife and are an important habitat in the Everglades ecosystem. Photo Credit: Friends of the Everglades

ADG: How did Friends of the Everglades get its start? What’s the story behind the birth of your group?

Allie: Friends of the Everglades was founded in 1969 by the famed environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Marjory was a journalist and activist, and much of her life’s work was devoted to the notion that America’s Everglades were a unique ecosystem to be preserved — not just land to be drained and conquered in the name of “progress.” The words in her seminal book, The Everglades: River of Grass, inspired a shift in public perception of the Everglades from a vast, swampy wasteland to a truly special place that was not only unique to any other region of the world — as well as biodiverse and beautiful — but that the preservation of it was critical for the continued delivery of clean, fresh water to much of the southern half of Florida. 

Friends of the Everglades founder Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Photo Credit: Friends of the Everglades

When a plan arose in the late 1960s to build an “Everglades jetport” on 39 square miles of wetlands in the middle of the Big Cypress portion of the Everglades, Marjory Stoneman Douglas joined the resistance, founding Friends of the Everglades to galvanize support for preserving the swampy wilderness. We won that first battle, stopping the construction of the jetport after a single runway was built, and we have carried on the fight in Marjory’s footsteps to protect this incredible ecosystem every day since.

The Last Burn Season: Enough is Enough. Video Credit: Friends of the Everglades

ADG: What an amazing legacy. What types of projects does your group work on each year? What are some of the projects you're most proud of?

Allie: Friends is involved in several efforts related to education, citizen outreach, legal action, and legislative accountability. Our work champions science-led solutions to protect water quality, wilderness, and wildlife throughout the greater Everglades ecosystem. We advocate for sustainable growth around the state and stand firm against environmentally damaging bills. Each year, during Florida’s annual legislative session, we analyze dozens of bills and activate meaningful public responses around issues that matter. Over the years, Friends has been involved in several legal actions to (1) stop the South Florida Water Management District from back-pumping agricultural chemicals from Big Sugar’s plantations into Lake Okeechobee and (2) require proper treatment of agricultural chemicals discharged to the Everglades from the Everglades Agricultural Area. We’re also committed to engaging the next generation of Everglades enthusiasts. Last year, our revived youth education program, Young Friends of the Everglades, introduced more young minds than ever to the magic of the Everglades.

Lake Okeechobee algae: Blue-green algae overtakes water on Lake Okeechobee. Photo Credit: Friends of the Everglades

I am particularly proud of our work spotlighting the environmental injustice of sugarcane burning in the Everglades Agricultural Area. This dangerous pre-harvest practice unfairly leaves Glades communities south of Lake Okeechobee vulnerable to air pollution, health risks, and economic stress. We continue to collaborate with other partners to demand meaningful protections and long-overdue solutions in these communities.

Marjory's Circle Member Spotlight: Camila Quaresma-Sharp. Video Credit: Friends of the Everglades

ADG: Given the extensive list of projects your group is working on, how do you enlist the community's help in these projects? Do you organize volunteers? How do you fund your work?

Allie: Our founder, Marjory, was a staunch believer in the value of a grassroots movement, and that core philosophy continues to guide our work. We’ve come a long way since the one-dollar memberships Marjory established at Friends’ inception, but support from the public is still a central component of who we are today. We find that there is no greater asset than an informed league of supporters that can be activated quickly to a cause, and our Friends of the Everglades community has risen to the occasion many times in response to targeted actions to lawmakers, petition drives, hosting fundraisers and giving a hand at community events. We are also incredibly grateful for any financial support supporters make, as their commitment empowers us to continue this vital work. We invite donors of any level and offer our Marjory’s Circle program to those who wish to elevate their support. Members of this special alliance of donors contribute annually to help sustain Marjory’s legacy and ensure its continued role in preserving the future of our River of Grass and its connected waterways. They are celebrated with insider updates, invitations to exclusive Everglades experiences, and discounts on signature Friends of the Everglades events.

Friends of the Everglades staff at the 2024 Marjory Stoneman Douglas Legacy Celebration. Photo Credit: Friends of the Everglades

ADG: That’s a great approach. What goes on in the educational side of Friends of the Everglades? What are some of the educational programs your team is invested in, if any? How do these help promote preservation/conservation in the parks?

Allie: Education is a big part of what we do. Last year, we were thrilled to bring on a full-time professional educator who has brought our youth education program, Young Friends of the Everglades, to new heights. Young Friends provides inspiring experiences to students in South Florida classrooms with Everglades Learning Exploration Kits and interactive presentations. More than 1,200 educators have downloaded our free lessons, and we are on track to reach 50 classrooms by the end of 2024. We were also proud to introduce an annual $10,000 environmental scholarship and internship in 2023, open to undergraduate or graduate students, that will help further the goals of Young Friends. 

Young Friends of the Everglades: Friends of the Everglades Education and Outreach Director Amanda Purnell leads a group of fourth graders from South Pointe Elementary School on a field trip along Anhinga Trail in Everglades National Park. Photo Credit: Friends of the Everglades

Keeping the public informed and engaged is an invaluable goal of all our work. We produce a variety of newsletters, participate in public presentations and panels, and host several livestream conversations each year to spread issue awareness and garner greater support for the preservation of this iconic ecosystem.

ADG: Looking to the future, what are the short-term and long-term goals for Friends of the Everglades? Where do you see yourselves in 5 years? Ten years? What do you hope to be working on a decade from now?

Allie: Everything we do returns to the central goal of reconnecting the River of Grass. Ultimately, that requires advocating for science-led, nature-based solutions that emulate the natural system, as true restoration is many years in the making. Friends is committed to watchdogging the long list of Everglades restoration projects and improving those falling short since we believe spending billions of dollars on Everglades infrastructure will only work if the projects are effective. True restoration also requires sustainable growth management and more rigorous policing of polluters. Friends is committed to holding lawmakers accountable for advancing legislation establishing enforceable water quality standards and protecting the natural and human environment.

Sugarcane burning: Sugarcane burning is an outdated, dangerous pre-harvest practice that can cause asthma in residents living in the Everglades Agricultural Area. Photo Credit: Friends of the Everglades

ADG: What are some of the greatest threats facing the Everglades today? What must conservation and preservation groups and concerned individuals do to tackle those threats?

An American alligator catches some sun outside of the water on Loop Road in Big Cypress National Preserve. Photo Credit: Friends of the Everglades

Allie: This is a pivotal moment for the Everglades. Wetlands protections are under assault at the state and federal levels, and development pressure is intensifying in rural and coastal areas. Plagued by algae, the delivery of toxic water releases from Lake Okeechobee to the northern estuaries has become a near-annual event thanks to a rigged water-management system prioritizing the sugarcane industry over the rest of Florida. Meanwhile, sugarcane burning continues to pollute the air in Glades communities. Underscoring all of this, climate change presents an uncertain future. While these many threats may seem overwhelming, there are reminders of the wilderness, water, and wildlife that endure. Significant work remains, and there is more need than ever to rally the forces of concerned individuals to rise to these challenges. If Marjory Stoneman Douglas were still here today, we are certain she’d be cheering us on and reminding us never to give up.

“The Everglades: River of Grass” Endures. Video Credit: Friends of the Everglades

ADG: A pivotal moment for sure! And what about representing the parks in art? What do you think about our Everglades National Park poster art? Are there any aspects of the Everglades you think we should try to capture in art?”

Allie: We love the timeless feel of the National Park poster art! It’s hard to choose favorites – each design captures the Everglades’ endless sky, watery reaches, and the wildlife inhabiting the many connected ecosystems. We were particularly drawn to the Florida Panther print with its moody, dark colors that reflect the elusive secrecy of Florida’s native big cat and the Flight of the Flamingo print, as there is much excitement right now about the recent return of Flamingos to Florida Bay. As long as the current flock sticks around, we are crossing our fingers to see native flamingo fledglings for the first time in a century!

ADG: If there would be one thing about your group or National Park conservation/restoration/education generally that you’d want the broader public to know, what would that be?

Allie: Never underestimate what a group of concerned, educated, and persistent individuals can accomplish together. We face many challenges, but when we stand together, we represent the greatest hope for safeguarding some of the most special places in the world. And they are worth fighting for. Marjory Stoneman Douglas famously said, “Be a nuisance where it counts… Be depressed, discouraged, and disappointed at failure and the disheartening effects of ignorance, greed, corruption, and bad politics — but never give up.”

Martin County residents rally against the Rural Lifestyle amendment ahead of a commission meeting attempting to change development standards in the county. Photo Credit: Friends of the Everglades

ADG: Great words to live by, Allie. Thanks for chatting with us today!

Allie: Thanks for having me!

The Importance of Supporting National Park Friend Groups

You can learn more about Friends of the Everglades at their website. Their store has a selection of merchandise. If you want to support their work, you can donate to the organization and help fund its important work. 

If you represent a National Park Association, Foundation, Natural History Association, Friend Group, Conservancy, or Preservation Association that works in any of the 63 American National Parks, contact us today to schedule an interview! Just email

In the meantime, we'll return to creating vintage poster art of Everglades National Park and other National Parks. Let's enjoy these beautiful, historic places and do our part to preserve them for future generations.

-Ren Brabenec
Anderson Design Group Staff Writer

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