Top: wildfires have long since been a natural part of the landscape, howeve , drought and human intervention have had severe impacts; bottom: a green tree frog clings to a grass stem where it can rest until its next meal.
History For hundreds of years, towering cypress trees up to 130 feet tall and 25 feet in circumference dominated the landscape of what is now Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. By 1914 the area was purchased by the Lee Tidewater Cypress Company. Logging of the cypress started in 1944 in response to wartime needs. An average of 1,000,000 board feet per week was harvested. The trees were removed from the swamp via temporary railroads, which were built on roadbeds created by draglines. Many of these “tram roads” are still visible and are used by the staff to access remote areas of the refuge. The logging operations started in the south in what is now Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve, and moved north through the refuge area.
By 1957, the last trees were harvested. Destructive wildfires followed the logging operations, further altering the habitat. Unfortunatel , the harvest of these mighty trees decimated associated plant species such as the beautiful ghost and cowhorn orchids. Slowly the cypress swamps have recovered as a new generation of cypress replaces the fallen giants. Many of the logging scars on the landscape have healed over the past five decades. Toda , the only significant remaining stand of virgin cypress within the Big Cypress basin is located in Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuar , 20 miles northwest of the refuge.