REI Presents: The Last Green Thread

(gentle orchestral music) – [Mallory] My family’s been here for six or seven generations. I had this experience
as a kid driving around with my parents who would always say, when I was your age,
that was an orange grove. They would point to some
new housing development and tell me about the
grove or the pinewoods that used to exist there. 35 years later, I’ve become that person. (cheerful strumming music) ♪ In the night while my
body slept in my bed ♪ This track is basically unknown. ♪ My mind was running
through the woods instead ♪ – [Man] GPS, binoculars,
sitting right here. – [Man] I’ll get it. ♪ Vagabond dreaming takes
me through the night ♪ ♪ Sipping whiskey by the river ♪ – [Joe] What makes this
so cool is really being explorers again. ♪ 100 miles an hour in the fast lane ♪ ♪ 100 miles an hour toward the light ♪ – [Carlton] We know the
boundaries of this green ribbon, but there’s not a hiking trail, there’s not a paddling trail. ♪ See the curve in that river’s bend ♪ ♪ And I look at you and I see my friend ♪ ♪ 100 miles an hour in the fast lane ♪ ♪ 100 miles an hour til the end ♪ ♪ Yip ♪ (energetic strumming music) It’s gonna be a suffer
fest for a few days here. – [Man] Holy (beeps). – I can’t think of any
better people to suffer with. We’ve already spent a
couple hundred days together on expeditions. – Little bit sketchy. – Come up and just falling the river. – Joining me right now, we have Joe Guthry and Mallory Lykes-Dimmitt. Holy smokes, you’re back and you’re alive. – We trekked for 70 straight days across all of Northwest Florida
to the Alabama boarder. – [Man] When this expedition came up, I was immediately up for it. We’re gonna travel up Reedy Creek, the last best connection between two of the state’s most important swamps. (gentle piano music) (sloshing) – Reedy Creek has been
getting narrower and narrower and at least to this point, it seems like it’s run out of water. Good thing we switched to hiking. – [Mallory] Is this corridor
even viable for larger animals? We know that a black bear
has made its way here, but was unable to cross I-4. – [Man] M34 was a young male bear. He made it to Celebration
right south of I-4. We spent a couple of days
searching along the highway and you can see from the GPS tracks, he marched up and down
the highway in the dark looking for a place to get
across and couldn’t find it. We’ll be overlapping
where his tracks took him. I can imagine M34 having
much the same experience traveling in these narrow strands of swamp and scrub and here and all around him, the noises of suburbia. In so many ways, this trip
is trying to demonstrate that there still a connection possible. This does look like a bobcat. – [Mallory] We’ll be looking at tracks. We’ll be noticing all sorts of signs and keeping a species list. (birds chirping) – We’re looking pretty good now. (zipping) (birds chirping)
(quiet gentle music) This is the way my granddad used to do it. Cut the bottom open. (slurping) Not bad. This is the first water
of any depth we’ve seen in more than a day. Here we are at the edge of Reedy Creek, headwaters of the Everglades. There’s Lowe’s and Home Improvement and the place we’re standing now might be the most narrow pinched off part of the Florida Wildlife Corridor. And you can hear dogs barking on one side and cars on both. You know, to be standing in the middle, that means you’re not more
than 200 yards from the edge. And here it’s just a fragile green thread. (quiet gentle music) The pace of change is so fast, our Google satellite imagery that we use to plan the route is already out of date. It doesn’t show the
brand new sub-divisions and the brand new roads that are going in. There’s been tremendous
change to this region in the past five decades. Since the day Disney came here, there were still 50 different ways a bear or panther could
travel through this region. – Here in Florida, we
have something special we never enjoyed at Disneyland, a blessing of size. There’s enough land here to
hold all the ideas and plans we could possibly imagine. – [Joe] 50 years ago, Orlando
was a very small town. The population just growing and pushing, it’s really not that different in Tampa, Naples, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach. Florida continues to grow
by 1000 people per day. – [Carlton] Where’d Mal now go? – Right here. – You guys movin’? So easy to get separated in here. – [Joe] Hey Carlton? – Can’t even see him. Woo, where are you guys? A swamp can be a disorienting place. – [Mallory] You’re sweating like crazy and we’re crawling up and over basically armpit high vegetation and everything you touch
could be Poison Ivy. Right now, even though it’s
maybe the most suffering for us, this is pretty wild here. – See it move just then? It’s a little above your eye level. – [Mallory] When you get
into places like this, you really start to become
attuned to the landscape every step that you take
and the more time you spend, the more it sort of opens up to you. (gentle orchestral music) – This flat back here isn’t terrible. It is a lot of Poison Ivy. – It’s a great place to be able to sit and eat breakfast. – [Carlton] Hey, on the move
again, on the move again, keep your eyes on it. – [Joe] That’s your tent spot. Okay. Mallory and Carlton are like family to me. You look for any opportunity you can to reaffirm your
commitment to your friends and to your people. – [Man] Yeah baby. – Life is much more simplified. It’s like a good sleeping bag, the ability to boil
water and have a simple cup of coffee in a place where not what most people
consider hospitable or fun. It’s just nice knowing that you’re gonna make a little space for for
them to eat comfortable, fixing a little meal, keep yourself going. Yeah, I love this swamp. (gentle orchestral music) (humming traffic) – We’ll be paddling up to something that is going to cross this
entire creek landscape and you can already
hear the noise from it. We’re still a good 1/2 mile away. (humming traffic) – [man] When you get close
to one of the those highways, having come from a place of
relative calm, you recoil. (humming traffic) – [Mallory] We know from
telemetry data that wildlife will approach the road and hear that noise and will turn back and
will not be able to connect to the other populations on
the other side of the road. – [man] We met up with Jen Corn. – [Jen] Looks like y’all
been having a rough time. – [Man] One of the state’s
panther biologists. – One of the goals of
setting cameras under here is you know, are wildlife using it as it is? What are some really simple things could they possibly do? Cats do get across I-4 occasionally. One cat made it to Southern Georgia and that cat’s DNA showed that
he came from South Florida. So they are capable of
making those distances. (quiet orchestral music) – [Man] We learned that
two Florida panthers were being killed by vehicles
within a quarter mile of that crossing. (humming traffic) – Some people that I’ve come across think it’s just a lost cause, like I-4 is just a barrier we’re never going to be able to do anything about for wildlife and I don’t think that’s the case at all. I think that there is still 100% chance to make this more permeable for wildlife. – [Man] For a panther to
be born 100’s of miles away in South Florida, to get hit by a car here on the edge of Orlando, it tells you this wildlife corridor is still working. It also shows you exactly
what’s wrong with it. This region has gone from a place where all manner of
wildlife had room to roam to what is fast becoming a hard barrier that could potentially cut
the state of Florida in half. (gentle orchestral music) – [Mallory] I think it’s
hard to recognize the loss while it’s happening
and we’re really good at recognizing that loss when it’s too late. (gentle orchestral music) (sloshing) – It is literally one step at a time for the first 4 1/2 days of hiking. So it’s been a real treat
to get on the water here and actually be able to
get a little bit of glide with a stroke and think about where we are and what we’re doing and still blows my mind
that we’re sitting here in this gorgeous floodplain forest listening to the sounds
of the Disney theme park just a mile or so off to the right. (cheerful orchestral music) (splashing) (birds chirping) – Something’s going
down the creek below us. – Great Blue Heron, no? That’s what I thought it was
gonna be from a distance. – [Carlton] Going off to
the side and it landed. – [Mallory] Yep. – The Limpkin was hanging out on that limb that’s out over the water
for the longest time. (birds chirping) – I can hear the tourists
less than a mile over there on a ride through Disney’s Animal Kingdom, probably looking at lions and giraffes and all sorts of other
things with no idea that this is happening right here. (helicopter humming) (cheerful strumming music) ♪ Oh ♪ – [Man] It’s just crazy,
the two different Florida’s that exist out there. ♪ You got me walking 10 miles high ♪ – I think what we all have to do is sort of be able to walk
in both of those worlds and that’s very representative
of the corridor. We’re trying to show that you can actually balance development and wildlife habitat, but that we have to plan in
order to make that happen. ♪ See if I can fly ♪ – [Carlton] The corridor is
really hiding in plain sight and that’s what this is about. We’ve got to keep this
last best connection between the green swamp
and the Everglades. – [Joe] And we keep
developing without corridors, is gonna cut off all of
that conservation legacy from the rest of Florida and
from the rest of America. And that’s what we’re fighting for. (gentle strumming music) ♪ My best guess ♪ ♪ Is too far off ♪ ♪ And in my chest ♪ What I want to tell Floridians, what I want to tell the world, is that wild Florida is still here. It still exists. It still has a chance to be saved. Woo. ♪ I sit alone ♪ In the waters of the green swamp. ♪ In an empty house, writing notes ♪ ♪ While I’m thinking
about, the few folks ♪ ♪ I didn’t let down ♪ ♪ Ohhhh ♪ ♪ You got me walking 10 miles high ♪ ♪ Ohhhh ♪ (gentle orchestral music)

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