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Guest Opinion: The passing of conservationist Karl Wickstrom
August 1, 2018

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We should all mourn the recent passing of marine conservationist Karl Wickstrom, founder of Florida Sportsman magazine and inspirational leader in the effort to restore our rivers, estuaries, Everglades and Florida Bay from the ravages of polluted water from sugar cane fields in south Florida.

Like many of us, Karl was heartbroken over the destruction of our marine ecosystem due to the mismanagement of water releases from Lake Okeechobee and politicians at all levels of government unwilling or incapable of "getting the water right" because of their allegiance to Big Sugar's self serving interest.

Our coastal estuaries are in peril due to irresponsible government oversight on the timing and volume of water released from Lake Okeechobee and excessive nutrients, sediments and toxic brew of insecticides, pesticides and fungicides resulting in fish kills, increase frequency and duration of red tide, massive harmful algae blooms and destruction of marine habitat.

Karl frequently talked about the importance of our estuaries as vital nursery habitat for over 70 per cent of our commercial and recreational fisheries. He always used to lament the fact that those working to restore our rivers and estuaries were on a 50-year losing streak in trying to influence public policy to prevent the demise of a once bountiful and healthy marine ecosystem.

Karl was a kind and gentle man but maintained a firm resolve to fight the corruption and injustices in the political arena to focus public attention on providing responsible stewardship of our precious natural resources.

The most meaningful way to honor Karl Wickstrom's incredible legacy is to hold your elected officials accountable and work to implement public policy in support of restoring and conserving our marine resources for future generations.

- Ray Judah is a former Lee County commissioner and a long-time environmental activist.

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